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LETTER: We hear of voter apathy, what about candidate apathy?

Just how is democracy served when political candidates decide not to attend candidate meetings?
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The following letter was submitted by Marie DellaVedova, RTOERO District 3 Algoma, Political Advocacy Representative.

A few weeks ago, I imagined that today I would be going over last-minute preparations. I’m not.

Our Candidates Meeting via Zoom has been cancelled.

Not due to lack of preparation. We had been organizing over several weeks.

Not due to lack of technological expertise. We had enlisted the help of an experienced tech team.

Not due to lack of public interest. We had placed a notice in our newsletter and on our website. E-blast invitations had been sent to our members, approximately 1,100 in our District. And plans had been made to notify and invite the public…. once we had received attendance confirmations from the candidates.

We took the lead of our national RTOERO (Retired Teachers of Ontario) and invited the local candidates of the four major provincial political parties. Only one of the local candidates responded to our invitation.

We continued to send invitations to the other candidates for approximately two weeks. Of course, that does not include the local Liberal candidate. He didn’t get an invitation. Not for lack of trying to reach him on the internet, on the Ontario Liberal Party website or by scanning newspaper articles and online media. Do we have a local Liberal candidate? Or just one who hasn’t had time to inform local constituents?

Repeated invitations to the Green Party candidate went unanswered. Up until last week, only one candidate had even acknowledged our invitation.

Didn’t we learn in elementary school that it is proper etiquette to respond to an invitation? After a third invitation, our local PC candidate and minister in the Ford government did reply.

Ross Romano let us know that he would not attend our candidates meeting. “due to the short duration of the campaign period and scheduling conflicts.”

Non-partisan political advocacy is a significant part of RTOERO’s mission.

District 3 Algoma RTOERO tried to provide a venue for our members and local citizens to learn about the provincial party platforms. Democracy is better served by informed voters. We tried. We hear a lot about voter apathy. In this case the problem was not voter apathy. Rather it seems to be candidate apathy.

Kudos to the one candidate who did want to meet with Sault Ste. Marie constituents at our Zoom meeting - Michele McCleve Kennedy, the NDP candidate.

I am aware of another local seniors’ group who had similar results when trying to organize an in-person candidates meeting. They decided to go ahead with the one candidate who would attend- NDP Candidate Michele McCleve Kennedy.

Somehow Ms. McCleve Kennedy is able to find the time to acknowledge invitations and meet with the voters, not only at the door but at meetings that community members have organized.

Of course, candidates cannot be expected to be able to attend every community event. But responding to invitations and making reasonable attempts would be in order.

According to Scott Reid of Feschuk-Reid in Queen’s Park Today, (May 20) “At least half of the PC’s candidates across the province have decided not to attend any debates in their ridings this election, giving rise to concern about the erosion of democratic norms in Ontario.”

That is certainly something to think about when contemplating the dismal record of candidates’ meetings in Sault Ste. Marie. Just how is democracy served when political candidates decide not to attend candidate meetings?

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