Prime Minister Stephen Harper Makes His Case to Canada on YouTube
Ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper a question and he might answer.
"That's the way it is now, lots of people don't turn on their TVs. They don't read a paper. They get their news online and this is one important way of communicating with them. To give people the chance to ask their questions and to find out what's on their mind," Andrew MacDougall, Deputy Press Officer to the prime minister told me a few minutes ago.
"Our office was approached by YouTube who has started to do these kinds of things, like President Obama's livestream down in the states. They approached us and offered this project as a way to get the government's message and the prime minister's message out to a wider audience. We know that more and more people, particularly young people are accessing their information through social networking tools like YouTube. We thought it would be a great opportunity to try this," MacDougall said.
If you go to Talk Canada's YouTube channel, you can ask the prime minister why he prorogued parliament or how he liked the Olympics. So far, there are 392 questions from 809 different people. There have been almost 20,000 votes on which questions the PM should answer. The numbers are going up by the minute. "The response has been overwhelming so far and we expect it to grow over the weekend as people have their chance to ask questions and vote," MacDougall said.
MacDougall said he was excited about the potential to engage with more Canadians as the YouTube stream opens up. "We're pretty excited that people are participating. Most of the questions are reasonable. A few are meant to be hostile. But the engagement seems to be there. People are worried about the economy, about crime, about tuition in school."
"Anything that can be done to communicate to Canadians about the actions of their government is important. Everything we do here impacts people's lives. This helps bring what the government is doing to people's attention. Everybody wins. The issues facing our country are important issues and we took the time to meet with as many people as we could about the budget and we want to continue get more engaged in the political process. The challenges are never going to stop for the country so we have to get people participating."
I was curious about whether the prime minister used a Blackberry or an iPhone. But MacDougall said the sensitive nature of government documents precludes the PM from using either.
"With the nature of the communication between our office and the issues he has to see, he doesn't access that on a Blackberry because of security issues. He still deals mainly with paper because he has to. We can't have cabinet documents zipping from Blackberry to Blackberry. He still has to stay off the Smart Phones."
His wife, Laureen, 47, has an iPhone, MacDougall said. "She's super plugged in."
And what does Harper think about the questions pouring in from around the country and this new form of engagement with the population?
"He was very excited about doing this," his press officer said. "He does recognize that this is where Canadians are going to get their information. We want to be communciating what the government is doing as widely as we can. We're excited we can be the first to do this in Canada."
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