Strong forum turnouts a hopeful sign for election

With the 2014 municipal election day just around the corner, there is a glimmer of hope for our region.

With the 2014 municipal election day just around the corner, there is a glimmer of hope for our region.

I’m not saying the current crop of candidates have come up with ground breaking ideas or out-of-the-box thinking, I’m more impressed with the voter engagement witnessed at the all-candidate forums held throughout the region over the last couple of weeks.

Virtually every forum attracted a full house, the questions were pointed and thought out, the audience was respectful and attentive and all signs point to a solid community engagement on Nov. 15.

In fact, advanced voting opened Wednesday in Trail and in the first 20 minutes 20 people had already cast ballots.

The fact that this year’s election has drawn a large slate of candidates certainly adds to the interest from the public but I prefer to think it’s much more than that.

While every election should be considered pivotal to the future of a community, I believe that is the case even more so this year.

As much as some of the candidates like to pitch themselves as the best option to “stand up,” to other communities and fight “for their piece of the pie,” the underlying tone at most of the forums was “How can we get along with our neighbours?”

Admittedly that’s a tough question to answer, especially with the time constraints of a forum. Some managed to point out the positive gains already achieved, others pointed to their qualifications – be it bringing people together or solving tough problems.

But the encouraging thing about it was the message sent by their constituents, “Let’s work together.”

That doesn’t mean we have to amalgamate or make one big metropolis. It simply means co-operation rather than division. Thinking of the big picture rather than the little one.

You may feel the valley shouldn’t support recreation facilities in Trail or that Trail should charge double to outlying communities. That’s why we have elections so we can choose the people to make those decisions.

But you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t think one community depends on the other at some point or another.

That’s why having a varied choice of candidates to elect is so much more refreshing than the usual acclamation of the previous council that often leads to more disinterest from voters.

This year there’s a difference in the air and there’s an energy that comes with that.

I see it from my chair here at the Trail Times.

We reached out all the way to Salmo to give candidates a chance to voice their views on the issues and solutions in their community and they responded by email, phone, even drove in, hobbled into the office on crutches to offer their thoughts.

Many of the candidates took the opportunity to recap their accomplishments and outline their goals.

It was encouraging to see so many candidates engaged in getting their ideas out to the public rather than just putting up a lumber-yard’s worth of signs along the highway.

Some, of course, despite repeated requests, chose to forego the opportunity and that was their prerogative, no matter how they frame it to the public.

That was somewhat unfortunate but telling as well.

Many candidates have a variety of other modes of contacting constituents and that’s been another boon for this year’s elections.

There are so many resources for voters to find out about candidates, from the comfort of their own home, that there are few excuses not to be informed except for a general disinterest – on the candidate’s or the voter’s part.

But I don’t think that’s the case this year. There is an interest. And a passion. And a hope.

Each community has a distinct set of issues to address yet they are all, at some point, entwined.

Now the talking from prospective politicians is pretty much done but the thinking on the voters part is far from over.

Like I said, forums provided a chance for candidates to introduce themselves to the public but the limited time only provided glimpses of their platform.

There’s still another week for voters to do their homework, and it is homework, because how you vote in this election will hit home one way or another.

Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Times