By Trevor Busch
With the municipal election now underway, the public will be given the opportunity to canvass the platforms of town candidates at an upcoming forum on Oct. 12.
Hosted at the Heritage Inn at 7 p.m. and organized by the Sugar Town Sweet Talkers, the forum will give voters the ability to survey the viewpoints of prospective councillors on critical issues in the lead up to an Oct. 16 vote.
“The candidates will be there at 6:30 p.m.. It goes until 9 p.m. — we expect it to be finished by 9 p.m., or wrapped up as close to that as we can,” said Debbie Routledge, vice president of education with the Sweet Talkers, a local Toastmasters club. “There are 13 candidates, so that makes it hard to fit everyone in a two hour timeframe. We had quite a discussion over that last night (Sept. 20). It looks like we’re going to be running it with each candidate having two minutes right at the beginning to put their policy forth, or introduce themselves, or however they choose to do that, two introductory minutes. Everything will be timed, so they’ll be given a green card when they reach that one minute, a yellow card at a one minute and half, and a red card at two minutes. So they’ll be timed on that event.”
Vying for the town’s top elected role in 2017 are Randy Sparks and Andrew Prokop, while 11 candidates are seeking six councillor seats, and include Garth Bekkering, Jack Brewin (incumbent), Naomi Brewin-Wiebe, Carly Firth, Mark Garner, Bo Hatch, Kevin O’Grady, John Papp, Laura Ross-Giroux (incumbent), Joe Strojwas (incumbent), and Louie Tams.
Following opening statements, candidates will field questions from the public with each given 30 seconds to respond to specific questions if they are directed at the group as a whole.
“Then we’re going to open up the floor for questions. So 30 seconds to give a question, and they’ll (candidates) be given a little bit of time to respond. We’re hoping that questions will be directed specifically to a candidate — if not, then it will be open to everyone and we’ll start at the beginning and go all the way through, giving 30 seconds to respond if it’s a question to everyone, and one minute to respond if it’s specifically to one candidate.”
For citizens who might be unwilling to stand before the microphone and crowd, there will be alternatives.
“We’ll be there at 6:30 p.m., there will be paper and pencils for anyone that wants to write down their question and doesn’t want to stand and speak. At the microphone, there will be someone there that will put forward the question for them, if that’s the way they prefer to do it. When we give two minutes for introduction, that’s the first half hour, we’re hoping to wrap things up and give candidates another two minutes at the end to wrap up as well — if time allows. It depends how many questions we get,” said Routledge. “So we’re looking at having a microphone somewhere in the middle, and people come up and ask their questions, or if they want to just write them down there will be other toastmasters there that will pick up the questions and ask them if they want.”
Routledge extolled the virtues of making an informed choice in municipal elections, and attending an election forum is one of the few ways citizens can get a feel for their candidates’ platforms and positions on key issues.
“It’s absolutely important. You certainly don’t have a chance to disagree with anyone if you don’t go out and vote. But it has to be an informed vote — you need to take a few minutes, find out who the candidates are, why they’re running, and why they deserve your support. Forums like this are just wonderful for people to come out to and take a few minutes to get to know each and every one of the candidates,” said Routledge. “We’re just really hoping for a great turnout and a lot of questions. We’ll have some questions that we’ve thought up as well, just in case we need to get the ball rolling a little bit to start with.”