President's Report 2006 | today.mun.ca

Memorial plays role in tonight's forum

Memorial University is playing a key role in helping co-ordinate a special event taking place in St. John's this evening.

Voters in the capital city area are invited to attend an all-candidates forum at the St. John's Convention Centre beginning at 7:30 p.m. It's an opportunity for voters in the districts of St. John's East and St. John's South-Mount Pearl to hear from those vying for votes.

Candidates representing the Progressive Conservative Party; New Democratic Party; the Liberal Party; as well as the Green Party have been invited to attend.

Dr. Rob Greenwood, director of Memorial's Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development, will chair tonight's event. The Harris Centre is tasked with co-ordinating and facilitating the university's educational, research and outreach activities in the areas of regional policy and development.

Dr. Greenwood said the City of St. John's organized tonight's forum but approached the centre to help moderate the event.

“We provide an independent public policy vehicle that all parties - hopefully - see as an honest broker,” he said. “I hope to see clear elaboration of policy positions and good questions from the panel and the floor to air the issues of importance to the city and the province.”

Dr. Greenwood said he thinks tonight's forum is extremely important because it can help bring democracy and public policy debate to the local level. “In the global economy we often hear the need to ‘think global and act local,’” he said. “All too often in our democracy, especially in federal politics, the decision making in Ottawa seems so far away, or confined to packaged media clips. This type of forum allows federal candidates to speak to local issues, and enables local citizens to pose their questions and get an unscripted response. It's public policy debate at its essence.”

Memorial University economics professor Dr. Jim Feehan, as well as former St. John's Deputy Mayor Marie White, will ask candidates questions about various public policy issues.

Organizers are hoping for a strong turn out from voters.

“People should care about every election,” said Dr. Greenwood. “This one holds more interest because it's a true race. For Newfoundland and Labrador, we are also facing many critical issues, in which the federal government plays a major role, so the people who represent us in Ottawa are very important.”

Dr. Greenwood said he thinks such forums as tonight's event can play a decisive role in helping voters form an opinion on the candidates. “You have a chance to see them in person, responding to a topic, and compare them to one another. The content of the response is important but so is the way people carry themselves,” he said. “That's always judged better in person. Democracy should be a `contact sport' and the more we provide fora like this the more a sense of democratic efficacy can be re-kindled.”

(Originally posted on today.mun.ca on Jan 10, 2006)