Voters to grill election hopefuls

Peggy Revell

District residents will have the chance to quiz and query the candidates vying to represent Kenora-Rainy River at Queen’s Park at two events slated for next week.
With the Oct. 6 provincial election fast approaching, an all-candidates’ “meet-and-greet” is planned for next Wednesday (Sept. 28) at the Fort Frances Legion.
Then a debate is set for the following evening (Sept. 29) at Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton.
Both events will get underway at 7 p.m.
“I just hope the public comes out [so] they can make a better decision on voting day,” said Linda Armstrong of the Rainy River Federation of Agriculture, which is organizing the all-candidates debate in Stratton.
Like past debates hosted by the RRFA, Armstrong said the candidates each will be given a few minutes for opening remarks, followed by taking questions from the floor, with the candidates answering each question in rotation.
“So it’s an open forum, it’s all off the cuff,” she stressed. “We have no prepared questions or anything so it’s whatever the public wants to ask.”
At this point, three of the five candidates—Sarah Campbell (NDP), Anthony Leek (Liberal), and Rod McKay (Progressive Conservative)—have confirmed their attendance for the debate.
Armstrong predicted the big issues that will come up at the debate include agriculture, transportation, and health care.
“But who’s to know? You never know what somebody’s beef is,” she admitted.
Past RRFA debates—including the federal one this past spring—have always had a good turnout, Armstrong noted.
“It gives [people] the opportunity to ask their questions, gives them an opportunity to mix-and-mingle with the candidates,” she reasoned, noting there is a break in the middle of the debate for coffee so the public can chat with candidates one-on-one.
Meanwhile, the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce has opted to host an all-candidates’ “meet-and-greet” instead of a formal debate this election in the hopes of pulling in a bigger crowd than in the past.
The evening is going to be a casual night, explained Chamber manager Anthony Mason.
“What’s going to happen is each candidate’s going to have a certain amount of time to speak,” he explained.
“And then once all the candidates are finished speaking, they’re going to have their own separate little booths and people are going to be able to go up and speak with them.”
This is a change from past election events the Chamber has hosted—usually a debate such as the federal one this past spring where candidates were asked a limited number of questions by selected local media and organizations.
“We wanted to change it up, and this was something that was brought to my attention, that we should try this,” Mason said about the change.
“So we just went with it and we’re going to see how it goes.
“It’s more laid-back so we’re hoping that the younger people can come out,” he reasoned. “Instead of just sitting there, you’re going to be able to interact with [candidates].
“We’re hoping that will draw more people out.”