Although it was the last evening of summer vacation, before school starts again, and a balmy 31 degrees outside, it was standing room only in the meeting room of the NexSource Centre for the by-election candidate forum on Wednesday, Aug. 31.
Hosted by the Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Harry Sawchuck, a lawyer with Rowanoak Law Office LLP in Sylvan Lake, all 10 candidates were seated at the front of the audience. As people entered the forum, they could take a form and write down a question for the candidates. Volunteers then go through the questions to weed out any duplicates and choose questions to cover as many topics as possible.
Sawchuck explained, before the forum began, that the candidates were seated in an order that was drawn at random, and candidates would answer questions in that order. Each candidate had one minute to answer their question and all candidates were asked a different question. The forum began at 6 p.m. and was required to end by 8:30, but the forum did end early.
Questions from the audience varied and covered topics such as the parks and recreation master plan, access to doctors and the Advanced Ambulatory Care Service, getting the town on a firmer financial footing, the construction of new schools in Sylvan Lake, street parking and the flow of traffic, transportation options for residents, the possibility of a provincial police force, Sylvan Lake exploring resort municipality status, tourism, hard water in town, youth programs, a performing arts centre, e-scooters and e-bikes in town and senior housing options. There were several questions about businesses – expanding small businesses, bringing new business into town, reducing red tape for businesses to start up and business competition within town. And there were also some personal questions, such as why the candidate wants to be a councillor, what their strengths are, handling conflict and juggling the responsibility of being a counsellor and having a full-time job.
Between the 10 candidates, 40 questions were asked.
As the question period came to a close and Sawchuck suggested moving to each candidate’s closing remarks, and then ending the forum, a member of the audience asked why all of the questions written down hadn’t been presented.
“I know myself and other people have put questions in, and I would like to know why they’re being censored,” the audience member said. “I’m a Sylvan Laker and I’ve asked questions of the members up here today and someone has censored every single question.”
In response, Sawchuck said, “We did try to pick questions that cover a broad range of topics and a broad range of interest.” He also commented that the candidates would likely be willing to answer any specific questions after the forum is complete.
“The Chamber is trying to cover the interests and the questions of as many citizens of Sylvan Lake as possible,” he explained.
The audience member suggested the questions had been “cherry picked” for the candidates, so Sawchuck allowed her to come to the front of the audience and ask her question of the candidates – do you support the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? This question was met with boos and a significant amount of heckling from the rest of the audience. However, each candidate did agree to answer the question.
The entire forum was live streamed and it’s also available on the town’s YouTube channel for anyone wanting to watch it.