COCHRANE— Looking to find out more about the candidates vying for the position of MP in Banff-Airdrie, the Cochrane and District Chamber of Commerce has organized a candidate forum on Tuesday (Sept. 14) at 6:30 p.m. at the RockPointe Church.
The candidates will take to the stage from 7 to 8 p.m., leaving half an hour before and after the formal forum to chat with residents in attendance. At the beginning of the forum, each candidate will have two minutes to summarize their platform before the question-and-answer period begins.
Kelly Carson, the executive director of the Cochrane and District Chamber of Commerce, said the questions asked at the event will be a combination of questions created by the Chamber, and questions submitted by the audience.
Questions can be submitted via the Cochrane Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page or their website.
Because the forum will only last for one hour, the questions will be sorted through before the event by the Chamber to eliminate any duplication of comments.
"I don't anticipate there will be 1,000 questions, if there are that's great, but I do anticipate that there will be a lot of duplicates, and that's why we're handling it this way," he said. “That’s why we’re controlling the questions – we don’t want to shut the people up, we want them to submit their questions.”
Carson added that none of the candidates will be privy to the questions that will be asked before hand to ensure their answers are candid and honest.
With Friday’s (Sept. 3) announcement regarding increased COVID-19 restrictions in the province, masks will be mandatory at the forum, but there will be no limit on attendance beyond the capacity of the church, Carson said.
He added he is seeking some clarification on the rules regarding COVID-19 protocols to ensure that the event does not run afoul of the restrictions in place.
“We’re going to follow whatever the protocol is,” he said.
Carson has heard from many people in the community who are interested in a candidate forum, and said he feels the same.
Many of the issues that are important to residents of the region need to be addressed and the forum is the perfect opportunity for residents to have their voices heard, he said.
“There’s lots of people who have given feedback to me on why we should have [a forum] from the standpoint of it’s been two years since we’ve had one, we’ve been in a pandemic for most of that, and now we want to see how the heck we’re going to get out of it and who is going to take us out it,” he said. “There are lots of questions that need to be answered. We want to make sure a message is sent – we meaning the town of Cochrane and area – want to send a message to whoever the candidate is that … there are lots of issues that are important to us.”
Carson said he hopes that people will show up to the forum and become more involved in the political process. With the federal election approaching quickly, and many important issues on the table, it is critical that Canadians everywhere come out and vote.
“No matter what it is we want people to vote, and we don’t want people to stay at home. We can all go on social media to complain about what’s going on, but if you don’t vote you don't have the right to complain,” he said. “I know people out there will say ‘well I don’t like any of the candidates,’ but that’s not the answer.”
Carson said the Chamber has made efforts to contact every candidate running in Banff-Airdrie, and hopes to see them on the stage next Tuesday (Sept. 14).
Conservative Party incumbent Blake Richards will face off against at least eight opponents in the Banff-Airdrie constituency, including David Gamble of the Liberal Party, Sarah Zagoda for the NDP, Tariq Elnaga of the Maverick Party, Nadine Wellwood of the People’s Party of Canada, Aidan Blum for the Green Party and Caroline O’Driscoll, Derek Sloan and Ron Voss who are all running as independents.
"They're going to be there, we're hoping lots of people come out, and there will be lots of opportunity to shake their hands half an hour before and half an hour after," he said.
Although the RockPointe Church seats roughly 700 and the event is free to attend, registration for the event in advance is required. Visit cochranechamber.ca to register, or to submit a question.