When I heard about the all-candidates debate in town tonight for the June 30 by-election, my interest was piqued. Here was a chance to see the candidates and hear their stances on the issues affecting our region. I even considered booking today off as I was due to work so that I could attend. In the end though it turns out I wouldn't be hearing from all the candidates because one of them would not be attending. There would be an empty chair in the room. I can understand candidates having busy schedules during an election campaign though I have to wonder what could be so pressing as to cause a candidate to skip out of such an important part of our democratic process.
But when I heard that Conservative candidate David Yurdiga had also passed on another all-candidate debate in Lac La Biche last week, I was puzzled, and then quite frankly, miffed. To think that a political hopeful who wants MY vote can't even be bothered to hear constituents' concerns and questions is something I find disgusting. Are we so unworthy of your time, Mr. Yurdiga? If I had a dime for every time I've heard of a politician flying in for a day, gushing about how our region if the "economic engine of Canada" and then flying out and ignoring the challenges we face, I could probably retire. I have to admit I find if disturbing that a candidate can blow off not one, but two public forums and then potentially win the seat by a large margin as tends to happen with Conservatives in this province. I realize that Fort McMurray-Athabasca is quite a large riding (larger than several European countries in fact) but if a candidate who may end up representing me in Ottawa can't be bothered to show up for a debate in that riding's largest population centre then, really, why the hell would I feel compelled to vote for him?
I did receive some election mail yesterday so I suppose I HAVE heard from the Yurdiga campaign in a sense. A rectangular laminated card from the Conservatives stating on the front that "Conservatives support the oil sands." Because apparently the ONLY thing in our riding is the oil sands(?) Now I realize this is a by-election and candidates aren't going to come out with a full policy platform as in a full-blown election campaign. But still. I resent the notion that as a voter I only matter to a politician because the industry I happen to be part of happens to make good money for them. Now I wouldn't mind it so much if this card addresses other issues but only the oil sands is mentioned. Mr. Yurdiga, you do realize there are other things going on here other than just what happens a few kilometres up highway 63, right?
On the reverse side of the card are 4 quotes from Liberals (including a senator and a former party leaders) along with a picture of Justin Trudeau. None of the four quotes were actually spoken by Trudeau but they stick his mug there nonetheless. Couldn't they have instead brought up some actual issues? Do I really care about a quote spoken by Stephane Dion seven years ago? I mean, we all know how that turned out for him. It's 2014 now. Try to keep up.
Don't propagandize. Familiarize. Familiarize us with your views and what you feel needs to be addressed. Listen to what we have to say (to be fair, most politicians seem to fail in this). But please. There is more to our region than just the oil sands.
Our region needs a voice. Not another empty chair.