Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the upcoming federal election will likely be the first in modern history to unfold without a live all-candidates debate where those wishing to represent Simcoe North in the House of Commons could show how they perform under pressure in front of an audience.
However, Orillia 4 Democracy, an ad hoc citizens group based in Simcoe North, is collaborating with St. Paul’s Centre and Rogers TV to host a virutal federal candidates' forum on Thursday, Sept. 2.
The event, which will take place between 7 and 9 p.m., is being hosted by the St. Paul’s Social Justice Committee and coordinated by Orillia 4 Democracy.
All five candidates - Adam Chambers (Conservative), Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux (Liberal), Janet Lynne-Durnford (NDP), Krystal Brooks (Green) and Stephen Makk (People's Party of Canada) - have told organizers they will participate in the event.
The local grass-roots democracy group sought out forum topics through an anonymous online community survey. As a result, five general topics were determined:
- Health Care
- Indigenous relations
The candidates have been asked to prepare questions from those themes for the moderator, Ron Ptasiuk, to deliver.
Organizers say due to COVID protocols, there will be no public audience.
The forum will be live-streamed on the night of the event and will be replayed at various times on Rogers TV up to Election Day. It will also be available to the public on YouTube.
"The critical element is that the voters have a chance to see their candidates since door-to-door and meetings are restricted," said Dennis Rizzo, a member of Orillia 4 Democracy.
The Orillia Chamber of Commerce is also working on organizing an online event. No date has yet been confirmed for that forum.