MP Damien Kurek continues to connect with local constituents via technological means, hosting his latest town hall last week.
“I did make it clear that if I happened to miss a question, people were encouraged to email,” he said, adding about 50 people tuned in via Zoom and about the same connected via Facebook – not including those who caught the session after it had wrapped up.
“There were lots of questions on a wide variety of subjects,” he said.
“I emphasized a number of times that Zoom is a great tool to connect with constituents, especially in a time of COVID, but I’m really excited about the prospect of getting back into communities across Battle River-Crowfoot so that’s something I’m tentatively working towards for the summer and for sure into the fall,” he explained.
“One of the overall themes that I am hearing is something that transcends one particular issue – I am at times astounded when I hear from constituents and the wide variety of perspectives that I hear on a particular issue,” he said, adding that this is something that has been even more emphasized during the pandemic.
“When something is posted on Facebook, it’s not necessarily a good representation of what is actually taking place – whether it be the procedures of Parliament, the scientific consensus around vaccines or even COVID-19 itself.
“So I have certainly noticed a lot of questions about the status of things – votes in Parliament, my feelings on vaccines and reopening, the challenges that businesses are facing, the questions surrounding our relationship with China and even just about Canada’s place in the world,” he explained of the town hall’s scope.
Kurek noted that overall, there seems to be a polarization in the way that people take in information.
“It’s not always helpful, but I’m pleased for the opportunity to be able to address some of those very real questions,” he said.
He also noted that the governing party in Ottawa at times doesn’t take such questions seriously, when often, these questions are rooted in, “Real concern or fear in some cases.
“To just dismiss them drives people to come to conclusions without having an honest and transparent discussion around some of these issues,” he said, noting vaccines as an example.
“To dismiss some of those concerns just drives misinformation further. I take seriously my role as an elected official and someone with a public presence to try and be as accurate and honest with the information that I present, and careful in how I present it,” he said. “Quite often, questions speak from a place of genuine concern,” he said, adding that he hopes his town hall meetings zero in on such concerns effectively.
“There really are no questions that are off limits.”
That said, in the current climate, Kurek noted that working through the tendency towards polarization on any number of topics is a key goal.
“I truly believe that we can find common ground. It may be more challenging during these times, but it’s absolutely important.”
Looking ahead to the post-COVID-19 era, government will have to stay on top of what citizens need as they adjust to ‘normal’ life, he said.
“I recently spoke to a number of organizations that represent fairs and exhibitions across Canada, including quite a few in Battle River-Crowfoot. And the comment made is that, even though things will start to open up for them this summer, in many cases they won’t see a recovery until next year,” he said.
“So it’s ensuring the policies reflects some of the changing dynamics that exist. Another example is independent travel agents. I’ve spoken to a number of them in Stettler whose livelihoods have been devastated over the course of the last year and a half.
“So there are a whole host of concerns with that. They may start booking trips again, but it may be five, seven, or 12 months before they start getting commissions. So those are couple examples of what the challenges of reopening will look like,” he said.
“It will be important to ensure that (programs) remain responsive as we see COVID-19 in our rear-view mirror.”