Saanich residents will get a second chance to hear from at least seven of the candidates running for the open seat on council.

Second forum added to Saanich byelection campaign

Saanich residents will get a second chance to hear from some of the candidates running for the open council seat.

Church of The Nazarene will host at least seven out of the 10 candidates running for a second all-candidates forum on Sept. 14, two days after the first all-candidates’ meeting on Sept. 12 at St. Aiden’s United Church. The event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. with the debate running from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

While five community associations helped to organize the first, the second forum appears as a co-production of the candidates themselves, after candidate Rebecca Mersereau had offered to co-organize a second forum with other candidates.

Nathalie Chambers, Keith Davidoff, Michael Geoghegan, Karen Harper, Marsha Henderson, Shawn Newby, Art Pollard, Ned Taylor and Rob Wickson are also running for the seat, which has been open since the death of Vic Derman in March 2017.

As of early Thursday afternoon, seven candidates including Mersereau have confirmed their attendance. The others are Davidoff, Geoghegan, Harper, Newby, Pollard and Taylor. Mersereau said she remains hopeful all 10 candidates will participate.

Mersereau said the second forum is important, because Saanich voters would have had very little opportunity otherwise to hear and evaluate the viewpoints of candidates, so that they could make an informed decision.

“All candidates’ events increase transparency by requiring candidates to disclose their positions and intentions on important issues, and they importantly provide the public with a basis for holding elected officials to account when they do take office,” she said.

Mersereau said the format and the moderator for the forum remain to be determined. “It’s important that these two important aspects of the event planning not favour one or some candidates over others,” she said.

Mersereau said the seven candidates, who confirmed their interest were very receptive and responsive to the idea. “The most challenging part has been coordinating our busy schedules with the availability of an appropriate venue, since we anticipate a lot of interest and are hopeful for a big crowd,” she said.

This said, the process of putting together the forum has not been without difficulties, said Mersereau. “A couple of candidates voiced concerns about the unconventional approach of having the candidates co-organize and co-host the event, rather than an independent entity such as a community association or the media, due to possible perceptions of bias or undemocratic processes,” she said. “This is a valid concern and one that we all share.”

It would have preferable if third-party groups had organized additional forums, said Mersereau.

“But that appears unlikely at this advanced stage in the campaign, and I think the value of allowing voters opportunities to make a more informed decisions outweighs these risks,” she said. “On a personal level, I am viewing this as an opportunity to demonstrate that ‘bi-partisan’ collaboration is possible, and is welcomed by the public.”

Quadra Cedar Hill Community Association, Mount Tolmie Community Association, Camosun Community Association, Cadboro Bay Residents Association and Gordon Head Residents Associations are organizing the first forum on Sept. 12, which opens with a meet-and-greet from 6:30 to 7 p.m. The debate will take place between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Advance voting will take place on Sept. 13 and 18 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Saanich Municipal Hall. General voting will take place on Sept. 23 at Cedar Hill rec centre, Gordon Head rec centre, Pearkes rec centre and Saanich Commonwealth Place.