THUNDER BAY – EDITORIAL – Some political experts are suggesting that as an independent MP that Bruce Hyer will be far less effective than as a member of a political party. Likely some of those political experts are the same ones who told us last week that Wildrose was going to sweep the Progressive Conservatives out of office in Alberta. Those questioning effectiveness might honestly ask themselves how any opposition MP can really be effective in a majority parliament?
There is a way an independent MP can be effective, and that is by breaking brand new ground.
There is a history of innovation in the roots of the Thunder Bay Superior North Riding. Douglas Fisher the MP for Port Arthur used the earliest version of ‘Digital Democracy’ in defeating C. D. Howe in 1957.
“By the time the nomination meeting was held, we had a very active organization and had worked out our strategies to concentrate our money and skills on the use of television, which was new in the riding and easy to book,” wrote Fisher on his Internet site, www.douglasfisher.ca. “I began a series of fortnightly 15 minute appearances on CKPR, right after the local evening news, when the audience was high. This became weekly, then as the campaign went on, we were on every second evening. This garnered a very positive response. I did the ‘blackboard thing’, dealing with issues one by one”.
Today, it is the Internet that is the newer medium and one that Hyer (or any MP could use) to reach out directly to engage his constituents. All it takes is a little creative thinking.
A few years back, Garth Turner was the federal Member of Parliament for Halton. The maverick MP was suspended from the Conservative caucus for apparently breaking caucus confidentiality on his Internet blog. Turner sought to change how politics works, and used what he called ‘digital democracy’ to try to achieve that goal.
On April 26, 2006, Turner blogged, “My room in the riding office was full tonight when. Ten or eleven people crowded in, while a projector on my desk beamed onto the wall and David Fisher stood at one end beside a flip chart covered with red magic marker ink. Beside him was a digital camera hooked up to a laptop. Everybody was wearing name tags and there was an air of studious exhilaration when I stuck my head in, and noticed half a dozen other people were online, and taking part on the meeting through a chat board being broadcast up there on the wall.
“Who were these people? Citizens. Just citizens. A high school student, some seniors, some middle-class, middle-income and middle-aged parents, an accountant, a pilot, a government worker, two people who had driven 100 clicks to be there, and a person online in Nova Scotia”.
Turner used the Internet, including video, and his blog as a tool to reach out to his constituents, and beyond to gather and share ideas. His Garth TV was, at the time very leading edge.
Today the possibilities are far greater.
Protesting against Prime Minister Harper, Turner said, an “MP’s job has evolved into representing a party to the people, not the people to Parliament.”
Does that sound a little familiar? Bruce Hyer, six years later states, “Now leaders rule with iron fists. We are told daily what to say, when to say it, and how to vote.”
Perhaps one of the routes forward is in greater engagement, including the Internet as a tool to help constituents to help their MP? The changing technology over the past six years allow far greater digital democracy than ever before.
For Bruce Hyer, that could be a path forward to have actual voter engagement with the people across the riding to help direct how our ’employee’ votes in the House of Commons.
Both Bruce Hyer and John Rafferty have used new ideas early in their first term to reach out past their traditional householders.
For Hyer now, seeking to improve and be the catalyst to change Parliament, maybe now is the time.
By using technology to do the heavy lifting, having online voting for constituents to guide the votes that the Member of Parliament makes in the House of Commons. All the tools are there for a new digital experiment in democracy, and Hyer has three years to prove how it can work. Perhaps as a beacon of change from Thunder Bay Superior North the MP can move Ottawa?
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