When delivering her opening remarks during the only all-candidates forum of the election, Coralee Oakes’s microphone wasn’t on.
Normally it would be an easy fix, as people attending the forum would easily be able to communicate that to organizers, but not in 2020. The forum was only viewable through the Quesnel and District Chamber of Commerce Facebook page due to COVID-19 restrictions. After improving audio quality so livestream participants could hear better, Oakes went through her opening remarks again.
As candidates struggle through a campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic, engaging with the public has become a challenge.
The Chamber of Commerce curated questions submitted by residents, which three of the four candidates answered one at a time. The NDP’s Scott Elliott, incumbent B.C. Liberal Oakes and the Green Party’s Douglas Gook were all in attendance, sitting far apart to follow physical distancing guidelines.
The B.C. Conservative candidate, Kyle Townsend, was not at the forum.
Over the two hours, candidates fielded questions on a variety of topics, including multiple questions on housing, roads, seniors and outlying areas’ relationships with the Cariboo Regional District.
Elliott said he believed the region needs an advocate inside the government and not sitting across the legislature in opposition, noting the NDP’s strong position in the polls means John Horgan will likely once again form government.
“We need to be heard in Victoria,” he said. “I want to bring the voice of North Cariboo and Quesnel forward so we’re all working together. There’s so many concerns in this area right now, and we need an effective MLA that will bring our voices forward.”
Oakes pointed to her record over the past two terms, saying she’s effectively advocated for the region while her party was sitting in government and from the opposition benches in Victoria.
“I just want to get work done,” she said. “Not just with the province, I’ve worked with the federal government too … I went through a significant list of projects I have delivered for this riding.”
Gook called on voters to reject both main parties.
“We do have an opportunity for a democratic reset,” he said. “I ask that you really take a look at the platform … and the Green Party’s role in the last legislature session.”
The Greens formed a partnership with the NDP to hold power during a minority government starting in 2017.
A video archive of the forum is available to watch on the Chamber’s Facebook page.
Advance voting in Quesnel and Williams Lake has already begun, with record numbers of mail-in ballots requested, according to Elections BC. Mail-in ballots will not be counted until a week after the election date of Saturday, Oct. 24. With 35 per cent of eligible voters potentially requesting one, residents will be unsure of who will represent them in Victoria until weeks after the election.
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