Two forums featuring the 14 candidates seeking seats on Fort Frances town council are slated the week before the Nov. 10 municipal election.
The Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce plans to hold its forum Nov. 3 from 7-10 p.m. at the Civic Centre while the Fort Frances and District Labour Council has planned one for Nov. 5 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Robert Moore School (which could change in the event of a teachers' strike).
Chamber president Tannis Drysdale hoped the two public forums would work hand-in-hand to give voters a firm grasp on where the candidates stand on important issues.
“It's not a debate," she said of the Chamber forum. "It'll be a response to questions.”
She explained with so many candidates and so many issues to discuss, it simply would be a question-and-answer format. The questions will be formulated by a panel (composed of media and Chamber reps), with each candidate given the same amount of time to respond.
Mayor Glenn Witherspoon is seeking a third term against challenger Allan Bedard, a former town councillor.
Terry Johnson, who had submitted his nomination papers for mayor prior to the Oct. 10 deadline, was disqualified from the race Monday afternoon for failing to meet the necessary qualifications.
Seeking the six council seats up for grabs are incumbents Deane Cunningham, Neil Kabel, Bill Martin, and Sharon Tibbs, along with challengers Roy Avis, Dave Bourgeault, Struchan Gilson, Cécile Lavigne, Gus Lindberg, Julian Morelli, Sybil Mowe, and Tom Piotrowski.
(Incumbents Larry Cousineau and Doug McCaig, along with challenger Dean Quinn, are running for the two seats on the local Public Utilities Commission but they won't be participating in either of these two forums).
“With so many candidates being new, I think it's really important to allow [them] to discuss a wide variety of issues,” Drysdale reasoned.
“[But] the candidates will not see the questions before the debate,” she added.
Meanwhile, the district labour council's forum will be based almost entirely on questions from the floor, with OPSEU president Leah Casselman acting as moderator.
But Bob Dakin, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local #711 and recording secretary of the district labour council, admitted with the large field of candidates, there wouldn't be time for a lot of questions.
Questions will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis.
“I still haven't worked out the timing,” Dakin said.
OPSEU vice-president Len Hupet said municipal politics was an area unions were taking a more active interest in this time round, especially with talk that Premier Mike Harris was encouraging Tory-supporting candidates to run.
“We want to make our presence known as much as possible,” he noted.
In related news, there has been no word yet on whether a forum featuring candidates running for the public and separate school boards in Fort Frances will be held.