The final all-candidates forum in Cranbrook was held Tuesday, April 25.
The Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce organized and hosted the event, and it’s the Townsman’s feeling that the model used would be a good one to incorporate in subsequent election debates, no matter what level of government.
Wes Rogers, of Rella, Paolini and Rogers, served as moderator for the evening.
Randal Macnair (BC NDP), Tom Shypitka (BC Liberals), Yvonne Prest (BC Green Party) and Keith Komar (BC Libertarian Party) were seated left to right as chosen by drawing lots. The seating order determined the order for opening remarks (and the reverse for closing remarks) and questions. The order of questions was also drawn at random. This ensured that no question was targeted at any particular candidate. Time limits for remarks and answers were strictly adhered to.
Each candidate was issued six 30-second “rebuttal cards,” for use in rebutting another candidate’s statements, to add their own comments to another candidate’s statements, or to extend their own speaking time.
The Chamber recommended “judicious use” of these rebuttal cards, but as it turned out, many of them were used up in the first half of the two-hour event. This made for some lively to and fro in the first hour, but in the second hour, most of the cards being used up, the “debate” aspect was lessened — to certain candidates’ regret!
The questions, most developed by the Chamber, with a few gleaned from the audience, tended towards Chamber interests — the economy, tax models, workforce isses, the minimum wage, skills and training, resource development. Other questions concerned cannabis legislation, the environment, health care — a broad gamit of subjects. The questions were often multi-layered and complex, challenging the candidates and forcing them to respond beyond just their party lines, revealing a lot of personal expression.
The system worked exceptionally well, keeping the event flowing and disciplined.
The candidates themselves were passionate, but respectful of each other. There was never the edge that has sometimes been seen in debates from past elections.
The four candidates were all well-spoken and presented their ideas clearly. The two “underdogs:” Prest of the Greens and Komar of the Libertarians, were right there in the mix with Macnair and Shypitka from the two main parties — challenging the others and presenting their own ideas with clarity.
All in all, a great evening of democracy in action. In subsequent elections, watch these pages for the argument to adopt this debate model.