Few people bother to vote in civic elections.
Last year’s byelection in Kamloops had a 21 per cent turnout of eligible voters. The past three general civic elections saw turnouts of 33, 30 and 28 per cent, respectively.
So, one would assume all-candidates forums are that much more important in getting one’s message across and, ultimately, in convincing the few who do vote to vote for you. After all, if only three in 10 eligible voters bother to make the effort to vote, it stands to reason those who make the effort to attend forums will likely be among the three in 10 who vote.
And, despite attendance at such forums usually being dominated by supporters of various candidates, there may be undecideds sprinkled among those wearing “vote for” buttons and shirts.
The first election campaign forum was held on Saturday morning (Sept. 22) at the Kamloops Regional Farmers’ Market, on the mushy grass of the former Stuart Wood elementary schoolyard, on the first day of fall that was, appropriately, chilly.
The forum was organized by the Kamloops chapter of the Council of Canadians, a decidedly southpaw social-justice organization. Questions at forums organized by the Council tend to skew toward social issues, with Saturday’s event also featuring seriously specific queries from the public.
(“If elected, will you work to install a voice-activated pedestrian signal at 10th and Victoria?” and “If elected , will you work to have a sidewalk added to the 700-block of Lorne Street?” were two such micro-questions.)
There were also queries concerning the homelessness situation in the city, the fate of a performing-arts centre, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and attracting businesses to Kamloops.
Both mayoral candidates — incumbent Ken Christian and challenger Bill Turnbull — were there, as were most council candidates, save for five or six. Incumbents have the huge advantage of name recognition and associated advantages of knowing where the city stands on various issues, so I will limit my observations to the performances of the challengers at Saturday’s forum.
Some, like Dale Bass, had the bad luck of the draw, being asked to answer some of those aforementioned specific questions.
Others, like Sadie Hunter, were placed in the uncomfortable position of having to answer a ridiculous query that never should have made it to the moderator’s microphone. Hunter was asked to respond to the Stupid Question of the Day: Will you withdraw from the campaign to improve the odds of electing the lone Indigenous candidate, Chris Bose? To be clear, the question came from a member of the public, and not from Bose, but Hunter did well to tackle the crass query, citing her background in working with diverse groups. The question was an insult to Bose or any other candidate of Indigenous descent. It states that such candidates need special help to get elected, in the form of other non-Indigenous candidates stepping aside. I think Bose is a strong enough candidate to win a seat without special consideration not afforded other candidates.
Others who impressed included Stephen Karpuk, a chiropractor with a background in forestry. His answers to various questions were thoughtful and showed knowledge, whether he was referring to trees or the controversial pipeline issue.
Another who stood out was Nicholas Adams, whose take on a question referring to bylaws and skateboards and bikes was refreshing. Essentially, Adams said bylaws need to be enforced, but the city also needs to ensure those who rely on such modes of transport have the proper routes available.
Another Adams, Jennifer, was on the mark when asked about candidates on the ballot who do not live within city limits. She noted those living just outside the city are also impacted by decisions made at city hall, considering Kamloops is the hub of regional activity.
There are two people running for mayor, 21 seeking eight council seats and 10 others vying for five positions on the board of education. Answers to why they are running can be found in their profiles under the Civic Election tab on our website. There, you will also find contact information so you can ask candidates directly about issues broad and specific.
Another forum is scheduled for Oct. 10, an event hosted by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, while there may also be forums with a focus on seniors and the North Shore.
Attend if you have time. You might be surprised with who impresses.