The Chemainus Residents Association plans to hold an all-candidates forum for the Nanaimo-North Cowichan leading up to the Oct. 24 provincial election, Communications Committee Chair Craig Spence said Monday.
“Although the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to change how we bring candidates and voters together, the objective will be the same — to help citizens in our area make informed choices on election day.”
Instead of a panel debate in front of a live audience, the CRA has opted for an online forum that will become a resource voters can go to when they want to find out the positions taken by the three Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates: Chris Istace (Green); Don (Duck) Paterson (Liberal) and Doug Routley (NDP).
“The way we’re looking at it, it doesn’t occur on one day,” explained the CRA’s Bernie Jones. “We’re going to be reaching out and get questions to be asked.”
Starting as early as Oct. 9, the forum will be open for citizens to send in questions via an online form which can be accessed from the ChemainusResidents.ca website. Their questions will be added to a running list for Nanaimo-North Cowichan.
“One of the main benefits of all-candidate meetings at the riding level is they give people a chance to air regional as well as provincial issues in coming to a decision on who they want to support,” Spence said. “By inviting public input, we are better able to bring local concerns into the debate.”
Candidates will be notified as questions are asked, and will have their own space in the forum where their responses can be posted.
“Over the course of the election, voters will be able to check in and get a more complete idea of where the candidates stand on the issues that are important to them,” Spence said. “They may also learn from the ongoing discussion about topics and perspectives they hadn’t considered.”
COVID-19 is forcing community organizations like the CRA to rethink many of the things they do, and in some cases they are discovering new possibilities. On the one hand, people like the ‘up close and personal’ drama of a live debate; on the other, they may find value in a comprehensive and accessible forum format.
“The pandemic is forcing us to try out a very different approach,” Spence said. “We hope voters and candidates will appreciate it, and who knows, it may become a part of our election coverage in the future, even after a vaccine for COVID-19 has been discovered.”
—Craig Spence, www.craigspencewritewr.ca, with Don Bodger.