The most impressive thing about Tuesdays all-candidates meeting, aside from the turnout, was the enthusiasm and desire of people to learn more about the 20 candidates running for seven seats on Whistler council.
Prior to the meeting there was some mild criticism or concern from some quarters about WORCA organizing an all-candidates event. The fear among some, apparently, being that WORCA has an agenda and the forum, somehow, might not be fair to all candidates.
Tuesdays meeting put whatever fears there were to rest. Both the candidates all 18 running for six councillor seats and the two candidates for mayor participated and the 150-or-so people who showed up to hear their views seemed to embrace the opportunity.
The format candidates had seven minutes at a table with a handful of people, then a whistle blew and the candidates would move on to another table was a breath of fresh air in a democratic process that has grown stodgy. Its a less intimidating format than Saturdays traditional all-candidates meeting will be, allowing more direct contact between candidates and voters and de-emphasizing the need for candidates to "perform." The format was suggested to WORCA by Whistler Chamber of Commerce President Brent Leigh. Its the chamber that is sponsoring Saturdays all-candidates meeting at Myrtle Philip school.
Irrespective of candidates and issues, the political process in Whistler needed some shaking up. The official voter turnout three years ago was an appalling 41 per cent. If the number of people who were eligible to vote could be factored into the equation, rather than basing it on the number of registered voters, the turnout would have been even more pathetic.
Tuesdays meeting wasnt perfect there still werent many people under 25 in attendance but it was inclusive, it was open and fair and it was useful.
To the surprise of some dour-looking conspiracy theorists, it was even fun. Even if that was the only thing people came away with from Tuesdays meeting it would have to be considered a positive contribution to the election.
WORCA has shown, with this weeks all-candidates meeting and with a September session on Whistler. Its Our Future that it organized, that Whistlerites can be proactive and change the process if they arent satisfied with the way things are going.
And in a year when there are so many people seeking election efforts like WORCAs to increase dialogue between candidates and voters should be applauded, rather than feared.
The democratic process didnt begin or end with Tuesdays meeting. The chamber of commerce is holding its traditional all-candidates meeting this Saturday, Nov. 2 at 3 p.m., at Myrtle Philip school. It will be another opportunity for voters to assess the candidates, including the four candidates for two school trustee positions.
While the number of people seeking councillor positions is a measure of interest in this municipal election, the unfortunate side of having 18 candidates for councillor is that there wont be much time Saturday for questions which makes the WORCA meeting all the more valuable. With each candidate getting three minutes to introduce themselves and their positions Saturday, and one minute to sum up, that will leave only 35 minutes for questions.
Saturdays all-candidates meeting will be re-broadcast on Cable 6 several times over the next two weeks, for those who cant make it in person.
Cable 6 is also showing a tape of a debate between the two mayoralty candidates, Hugh OReilly and Dave Davenport. Check the TV schedule on page 60.
All of this is being done on the premise that more information and dialogue improves the democratic process.