Thursday, April 28, 2011

Saskatoon Rosetown Biggar all candidates forum

The Riversdale Community Association hosted an All Candidates Debate Forum for the federal riding of Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar on Thursday, April 28th at 7 p.m.

Thanks to Community association president Doug Ramage for all his efforts to make this possible.

The room was full of maybe a hundred and started with opening statements. Each candidate answered four questions from the chair: 1) The Environment 2) Health 3) Housing and 4) Riding Priorities. Candidates then directed questions to each other followed by an open microphone on far ranging issues: Defense, Treaty obligations, Agriculture, Food and Drugs, Unemployment Insurance, Poverty, Advocacy Rights, Student Tuition & Costs, Water Fluoridation and First Nation University funding.

The candidates though reluctant to pose questions to each other answered all constituent questions succinctly with clarity and respect. There was in the room a looming sense of absence - in fact Nettie Wiebe directed her question to the missing conservative incumbent & all three assured if elected they would be a greater presence in the riding and promised opportunities for citizens to have their voice heard.

My sense was of more commonality and shared understandings between the three. What separated them was their particular party history and experience. Lee Reaney affirmed his strong support of the Liberal Platform, Vicky Strelioff confessed herself a non-politician seeking to represent those who felt unrepresented and Nettie Wiebe asserted the affirmative actions instituted by the traditions of her CCF/NDP.

I learnt much about the immense diversity of the people that took the time to attend this forum. All ages were represented. A dirth of suits and ties. This was not a hundred dollar a plate dinner or invite only crowd or a rally for supporters. It was not even a debate. It was more a chance to voice and express deep concerns and the overwhelming concern was please listen to us.

The lasting image was three dignified and passionate individuals seated on a stage in front of a forest lake background of green trees, fresh water, clean air and open sky. A symbol of place. Open skies, open minds, limitless imagination - my definition of democracy.

In the crowd sat a recent graduate and a present high school drama student of mine. Both students just entering voting age and both from countries ravaged by war - their eyes shone bright as they valued the forum experience.

They are the future that cares.

:: Note :: ... picked up the "Nope" postcard from material at the back tables ... printed by the Young Liberals of Canada ... seemed fitting as nope the CPC weren't there ...