Forum offered a glimpse of candidates not platforms

"There wasn't a lot of debate among the candidates and no vocal support or applause from the audience."

Monday’s all-candidates forum at the Cominco Gym said a lot of the state of political affairs locally and provincially.

The four candidates vying for the right to represent the Kootenay West riding made their pitches, answered questions and shook a lot of hands on the evening but the fact remained that only about 60 people, out of a couple of thousand of eligible voters, turned out to hear the candidates.

For those who didn’t attend, you didn’t miss much.

There wasn’t a lot of debate among the candidates and no vocal support or applause from the audience. It was a rather cordial meeting that allowed the candidates to campaign from their chairs with promises of a better life for all if they’re elected.

Nevertheless, each candidate’s demeanour during the two-hour forum gave voters an insight into the person they would be voting for.

Katrine Conroy was polished and poised, like a political veteran should be, as she delivered the “change” message to the audience. As the NDP’s critic for senior affairs, it played right into her wheelhouse that the small crowd featured a majority of senior citizens.

Meanwhile, the BC Liberals Jim Postnikoff looked very much like the man thrown into the fire as the ruling provincial party needed some type of representation in every riding to avoid the embarrassment of not fielding enough candidates to cover B.C.

Unfortunately, Postnikoff’s late entry into the political race was apparent as he stuck to the scripted message and rarely deviated or lifting his eyes from the abundance of notes in front of him.

That alone was enough to create a glaze over the crowd more often seen in a mathematics class when the teacher starts explaining formulas and percentages.

Then the two independent candidates provided a different take.

Joseph Hughes of Nakusp came on like a Kootenay politician. He preached the rights of the voters, the problem with the current system and the God-given right to live life like we choose while helping our local communities grow.

Glen Byle presented his radical idea of using technology to help hear the voter’s voice. His assertion that everyone gets a say in decision making underscored his lack of knowledge in certain areas.

And he didn’t address the fact that perhaps some in the audience and no doubt throughout the Kootenay West riding there are people who either don’t have a computer or don’t feel comfortable enough with it to cast a vote.

Perhaps his time will come but it won’t be now.

Even with Conroy’s experience, Postnikoff’s notes, Hughes’ passion and Byle’s technology-based thinking, the candidates had a hard time answering questions from the audience that impact local voters.

A question on school funding came with promises from the NDP candidate, a repeat of the economy first mantra from the Liberal candidate and no concrete direction from the independents.

A question on seniors brought a little more detailed reply from Conroy, using her expertise. Postnikoff again said changes have to be made but provided little specifics and left many in the room scratching their heads when he said changes were coming to the United Way.

It may have closed its doors in Castlegar, Postnikoff’s home base, but continues to help many in the Greater Trail area. So the idea of changing the format was made even more confusing without any details.

At every turn Hughes spoke with passion and a grassroots feel that had many in the crowd nodding in agreement but even he admitted he wasn’t about to form the next provincial government so his goal is to look after our region first and go from there.

Unfortunately, the holes in Byle’s Technology Enabled true Democracy (TED) began to appear as he replied to some questions with the familiar refrain that he would simply ask the voters what to do.

There were no questions on smart meters, legalization of marijuana, better road services, cross-border shopping or even            pipelines.

The best question of the night was perhaps one of the last ones, which asked candidates how they would generate the funds to pay for their promises.

They all had a plan. It’s a matter of which one you think will work.

With the small turnout at the forum, it begs the question, “Have people already made up their minds or don’t care?”

I’m hoping it’s the first option because if people don’t care about which direction the province is headed at this point, then it makes you wonder what needs to happen to make them begin to care.

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