INNISFAIL – The mayoralty forum scheduled for Sept. 22 is still moving forward despite concerns about masking issues that forced the cancellation of two federal election forums earlier this month, including one in Innisfail.
Heather Taylor, chair of the mayoral forum organizing committee, told The Albertan last weekend the issues that derailed the federal election forums were addressed by the committee but the Sept. 22 event is still going ahead in-person as scheduled from 7 p.m. to about 8:30 p.m. at the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104.
Effective Sept. 4 in Alberta, masks are mandatory in all indoor public spaces and workplaces with certain exemptions including a physical fitness activity, performance activity, a worship service at a place of worship, or at schools.
At both the Sept. 8 federal election forum in Innisfail, and the one in Red Deer on Sept. 9, multiple anti-maskers refused to wear masks, forcing organizers to shut down 30 minutes into each event.
“We will do our best to uphold Alberta Health Services’ rules,” said Taylor, a former town councillor, who added that unmasked people arriving at the legion venue will be told they must wear a mask.
Forum candidates will be spaced at least six feet apart and will not be required to wear a mask while speaking during the forum, said Taylor.
She said the event, which will be moderated by former Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle, will also be carried live on Zoom, with details announced later this week, and by advertisement in The Albertan on Sept. 21.
“In view of upholding democracy, we have to get this to happen,” she said, adding security measures at the forum, which could include an RCMP presence, are still being worked out.
“I’m hoping everything will go as planned and we won’t have any disruptions. I’m trusting Innisfail citizens to do the right thing."
“I feel for us to go forward and out of this situation we need strong leadership, and I feel our community needs to hear how they (candidates) are going to lead us out of this,” added Taylor.
Innisfail mayoral candidate Glen Carritt, who was at the Innisfail federal election forum unmasked, told The Albertan he still had concerns with the masking issue for the upcoming local forum.
“I agreed to the forum indoors prior to the new indoor mask mandate but I think the committee needs to have an outdoor location that people can not be discriminated against and choose to wear a mask or not,” said Carritt in a text to The Albertan.
He was initially contacted by The Albertan by telephone for an invitation for a more comprehensive interview but it was not immediately accepted.
“I am more than willing to attend an event that is inclusive to everyone,” Carritt added in his text. “Having an indoor event is only inclusive to some.”
Carritt did not immediately reply to a follow-up text question whether his forum attendance is dependent on organizers having an outdoor option.
Jean Barclay, a current member of Innisfail council and Carritt’s only declared opponent in the Innisfail mayoral race, said she is looking forward to a public discussion where the public can listen to both platforms, as well as the issues that are important to Innisfailians.
“I think the September 22 mayoral forum is a little different as far as issues that went on at the last two forums and I hope everyone will be respectful and let the voices be heard from the community, as well as our voices, and be able to tell our stories and our platforms because we can’t let democracy die,” she said in an interview with The Albertan, adding it was “more important than ever” to have a civil and constructive public forum during this tense and challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I never thought we would see this kind of environment in our community that we have right now. It’s very disappointing,” said Barclay. “When I see security personnel at the advance poll for the federal election, it’s rather disheartening that this is where we are at right now.
“I think it’s very important that people are able to share what we have to say,” she added. “And like I said, I truly hope people will respect that because if you are truly fighting for peoples’ freedoms, and if that is what you honour, then everybody needs an opportunity to be able to be heard, and even more importantly, our citizens need an opportunity to ask questions to both of us and they shouldn’t be denied.”