For the second time in barely a year, voters in Cumberland South are heading to the polls, and for the second straight time it appears they will have no candidates’ debate or forum to help them choose which candidate they wish to support.
Last year, the Springhill Chamber of Commerce decided not to host a forum because of an apparent “time factor,” and neither the chamber nor the Parrsboro and District Board of Trade have stepped forward to sponsor such an event this time around.
That being said, one cannot blame these organizations, which are run entirely by volunteers and limited resources. But other than booking a venue, finding a moderator and inviting the candidates, how much work could really be involved? Local high school students have hosted such events in recent years, and they are not even old enough to vote.
Debates (or “candidates’ forums” to use the less confrontational, more easygoing Canadian-like term) are not the be all, end all of election campaigns. They often feature stale, staged rhetoric from the candidates, while many of the seats are filled with their own supporters, who cheer everything they say.
But, for the undecided voter who can see through the fluff and the posturing, these events are a helpful tool in making an important decision. In fact, it is the most important decision in a democratic society, although fewer and fewer people seem to appreciate it.
The upcoming byelection should be more than just a coronation for a new party leader, but a discussion about the future direction of this part of the province, which has real issues to be dealt with. There needs to be an opportunity for voters to get to know those who wish to represent them.