Low turnout for political forums

Community Election

By Heather Brimicombe
and Aaron Cameron

The Town of Stellarton showed a lack of civic pride Monday evening at the Pulse Pictou County Pints and Politics session with only five citizens and five of the 10 candidates attending.

A total of about 12 people, five citizens, five candidates and two Pulse members, attended the session to hear what the candidates had to say.

“We just wanted to offer the space,” said Pulse’s Amanda Hill about the sessions that will be hosted in each town and area of the county this week. The intention of the sessions, said Hill, was to give citizens the opportunity to talk to candidates face to face and have conversations and ask questions about issues that interest them.

“We’re excited to host these sessions,” said Hill. “It’s important to be engaged with what’s going on.”

Each of the five candidates in attendance, two of whom were school board candidates, had two minutes to speak about their platform and what they hope to achieve if elected.

One of the attendees was Scott Forbes, a New Glasgow resident moving to Stellarton just in time for the election.

“It’s probably a really good thing,” he said about the fact that candidates are accessible to talk to at the forum.

“A lot of people do the door-to-door thing and I suppose a lot of people miss them.”

Forbes attended the meeting with his daughter, who wanted to have the chance to talk to candidates.

Despite the small turnout for the event, thriving conversations took place with the citizens who did attend, showing a lot of interest in the issues of their municipality.

“We’re pleased with the candidates that did arrive,” said  Hill, thanking those that came for their support as well as noting that there were some regrets sent from one candidate for not being able to make it that night.

The Pictou East session of the Pints and Politics  got underway with candidates and citizens from Districts 1, 2, 9, 10, 11, and 12 meeting at the Merigomish Community Centre.

Pulse’s Jessica Muir explained  the series is picking up where a similar event during the last federal election left off, and had the underlying goal of motivating and informing the 20-40 crowd.

“Our motivation this time was to get people to engage with the municipal level of government,” Muir said, “the same as we wanted them to engage with the federal level and we wanted to do it in a way that was more casual and less intimidating.”

Muir said with the lack of political parties at the municipal level it is important for voters to get to know their candidates.

“With municipal elections they don’t necessarily have a political party standing up behind them,” Muir said. “They don’t have that support of the party, and the party platform and promotional material. We wanted to do something where people could really get to know the candidates themselves.”

Accessibility was also a factor in the series.  “We didn’t want to say ‘let’s have one big mixer for all the municipalities,’” Muir explained. “We wanted to make sure we were having it in the communities that were representative of who they were voting for.”

The Merigomish session was a rather sparse affair. Six council candidates were unable to addend. Also absent was District 12 Coun. Chester Dewar, however he has already been  acclaimed.

Speaking, were District 1 candidates Don Butler and Don Stewart, District 2 candidate Deborah Wadden, District 9 candidates Peter Boyles and Barbara Weir and District 11 candidate Andy Thompson.
Also taking part was Chignecto-Central Regional School Board District 11 candidate Scott Adamson.

Public turnout was low. Aside from the candidates, MLA Tim Houston, the event’s moderator, the two-person bar staff and the solitary member of the media, the crowd totalled nine people.

The candidates made use of their allotted time all the same.
District 1 candidate Don Butler outlined his experience and participation in community projects within the district while Don Stewart outlined his history as a union rep and status as a lifelong resident of Merigomish.

District 2 incumbent Deborah Wadden laid out her council history. District 9 candidate Peter Boyles addressed concerns over the lack of street lights and commitment to environmental issues, while fellow candidate Barbara Weir explained how she will  translate her sales experience into tackling issues on behalf of voters.

District 11 incumbent Andy Thompson talked about his eight-year history in the role, including the revitalization of the Plymouth Community Centre.

District 11 School Board candidate Scott Adamson joked that he had “fifteen additional minutes” before outlining his professional and educational experience and his commitment to and passion for concerns regarding the quality of education for special needs students.

Several candidates for Stellarton town council attended a Pints & Politics session hosted by Pulse Pictou County at the Stellarton Legion on Monday night. Marilou Field, centre, and Jake Chisholm, right, chat with Pulse’s Amanda Hill. (Brimicombe photo)

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