Democracy Fair could have been meaningful

Number of candidates this time around made it a chore to become informed

Editor, The News:

Since I became a Canadian citizen more than 50 years ago, I have voted in every election, be it federal, provincial or civic, possibly missing a couple on account of being out of town.

But other than some minor annoyances and a share of disappointments, I have never been frustrated until now.

It was bad enough to have 28 candidates to sort through, most of them unknown, but because of that, contrary to what Christian Cowley said in his letter to the editor, it took far more than 10 hours to get a bit of an inkling who all these people were.

I spent at least double that much time, scanning the newspaper ads and the web sites of all the candidates and half of my afternoon at the Democracy Fair at the ACT, at which only 11 of the of the 28 council and three of the school board  hopefuls bothered to show up.

I disagree also with Mr. Cowley regarding all-candidates’ forums. I have attended a number of them, but once you have more than 10 candidates, it becomes meaningless, with pre-arranged questions, most of them motherhood issues resulting in the same answers from almost all the candidates, the possible exceptions being some local neighbourhood concerns.

In that same vein, while I applaud the Herculean effort of both local newspapers to publish relevant information on the candidates, they also had to confine themselves to stock questions, most only of mild interest to the voters and with the same stock answers as the all-candidate forums.

That, to me, is also one of the contributing factors for the abysmal voter turnout and, as I suggested in a previous letter to the editor, with very few new faces on council.

To my mind, the Democracy Fair see Maple Ridge News, Nov. 1, 2011, could have been the most meaningful of all campaign strategies if only the candidates would have been there.

It would have created more interest because only in such a setting do the voters have the opportunity to speak to the candidates face to face and ask important questions, such as: do you have a plan on how to speed up the decision-making process, do you know how contracts are awarded, and do you agree that any contract over $3,000 should have a minimum of three sealed bids, and are you prepared to think outside the box for projects such as a four-lane road along the waterfront, connecting the Golden Ears Bridge directly to the Haney bypass.

In closing, one more suggestion: I believe the deadline for registering as a candidate should be moved up at least a month earlier.

We already know now that we will have the next election in three years, giving lots of time to decide to run, well in advance.

It would give the voters more time to get to know their candidates and most likely fewer of them to sort through, because it would take more of a commitment to stand for election.

Walter Verwoerd

Maple Ridge