July 24, 2022

Using the A Poor Framing for a Follow-up Question

To get good insightful answers, how the question is framed matters. I missed an opportunity on Thursday

Hamilton mayoral candidate Keanin Loomis held a presser on Thursday to announce his housing platform. Following the announcement, Loomis took questions from the media.

Another journalist asked Loomis what he thought of Premier Doug Ford's plan to give the Mayors of Toronto and Ottawa as-of-yet unspecified veto powers.

Loomis responded, "The province hasn't put forward any specifics as of yet. So it would really just be speculation," adding that he began his campaign knowing the mayor is "one vote among sixteen," and he plans to "collaborate with the fifteen people around the council table to reach consensus."

I decided to ask a more specific follow-up question.

My goal was to have Loomis elaborate upon a close-vote situation in which a mayoral city-wide priority is defeated by councillors with a feudal ward lord mindset.

This is where I failed to frame the question well.

My mind was thinking about asking a transit area-rating question because from where we stood, 870 Queenston, was on the former boundary between Hamilton and Stoney Creek.

A home on Neil Avenue valued at $500,000 pays a $581 annual transit levy on the Hamilton side, the same house beside it on the Stoney Creek side of the boundary pays $181.

Both homeowners have the same access to transit.

Thus, I asked Loomis if his plan to phase out transit area rating failed on a close 9-7 transit vote. Would he like to have the power to veto such a vote?

[Around 20:55 in this Instagram video]

Loomis gave a reasonable answer that he did not wish to speculate.

He ended with a well-humoured "thanks for trying."

How to Ask a Better Framed Question

Loomis was announcing his housing platform, he wants 50,000 additional new homes built over 10 years.

Loomis states that zoning reform is needed to achieve this, including allowing Secondary Dwelling Units as-of-right.

This is the topic I should've used for my question.

The vote framing could be better. A 9-7 defeat is simple to think of, however, a tie 8-8 vote has the same effect.

An 8-8 tie vote defeat provides more possibilities to learn the candidate's thought process.

A quick example of a possibility that "8-8" opens is the idea that a mayor, elected city-wide, should have an extra tie-breaking vote.

The goal of the follow-up was to get the candidate to open up their thought process.

By switching topics from housing to transit, I failed to follow a path of least resistance.