With the federal election looming, a number of all-candidate forums are slated to run in the Kootenay-Columbia riding, with most of them featuring almost all the local candidates.
The Chambers of Commerce in eight communities across the riding are holding an all-candidates forums, and in a ninth — Revelstoke — a forum is being co-operatively organized by three local media outlets.
Another two forums have been organized by other groups — one in Cranbrook by the Junior Chamber International and the other in Nelson by the MIR Centre and Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
The first nine will feature Conservative candidate David Wilks, NDP candidate Wayne Stetski, Liberal candidate Don Johnston and Green candidate Bill Green. The Echo attempted to contact Libertarian candidate Christina Yahn to find out which forums she will attend, but was unable to get such confirmation prior to press deadline.
Johnston, Green and Stetski also confirmed they will attend the other two forums, while Wilks’ campaign manager Jim Abbott confirmed Wilks won’t.
“We are going to nine locations for forums or debates that have been organized by non-partisan or non-aligned organizations,” said Abbott, adding that he doesn’t consider the Junior Chamber International to be a partisan or aligned organization, but that the date of that forum is close to the date of the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce forum, and Wilks’ busy schedule leaves him unable to attend both.
“I’m really pleased with the response we’ve had. We had invitations out to all the local Chambers to organize forums right when the writ was dropped, and eight of the nine Chambers have agreed,” said Abbott, adding that in the one community — Revelstoke — in which the Chamber could not organize a forum, the town’s three news outlets stepped in to fill that role.
“I have said from the very beginning that I would debate Wilks at any opportunity, and he has done the right thing by agreeing to attend at least some of these debates,” said Stetski. “I’m disappointed that Wilks chose not to attend the MIR Centre forum on security, peace and climate change in Nelson. These are the critical issues of our time, and as such, any person who is asking to represent us as an MP should be willing to put forward their thoughts and opinions. I am looking forward to meeting people, taking questions, and engaging in issues across the riding. And I’m really pleased that so many opportunities to meet directly with young people are being organized.”
Johnston took a similar position, saying he was disappointed that Wilks will not be attending the MIR Centre forum.
“I immediately accepted that invitation. My international development work and the Liberal history of accomplishment in this area are something I look forward to discussing,” he said, adding his goal in going to as many forums as possible is “to ensure every voter will be close enough to a venue to hear the positions and records of the candidates.”
Green held similar views, but added he feels that pre-submitting questions is not always the best way for voters to get to know their candidates.
“Voters must have the opportunity to question all candidates on every issue that is important to them. That’s why I’m participating in every scheduled debate in the riding. I’m also open to events still in the planning stage, such as the proposed First Nations debate in Cranbrook,” he said. “I welcome questions from the floor, but I understand that some of the debates in our riding require that people submit their questions in advance for screening. At other debates, organizers will send prepared questions to candidates in advance. Some structure is necessary, of course, but I believe voters should be allowed to assess their candidates in a spontaneous, unrehearsed setting.”
The proposed First Nations debate had not been confirmed to be happening as of The Echo’s press deadline, but the date being considered is Wednesday, September 23rd.
Confirmed Kootenay-Columbia forums
Tuesday, September 15th
Kaslo Chamber of Commerce
Wednesday, September 16th
MIR Centre and Citizen’s Climate Lobby (Nelson)
Monday, September 21st
Revelstoke News Coalition
Tuesday, September 22nd
Kicking Horse Chamber of Commerce
Thursday, September 24th
Nelson Chamber of Commerce
Monday, September 28th
Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce
Wednesday, September 30th
Kimberley Chamber of Commerce
Thursday, October 1st
Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce
Monday, October 5th
Elk Valley Chamber of Commerce
Tuesday, October 6th
Junior Chamber International
Wednesday, October 7th
Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce