SUNDRE — While the set date for the Monday, Sept. 27 municipal election forum remains firm, the venue is hoped to go virtual in some form.
But details were not yet confirmed yesterday afternoon (Sept. 19) by The Albertan's press deadline.
“We definitely are trying to come up with a way to deliver the candidates' messages and response to some questions,” said Monica St.Dennis, chair of the Sundre & District Chamber of Commerce, which still hopes to host the event.
“But we do not yet have a concrete plan on how that will be,” she said yesterday, encouraging people to check the chamber's web presence for updates.
As a result of the provincial government’s declaration on Sept. 15 of a public health emergency, coupled with the reintroduction of restrictions on gatherings, organizers felt like they had little choice but to cancel the in-person event at the Sundre Community Centre.
“We can’t have a public forum. The way I understand it, we would have to have proof of a negative test within 72 hours of that event, or a proof of vaccination.
“Well, there’s been pushback just for wearing a mask. I’m not going to get in the middle of that stuff, to be honest.”
Originally planned to start at 7 p.m., the forum is instead hoped to proceed online, she said, adding the date and time have not changed.
Providing the council and mayoral candidates an opportunity to introduce themselves and present their platforms, she added, is important.
“The people of Sundre need to hear the candidates. I actually think it’s crucial," she said.
People who have questions for the council candidates can submit their queries by email to email@example.com by 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25.
“Just like always, the chamber will vet the questions — that’s what we’ve always done in any of the municipal forums that I’ve been a part of,” she said, adding similar or repetitive questions can be compiled while inappropriate queries will be filtered out.
Asked whether the candidates had confirmed their intent to participate, she said the board decided to wait until after yesterday’s official nomination deadline, which was past press deadline.
“An email will go out to the candidates once the cutoff has happened,” she said, anticipating they could join remotely from their location of choice.
In light of federal election forums that were disrupted by anti-maskers at events in Red Deer and Innisfail, thereby denying other residents who adhered to the health protocols the opportunity to hear what their candidates have to say, St.Dennis offered some thoughts.
“We are in a crisis, not only for a virus, but also for our mental health state,” she said. “If a person is going home and having trouble sleeping and having a great deal of anxiety because they met me in a grocery store without a mask, I don’t want to be the cause of that.
“It doesn’t really matter what I believe personally. I believe that we should respect each other, and if I can make someone feel comfortable by putting on a mask in public, why would I not want to do that as a responsible, kind human? I don’t understand that part of it. We have forgotten to be kind.”
Some of the vitriol on social media platforms is also disconcerting, she said.
“It’s very shocking for me to see comments daily on our social media pages at how ruthless people are to each other over their opinions. We have brothers against brothers, we have family against family. It’s absolutely stunning to me. It’s sad,” she said.
“From the chamber’s point of view, we don’t make the rules, but we absolutely are prepared to honour the rules. If we would have had a public event, people would not have been entering without a mask, because that’s what’s required. It’s unfortunate that people are so adamant against that. We’re fighting a virus, but we can never fight each other.”