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LETTER: Impartiality absent at Port Alberni all-candidates meeting

Participants should take some blame for not halting biased behaviour, says writer

To the Editor,

At the Oct. 6 all-candidates meeting, hosted by the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and open to the public, an overall tone of disrespect by the moderator of the meeting, Bill Collette, the CEO of the chamber, was directed towards mayoral candidate Tom Verbrugge.

Mr. Collette’s method of vetting questions—by not revealing askers’ names/addresses; showing candidate favouritism;unfair treatment of age/life experiences of Mr. Verbrugge; and posing questions with sexist and racist undertones­— revealed his biases during the question-and-answer period. Moderators should be, and need to be, neutral, fair and balanced when conducting such meetings.

Mr. Collette’s lack of professionalism, and unfair treatment of mayoral candidate Tom Verbrugge, could have been halted had the current mayor or council incumbents in attendance stood up and spoke out, thereby upholding council’s “guiding principles,” which are to demonstrate courage, integrity and humility, and be respectful, communicative and accountable, all of which are pillars of council’s decision-making process.

No new candidates called for a halt either.

Shame on all of them. It was only after a city resident, who is not running for office, stood up to call out the bias, that the moderator’s tone changed somewhat.

More than 20 years ago, the Port Alberni & District Labour Council and the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce jointly decided to co-host all-candidates meetings for our community, the only community in B.C. where labour and business collaborated on a political event.

The program was filmed by Shaw Cable for rebroadcast. Both labour and business had an obligation to remain impartial, unbiased and inclusive. That is not what was on display on Oct. 6.

During the next election cycle, regardless of what organization hosts public all-candidates meetings, the moderator must conduct the session with impartiality, and questions selected must be done with the same impartiality.

Leslie Walerius,

Port Alberni

Election 2022Port Alberni

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