The campaign race is wrapping up with a final opportunity for local residents to hear from federal party representatives at an all-candidates forum tonight.
The Southern Interior riding’s two-time winner – Alex Atamanenko of the NDP – will line up against Conservative Stephen Hill, Liberal Shan Lavell and Green Party candidate Bryan Hunt at the Cominco Gym in the Trail Memorial Centre from 7-9 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.).
“When you talk to the average person they say, ‘Another federal election? Right, it’s like what’s the point?’” said Maggie Stayanovich, executive director of the Trail and District Chamber of Commerce. “You can choose not to vote, but then you have to accept what is actually decided on your behalf, whether you voted or not.”
The chamber is making it easy for voters who will head to the polls next Monday.
“We’re being impartial – giving the opportunity for all the candidates to present their position in a forum,” said Stayanovich.
Candidates will make an opening statement before a media panel will fire their questions and then open the floor up to the public.
Trail chamber president Ron Clarke will act as the mediator, ensuring candidates stay on track and that questions are kept within a certain time limit.
“We’re looking forward to people being informed,” said Stayanovich. “Nothing is more of a pet peeve in my mind than when the people that complain the loudest are those who don’t’ go out and vote.”
The City of Trail councillors are starting their regular meeting an hour early today to ensure they get out to hear from the federal candidates.
“Basically, I know what the position of the different parties are already, I’m not sure whether or not they’ll be able to add any value to that or not,” said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs. “For me, of course, it’s always how the municipalities are going to come out of this. It’s been really hard work to establish that at least they recognize that municipalities just don’t have the revenue stream that they deserve.”
Bogs said local government is struggling with more responsibilities being downloaded on them without the revenue to support their new tasks. With an obligation to keep property taxes low for their residents, municipalities are stuck with a large infrastructure deficit as a result.
“Our infrastructure deficit is around $20 million and it’s growing,” he said. “It’s not decreasing because simply we don’t have the funds to update it and replace it and I know in many ways the City of Trail is in better shape than some of its neighbouring communities and some of the communities outside of our area.”
Beyond his own interests, he expects that a vast group of residents will check out the community forum, including seniors who are thinking about their pensions and young parents with a keen eye on the economy.
Stayanovich is hoping to create a level playing field, where candidates who may have had less face time locally will also be in the spotlight. This is even more beneficial as some people running live outside of the Southern Interior riding, which stretches from Princeton to Salmo and up to Kaslo, an area of about 26,700 square kilometres.
“I’m quite interested to hear their positions,” she said. “I mean Shan Lavell is not local but she represents our area and Brian Hunt, he doesn’t live here but he did a lot of growing up in Kaslo. When you don’t know them face-to-face, it’s different.”
Stayanovich is wishful that residents will be able to pull away from Game 7 of the Vancouver Canucks-Chicago Blackhawks series, to hear from the candidates.
Rossland is putting on its own forum on Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. at the Rossland Miner’s Hall while Castlegar attracted about 75 citizens to its debate about two weeks ago.
“I hope people realize that voting is a week away (Monday) and that they put some time into their plan to go out and vote,” she said.
“I think a lot of people look at it and go what’s the point of us voting here because it’s all going to be accounted for in larger centres where you have high population, and yes in some ways this is true,” she said. “But in your own heart, I think people really think this is our home and our area and you want to make sure that the representative that represents your home has the same passions and values when it comes to putting their voice forward and speaking for the people, not on their own agenda.”
Residents are encouraged to go and vote with proper identification at their appropriate stations, depending on where they live.
Election day is Monday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Trail Memorial Centre, Glenmerry Elementary School, Rossland Secondary School and Warfield, Montrose, Fruitvale, Oasis and Genelle community halls.
More information can be found at www.elections.ca