The candidates at last Tuesday’s forum took questions on flood recovery, housing and innovation. (Kathleen Saylors/Grand Forks Gazette)

Grand Forks election candidates andidates questioned on flood recovery, housing

The two forums had new formats this year.

Potential candidates for public office with the City of Grand Forks presented themselves last week at two all-candidates forums with new formats, hosted by the Boundary Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The candidates for City of Grand Forks council met for an all-candidates forum on Tuesday night. Each offered opening statements, followed by time to answer two questions that were posed to every candidate. Candidates then took questions from the floor.

Later that week, mayoral candidates spoke during a forum on Thursday night for mayoral candidates, as well as for School District 51 Area D trustee candidates. The first hour of the evening was for mayoral candidates, before moving to trustee candidates for the second half.

Mayoral candidates did not take questions from the floor. Each offered opening and closing remarks; however the forum was structured differently than in past years, giving candidates 15 minutes to debate each other on three different topics selected by the Boundary Country Regional Chamber of Commerce and its board.

Later in the evening, trustee candidates were permitted to take questions from the floor.

On Thursday, the change in format was explained as a change in response to the feedback from voters. Moderator John McNamara said at the beginning there would be an opportunity for voters to ask questions of mayoral candidates on Oct. 13 at 6 p.m., when candidates will participate in a “round robin” style meet and greet with voters, at the curling rink.

The move was roundly criticized, with many voters not appreciating that candidates were not able to take questions in front of an audience. One member of the audience at the forum was vocally opposed to the alternative format.

“Some of these people need to answer questions, and if we do it in private, not everyone gets to hear the questions,” Donald Pharand yelled from his seat, to applause. “We are not stupid, we live in a democracy, we should have the right to ask questions.”

By equal measures, few residents asked questions at the councillor candidate forum on Tuesday.

In the council candidates forum, key issues raised by candidates included flood recovery, economic revitalization, the transparency and accountability of council and continuing the develop the profile of Grand Forks for tourists and development.

At the mayoral forum, candidates debated the qualities of an effective leader; the fine line between providing services and increasing taxation; and flood recovery and how best to mitigate the impact of recovery on development.

The candidates offered some of the following as their closing remarks:

“On Oct. 20, you will be asked to make a choice, who do you trust? I will ask you for that trust, and in return, I will give you good strong leadership,” Everett Baker.

”I have made my pitch a as choice for mayor based on key words: engagement collaboration and accountability. They are powerful ideas that I hope to bring to council in the benefit of our community,” Gary Smith.

“I am optimistic … I see a bright future ahead and I want to see us keep that momentum and spirit alive,” Brian Taylor.

The candidates will take questions at a candidate-driven and organized event on Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. at the curling club. See more elections coverage online at grandforksgazette.ca.

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