Editor & Publisher, QuesnelCaribooSentinel.com
QUESNEL, B.C.:- The 2014 Quesnel Municipal Elections got off to a great start this year with the first All Candidates Public Forum held at the Royal Canadian Legion on Tuesday evening, October 28th.
By 7 p.m. the hall was full to capacity and commencing with a few brief introductory remarks from Quesnel District Chamber of Commerce President Graham Armstrong the business of moderating the evening's performance was turned over to Simon Turner of the Quesnel Rotary Club.
Simon, as per usual at Legion events, called upon the audience to rise up on their feet and then initiated a few moments of silent meditation and prayer followed by a rousing chorus of "Oh Canada". Then he proceeded to enlighten the audience on the organizational format that was to be followed throughout the evening.
Keeping with recent precedents set over the past few years the public attending the forum were told that if they had questions for the candidates that they would have to submit them via writing. The questions would then be picked out of whatever candidate's box they were placed in and hopefully they would get an answer to their query.
Just how truly fair such a process is remains controversial as it basically nullifies a longstanding tradition in Western democracies wherein citizens who've taken the time to attend a forum find themselves no longer able to exercise their freedom to walk up to an open microphone and direct their concerns to whomever of the candidates that they wish to get a reply from. It also, unfortunately, opens the door for potentially partisan decisions on the part of those choosing the questions thus creating the possibility of adversely affecting the resulting dialogue.
Simon then explained to the audience how the little Christmas lights – green, yellow and red – (inserted into a small black wooden box and set up on a table in front of the long row of hopeful candidates) would light up and be used to signal the speakers so they didn't go over their allotted 3 minute time period for either presenting their views and platform or their reply to whatever question that might be asked of them. If, for whatever reason, they were to get too immersed in their own oratory and failed to follow the sequence of coloured prompters then the person holding the stop watch would ring a warning bell and cut short any further excess of verbiage on the part of the would-be politician.
The audience, having understood how the game was to be played, were thus prepared and Simon called upon the two mayoral candidates to come up and present their opening remarks. The order of speaking was to be alphabetical and so Bob Simpson, the new challenger for the position of Mayor of Quesnel, was the first person up to the podium.
Simpson gave a dynamic, positive and forward-looking speech to the audience outlining his reasons for why he felt he would be the best person to lead a council and the city over the next four year civic mandate. Bringing a love of the area and a wealth of ideas gained over his previous years of experience as Cariboo North's MLA, first as a Cabinet Minister for the NDP government and then as a sitting Independent, Simpson was able to confidently announce to the listening audience clearly reasoned perspectives and proactively viable solutions to the current issues relating to Quesnel's infrastructure and governance as well as outlining some of the more serious pending challenges facing the city due to the provinces changing economic landscape.