Billings Township all candidates meeting this Saturday in Kagawong

KAGAWONG—This Saturday at the Kagawong Park Centre, Billings Township municipal election candidates will be participating in an independent all-candidates meeting, giving local residents the opportunity to ask questions on pressing issues and meet the people who are vying to represent them on a municipal level.

“I think it’s important that the local residents know who their candidates are and what their platforms are. It’s part of the democratic process,” says Ted Kilpatrick, who is co-organizing the forum.

This is the second edition of the forum, started by Mr. Kilpatrick and Sandy Cook of Kagawong.  They moved to the area in 2009 and wanted to make it easier for citizens to get informed before they head to the polls on Monday, October 22.

“We wanted someone from outside the area to moderate the panel,” says Mr. Kilpatrick. “Last time, we couldn’t get someone in and so I moderated it. It wasn’t a big deal for me, but some of the candidates were a little uncomfortable with having someone in town.”

For this year, Mr. Kilpatrick and Ms. Cook have enlisted the help of Gore Bay councillor Jack Clark to moderate the forum. Mr. Clark says his political work in his home municipality has confirmed the importance of events like this.

“I hope there’s a big turnout because the only thing better than getting people to vote is getting people to vote in an informed manner,” says Mr. Clark.

Although he has political experience, Mr. Clark has never done anything of this sort previously.

“I’m a complete rookie,” he says. “I think it’ll be a good experience and it’s always good to help out with something that’s valuable for the community.”

Mr. Clark expects certain issues such as the Kagawong campground plans (which were recently put on indefinite hold) to encourage more residents to attend and have their concerns aired.

“People are talking as though people are going to cause grief but I don’t foresee that at all,” says Mr. Clark

Outgoing Billings Mayor Austin Hunt says local citizens seem to appreciate the opportunity to meet and speak with their candidates.

“It must be well-received by the community because we seem to get a good attendance,” he says.

The all-candidates meeting will host all Billings municipal candidates, as well as the contenders for school board trustee. Doors will open at the Kagawong Park Centre at 1:30 pm. The event runs between 2 and 4 pm, and attendees are asked to leave the event by 4:30 pm at the latest.

A notice on the event flyer requests that attendees do not bring in disposable plastic water bottles, in an effort to be more environmentally conscious.

According to Mr. Kilpatrick, the local candidates largely see this event as a positive opportunity.

“All but one were very enthusiastic and positive about it,” says Mr. Kilpatrick.

The organizers decided to host the event in such a way that the most number of people could attend.

“We did it early in the election so people who are seasonal residents who may not come back after August 31 would be able to come if they want to,” says Mr. Kilpatrick.

They chose Saturday as opposed to a weekday because fewer people would be at work.

There are currently three people running for mayor in Billings Township: Ian Anderson, Barb Erskine and Margaret Tuomi. Ms. Erskine is on the current council and Ms. Tuomi is a former councillor and former mayoral candidate. Outgoing mayor Mr. Hunt, Canada’s longest-serving politician at age 92, is not running for re-election.

There are seven candidates running for the four council seats: current deputy mayor Sharon Alkenbrack, Bryan Barker, Paul Darlaston, Michael Hunt, former councillor and former mayoral candidate Sandi Hurcomb, Sharon Jackson and Eric Parsons.

Voting day is Monday, October 22.