Live from Hay River

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Wally Schumann believes he may be the first politician in the NWT to use a new way to reach constituents.

Hay River South MLA Wally Schumann speaks at a Feb. 3 constituency meeting to those present and watching on Facebook Live. Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

“We’re trying something totally new,” the Hay River South MLA and territorial cabinet minister said at the beginning of a constituency meeting on Feb. 3.

That something new is Facebook Live on which his constituents watched him speak at the meeting.

Schumann said he believes he is the first elected official in the NWT to have a Facebook Live feed from a constituency meeting.

And he hopes the new format will get more people involved.

“One thing that we learned in the last two years holding our constituency meetings we’ve changed our format from a public meeting session where we go up front and make speeches and people have to ask pointed questions,” he said. “I’ve learnt early on that a lot of people are not comfortable with that and they’d rather have a more relaxed atmosphere where they come in and have an open house and have a one-on-one conversation without having to worry about going up there and public speaking and asking questions.”

Now, he said that has evolved to Facebook Live.

“We want to try something a little bit different and try to get more people engaged in the process,” said Schumann, the minister of Infrastructure and the minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

After he was speaking for about a half-hour and answering questions from several people at the constituency meeting in person, the first question arrived by Facebook.

That first online question was about possibly lowering the 60 kph speed limit on the Mackenzie Highway as it passes through town.

“It’s just accidents waiting to happen,” a constituent wrote, referring particularly to transport trucks using the highway.

Three other questions followed via Facebook, including about training workers for extended care jobs and about the local sale of fish from Great Slave Lake.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Schumann appeared pleased with the results of Facebook Live.

“Just based on what I’ve seen today, I think we’ll probably try this again at some point,” he said.

Schumann thanked consultant Natalie Campbell for the idea.

“She’s the one that brought this idea forward to us to help reach out to more constituents,” he said.

Campbell said that, at any time, about 20 people were watching the meeting on Facebook Live.

And Schumann can still be seen on Facebook.

By the day after the meeting, his comments had been viewed a thousand times and had generated three dozen comments.