Voters can skip the speeches and platitudes and just talk to directly to would-be leaders on Maple Ridge council on Saturday.
After a late announcement, the Democracy Fair is a go, beginning at 1 p.m., when at least 20 confirmed candidates will be at the Arts Centre Theatre, where they’ll have table space and pamphlets on display and a chance to have half-hour round-table talks in the Genstar Studio Theatre.
A town crier will drum up public interest at the Haney Farmers Market, while a fiddler will entertain kids and families.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said candidate Wendy Cook, who helped organize a similar event on Bowen Island that led to a 60-per-cent voter turnout. Last election, only about 29 per cent of eligible voters in Maple Ridge showed up.
Candidates don’t have to spend their entire time at the event, which runs until 6:30 p.m. They could just show up when it’s their time to be at the round-table discussions, which start at 2 p.m.
Mayoralty candidates have also been invited. Challenger Craig Ruthven has been allotted a half hour at the round table at 5 p.m., followed by Ernie Daykin. Ruthven, though, said he won’t be able to make that meeting.
Community groups can also set up tables in the lobby.
The intent is to allow voters and candidates to mingle so there can be more of a connection compared to the strict formats of all-candidates meetings, at which speech times and responses are limited to two or three minutes.
A similar event takes place Nov. 1 at Thornhill Community Hall, on 98th Avenue and 260th Street, 7 p.m. – but it’s just for newcomers to the election process.
Challengers for council seats will have a brief question-and-answer session, followed by a reception, during which they’ll mix with the public.
Current or past council members are welcome in the audience, but questions and answers are just for the challengers for council seats, said organizer Betty von Hardenberg.
“We thought we’d give a greater opportunity for the public to get to know them, because we have so many people running for council.
“It’s very difficult for new people to compete, just because they don’t have the experience.”
That’s not unfair to previous or present council members because there are three other all-candidates meetings, she said.
“I think this will be really interesting and really nice, actually,” von Hardenberg added.
“We have to create a lot of interest so we get the voters out to the next election.”
In contrast, the first all-candidates meeting – set for Oct. 27 at Fraserview Community Hall – will be all business.
There will be no introductory or concluding speeches. Organizer Tyler Ducharme said candidates will have 90 seconds to answer specific questions on prostitution, inspections of decrepit buildings, taxes, councillors’ salaries and the Agricultural Land Reserve.
So far, at least 20 of 28 candidates have confirmed their attendance for that event, with the questions provided well in advance and available for viewing on the Fraserview Community Hall website (http://www3.telus.net/fvca/allcan.html).
“Our focus is to really get some of the issues on the table dealt with,” said Ducharme.
“These are really serious issues and we want them discussed in a genuine way.”
All candidates meetings for Maple Ridge council take place:
• Oct. 27 – 6:30 p.m., Fraserview Community Hall, 116th Avenue and 227th Street;
• Nov. 9 – 6 p.m., Webster’s Corners elementary, Dewdney Trunk Road and 256th Street;
• Nov. 10 – 7 p.m. Whonnock Lake Centre, 27871 113th Avenue.