James Bay Community Association muzzled candidate meeting

Attendee found forum too constricting, spirited debate lacking

Many people today feel they have no say at all in how our elected leaders govern them.

All-candidates meetings are meant to be one of the few rare democratic forums where citizens can vent their frustrations and ask tough questions of politicians.

But there was nothing democratic about the May 1 meeting at James Bay New Horizons, hosted by the James Bay Neighbourhood Association.

Association members controlled the assembled crowd with an unreasonable set of rules.

Nobody was allowed to talk at the meeting, except the candidates and the association president. So much for free speech.

We were told to write our questions down with the expectation that they would all be heard by the panel.

The president took great liberty with the written queries, lumping many together in the same category. It appeared the valid concerns of many citizens were never addressed.

I would much rather see a ferocious debate with grandstanding, battles for the microphone and long-winded diatribes than a quiet, subdued crowd held in check by an overzealous community association.

I would rather see anger than silence. I would rather hear voices than see them shut down.

At election time, it is imperative that these public forums be open, fair and transparent – giving everybody a chance to confront their potential representatives.

Citizens do not need to be further disempowered by an oppressive my-way-or-the-highway community association.

Doreen Marion Gee

Victoria