Chestermerians were lined up out the door waiting to get into the All Candidates Forum at the recreation centre Oct. 4.
The event was organized and hosted by Synergy’s Youth Encouraging Lasting Leadership (YELL) program, with the mentorship of Synergy staff.
“We are extremely proud of the event,” said Synergy Program Coordinator Christy Redl.
Over 500 people packed the Recreation Centre’s Main Hall to hear from the five Mayoral candidates, 14 of the 15 council candidates and the two Rocky View School Trustee candidates.
Both Catholic school trustee candidates, Cheryl Low and Mario Deshaies sent their regrets as well as city council candidate Clayton Thompson.
The well-run forum saw every candidate give a 90 second opening address, answer one open ended question, answer several group yes or no questions and give a closing statement.
After the formal program ended candidates moved to booths set around the hall and were available for conversations with the gathered crowd.
The election hopefuls showed varying degrees of preparedness for the forum as well as a wide range of comfort in speaking in front of the large crowd.
The generally friendly crowd applauded and were respectful of all candidate throughout the evening. Council candidate Tommy Fleger’s opening poem that lampooned CUI was particularly well received by the crowd.
All candidates in attendance managed to answer their questions, however none managed to take advantage of the opportunity and make themselves stand out from the crowded field of council hopefuls.
The one weak spot of the night was the quality and fairness of the questions.
The open-ended questions, ranged from general policy and knowledge to questions targeting specific candidate’s history and campaigns.
Redl said that the questions used in the forum were all gathered from submissions from Chestermere residents.
The questions were submitted directly to an independent moderator that Redl said, “neither resides nor works in Chestermere.”
The moderator reviewed and selected the questions for the forum from the submissions and provided the selections to Synergy prior to the forum.
“No one, other than the moderator…saw or heard any of the questions until they were asked during the forum,” said Redl.
In the review process, Redl said that questions deemed to be offensive by the moderator were removed.
The inconsistency in the quality of questions directed at individual candidates from the public gave uneven opportunities for candidates to try and stand out in the forum.
The same unevenness dogged the yes or no questions as well.
Many of the yes or no questions begged for context and greater explanation from the candidates as to their positions, something the forum format did not allow.
They did, however, do a good job of giving a quick snapshot of the candidate’s positions on some of the issues facing Chestermere.
After the completion of the formal program, a little less than half the crowd stayed to take advantage of the opportunity to speak with the candidates.
While no one was willing to go on record, the general hum of conversation after the forum was positive.
From conversations in the room, the forum helped people narrow down their choice for mayor and council.
One woman who requested to remain anonymous said that it was, “easier to cross people off than to select.”
Redl said that the feedback Synergy has received has been mostly positive as well.
“We keep hearing from residents…that going in they had a pretty good idea who they were voting for but due to becoming more informed by the forum, they have changed their minds,” said Redl.
The forum was streamed live on Facebook by Synergy. Those residents who were unable to attend can watch it on Synergy’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SynergyChestermere.
For more information on the forum and questions got to http://yoursynergy.ca/2017election.