Update: After The Local had gone to press, the NOTL Chamber of Commerce was able to confirm the date of Sept. 8 for an all-candidates meeting organized with the chambers of Niagara Falls and Fort Erie.
With the federal election campaign time so short, and the fact that it’s being held in the midst of pandemic restrictions, it was not initially clear how all-candidates meetings were going to be handled.
There are still going to be candidates’ meetings, with both the NOTL Chamber of Commerce members and Cogeco involved, both of whom have a long-standing tradition and the experience required to make the meetings run smoothly.
Eduardo Lafforgue, president of the NOTL Chamber of Commerce, says the chamber staff of NOTL, Niagara Falls and Fort Erie, which make up one riding, are working together on this with Cogeco.
The chambers will support the Cogeco debate on Sept. 9, with four candidates live in the studio, representing the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Green parties. That follows the national debate rules, which have some stipulations about candidates having a seat at Parliament or having captured a certain percentage of votes to be invited to an all-candidates meeting.
The People’s Party of Canada will be invited to send in a short video from their candidate to air as part of the live broadcast.
The chamber will forward their questions to Cogeco for the meeting, and the following day, the debate will be posted on the website, www.yourtv.tv/niagara.
There is also a second virtual debate with the same candidates, organized by the three chambers. Lafforgue describes it as more like in a case-study, with questions addressing the main issues facing local businesses, including labour shortages and training, border reopening, health protection, and planning. It will be held Sept. 8, from 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. It will give voters a chance to see in detail how the parties will handle businesses through the recovery period and into the future.
With virtual meetings there is no doubt something may seem to be missing to help voters make their decisions, but there are advantages as well. In addition to being safe, at a time when COVID cases are rising, they will be simple to watch for those who have access to the internet.
And these meetings will be important. This election feels extremely rushed, and candidates won’t see as many people in person, but the issues as we move forward through the next stage of the pandemic will be crucial to our recovery, for business owners who may be hanging on by a thread, certainly, but also for all who don’t feel they can endure another lockdown, for all who want guidance on handling mandatory vaccinations or passports, for those who are unemployed or under-employed, and for parents who need affordable daycare, and may also be afraid for their children’s health.
In the Niagara Falls riding, we’re fortunate that three of the four main candidates are people we know from the 2019 election.
Our Green Party candidate is new, but their platform is familiar to us. The People’s Party of Canada candidate is also new, but has a pretty clear-cut platform, and who has been very forthcoming about his opinions — and whether we like them or not, he has a right to express them and to be heard, if only by video, should he choose.
We’ll pass on more information as we have it, but the dates of Sept. 8 and Sept. 9 is worth remembering, as an opportunity to help those who are still undecided make up their minds before the Sept. 20 election.