Reader hopes all-candidates’ meetings will be timely this year

Two or three weeks before the election would prove ideal

To the Expositor:

2022 will bring Ontarians two elections—a provincial one in June and municipal elections in October (there is a remote chance of a federal one too, if Justin Trudeau “loses the confidence of the house”).

In Billings, there is an added complication. CAO/Clerk Kathy McDonald has decided to retire by the end of the year (or earlier if council finds a replacement in the next few months). The complication is that the municipal clerk is also chief returning officer for the municipal election. Everything went very smoothly four years ago. Hopefully, we can just change the dates and follow the 2018 election plan.

Four years ago, long time Mayor Austin Hunt was retiring after many years leading council. That added events to the normal campaigning cycle for candidates, including a celebration for Mr. Hunt that occurred close to election day, at a time that could have been ideal to hold an all candidates’ meeting, just prior to voters filling in their postal votes. 

It looked for a while as if only one candidate, Barb Erskine, was prepared to file for the mayor’s job. Only four candidates had filed for council. It could have been a double acclamation, but this writer filed for council, making it at least a competition for council seats. On the very last day for filing, two further candidates for mayor, Ian Anderson and Marg Tuomi, filed with less than an hour to go, making that a race!

Nevertheless, it had been decided to hold the all candidates’ meeting very early in the campaigning period. I am not sure what the rationale was for that. It certainly didn’t work for me. I had only just finished five weeks of radiation treatment for cancer two weeks before and was feeling the effects of that (even though the end result was a clean bill of health). I’m sure others anticipating acclamation had not spent money on campaign material by that date. 

If the returning officer decides to go with mail-in ballots again, it makes sense to me to have the all candidates’ meeting two or three weeks before the cut-off date for mailing in votes. I’d also like to see the organizer/moderator chosen from outside Billings, to avoid any perception of bias. It would be great for the moderator to pose two or three questions to the candidates before questioning is open to the floor. I’d like the event to be recorded as the Township does with council and committee meetings and that recording be made available on the Township web site. All in all, I’d like to see Billings get the council it deserves to address the challenges of emerging from a pandemic world.

Paul Darlaston

EDITOR’S NOTE: Billings CAO/Clerk Kathy McDonald has committed to remaining as electoral officer for the 2022 municipal election.