One of the major all-candidates debates in the Tri-Cities has been forced to cancel its Oct. 10 event after organizers couldn’t come up with the money for liability insurance demanded by School District 43 policy.
Burquitlam Community Association has held debates for federal, provincial and municipal candidates over several elections. But as a non-profit, it couldn’t come up with the $200 to $300 it would cost for the insurance for its use of a room at Banting middle school.
The association's president, Ivana Smolcic, said that while she understands the insurance requirement has long been part of the district’s policy — a fact that was confirmed by SD43 spokesperson Ken Hoff — it had never been enforced in the past.
Smolcic said the community group looked at moving the debate to Coquitlam city hall or a library but that that would defeat the purpose of having a neighbourhood-level debate. Many of the regular participants have been in the neighbourhood for upwards of 30 years and Smolcic said she worries that the community will lose an important perspective now that the debate is cancelled.
“We ask questions no one else feels comfortable asking,” she said. “How is the community supposed to engage when you don’t have a space.”
The association has also had to move its regular meetings from Miller Park elementary school to a meeting room at the Safeway on Clarke Road and Como Lake Avenue. As for debates, it’s looking ahead for another space before the next provincial election in October 2021.
“A lot of people are upset about it. They kind of think it’s ridiculous,” said Smolcic.
In a separate all-candidates debate also scheduled for Oct. 10, Westwood Community Church appears to be going ahead with its plans despite the fact several candidates have said they won't attend, citing the church and one of its pastor’s records on LGBTQ rights.
So far, only Jayson Chabot, the candidate for the People’s Party of Canada in Port Moody-Coquitlam, has confirmed to The Tri-City News that he will attend.
A spokesperson for Conservative candidate Nicholas Insley (Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam) said, so far, his campaign has only confirmed it would attend the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce debate.
Nelly Shin, the Conservative candidate for Port Moody-Coquitlam, did not respond to requests for an interview at the time of publication.
Each of the Liberal, NDP and Green candidates in the Tri-Cities said they would not attend.