INNISFAIL – Last week’s provincial announcement of tougher COVID restrictions has convinced organizers of the town’s highly anticipated mayoral forum to cancel its planned in-person event at the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104.
The event’s organizing committee met on Sept. 16 and made the decision to only have a virtual forum for the evening of Sept. 22, from 7 p.m. to about 8:30 p.m. It was the day after the province announced new tough restrictions intended to help stop the transmission of COVID-19, including at indoor gatherings.
Leading up to the Sept. 16 committee meeting, and before the Sept. 15 provincial announcement, there were concerns about public disruptions over the ongoing controversial masking issue if the mayoral forum went ahead in-person.
While the latest COVID restrictions made the committee’s decision easier, few people were happy about it.
“It’s very disappointing. We felt we had no other choice but to go to Zoom,” said Heather Taylor, chair of the mayoral forum’s organizing committee, adding the ongoing COVID crisis has been an exhausting time for everyone to navigate, including the organizing committee and candidates.
“I would say there is a certain degree of that. I think every citizen in Canada is feeling that. We’re just tired of the whole situation.”
Taylor said Innisfail’s two declared mayoral candidates, Jean Barclay and Glen Carritt, will be online live via Zoom from their own locations, as will moderator Kerry Towle and members of the organizing committee. She said the online forum will be set up to allow for public questions to both candidates.
“We decided with the new restrictions we would be going directly to Zoom. There was no sense in trying to hold it in-person,” said Taylor, adding the option of holding it outside was also discussed but the committee deemed it too potentially problematic.
“The logistics for that just wasn’t there. It was going to be dark. It was going to be cold, and we couldn’t hold it at a different date.”
As for the candidates, both Barclay and Carritt expressed “disappointment” the planned in-person format had to give way to the safer but less personal online model.
“It’s unfortunate we have to resort to Zoom,” said Carritt. “I would have preferred indoors with people having the choice to decide for themselves, and as a second option to hold it outside.”
Barclay said the cancellations of the indoor forum is particularly disappointing for citizens who would have had a more personal experience to ask questions and find out more about each candidate’s platforms.
“But I know the committee is doing the best it can, considering the circumstances. I applaud them for all the hard work they put into it,” said Barclay, agreeing cancellation was the “only” decision left to the committee during the current public health crisis.
“The issue with outdoors is that number one it’s going to be in the evening. The sun sets at 7:30, and it could be very cold,” she added. “So, to accommodate everyone, or ty to accommodate the most people who can be accommodated, Zoom is the only option.”
As for effectively getting her campaign message out to Innisfailians, Barclay said making the best out of the current challenging COVID-era situation is simply today’s reality.
“We’ve all been using Zoom for 19 months. It will have to be that. It is what it is,” concluded Barclay.
The organizing committee for the mayoral forum has released some details on its Facebook page for the Sept. 22 event. Citizens can join the Zoom meeting at: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/87993042952
The meeting ID is: 879 9304 2952
Additional details are in the Sept. 21 edition of The Albertan, and on the Innisfail Mayoral Forum page on Facebook.
There is also an all-candidates forum being hosted by the Innisfail & District Chamber of Commerce for Oct. 6. This will be a virtual forum for all council and mayoral candidates that will be broadcast via Zoom. In a news release, the Chamber said more details about the event will soon be released.