There was a podium, a microphone and a room full of voters, but most politicians at this meeting were in the crowd.
More than a dozen would-be MLA’s arrived at the Victoria Conference Centre for Victoria’s first provincial all-candidates listening session. The meeting saw all candidates running across Greater Victoria ridings invited to listen to organizations and voters, instead of the other way around.
“This is what it was for, for them to listen to what our needs are,” said Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce chair Al Hasham. “So I think for them to listen and hear us they are not just hearing one person, they are hearing a collaboration, everybody together, so our voices are heard a lot louder.”
The free public event was organized by the GVCC, Tourism Victoria, City of Victoria, Downtown Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and the Downtown Victoria Business Association. Discussion started with presentations from each organization and covered affordable housing, mental health and addictions services, sewage treatment, regional transportation, the Belleville Terminal and developing Ogden Point.
NDP Candidate Rob Fleming said he took away some points on how he might address some of the challenges of the region and said the format, while unusual, was a good exercise.
“A lot of these are non-partisan organizations, they are not offering different endorsements to different parties,” Fleming said. “It’s good to have…. a low stakes, low pressure environment like tonight where you can have a real dialogue. It is not about political point scoring.”
The event drew hundreds and Hasham said as far as he knows, this is the first event of it’s kind and the success could lead to another one closer to the May 9 provincial election.
“I am hoping that what we have done over here in Victoria others cities will follow,” he continued. “Not just one on one, but collaboration with the different organizations that are like minded.”