Few turn out to meet candidates
The fact that only a handful of members of the public came out to chat with Catholic trustee candidates at a meet-and-greet on Tuesday evening was seen as a positive by those hoping to gain a seat on the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division board.
While a few of the six trustees at the event organized by the Alberta Teachers Association Tuesday night said the low turnout was disappointing, the overarching sentiment was that it meant there is no pressing issue that voters are up in arms about in 2013.
Incumbent board chair Adriana LaGrange said her interactions with voters so far have been very positive and for the most part people have expressed their satisfaction with the board’s direction. She said over the last term, parents within the division took advantage of online engagement sessions to express their thoughts more than doing so face-to-face.
“I believe if there would have been a huge contentious issue we would have seen lots of people here,” she said.
First time candidate Brandie Towers agreed. She said the fact that there is not a pressing issue proves that the board has been doing good work, and she praised all the candidates for the atmosphere that has been created during the campaign.
“Everybody has been really considerate and welcoming, which is great. It’s definitely made a first-time candidate feel very welcome,” said Towers.
For Anne Marie Watson, the chance to hear from teachers on matters such as inclusion and space concerns has been a positive throughout the campaign. She said in dealing with such concerns with the provincial government, the main thing the board can do is to continue to make known its growth numbers.
But, the incumbent said, the board has also been proactive in its quest for a new high school by seeking out a partner in advance of funding for a new school being announced — partnerships being something the government encourages in education.
The board needs to more vocal though going forward, said first-time candidate Murray Hollman. He suggested the board needs to engage parents even more to inform them why, for example, their children are in overstuffed classrooms so that those parents will advocate for the division as well.
“As a board we can only do so much and be told ‘no’ so many times. I think it’s actually getting out to the voters and getting them involved. That’s key. They’re the ones that will be electing a new government here in a few years and if they don’t get what they want, they’re the ones that have the final say,” said Hollman.
Cory Litzenberger, also running for the first time, said the campaign has been very easygoing and without any major issue. But, he said, the board can be more effective in advocating to the province by getting the public to take up its cause and by engaging the media and opposition parties on the issue of space and the need for a new school.
For Guy Pelletier, the low turnout on Tuesday was a good sign. But he said the meet-and-greet format, as opposed to a candidate forum, is a great way for voters to talk to their future representatives, and he encouraged more people to come out in future.
“You can engage people with more than just a one minute response,” said Pelletier.
Candidate David Bouchard was not at the forum, as he is leading a mission trip in Israel.
Mark Ramsankar, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, came from Edmonton for the event and quizzed candidates himself on issues relevant to the community and the province. He said trustees from around the province have to stand up and hold the government accountable.
Another meet-and-greet with Catholic candidates will be held at the Montfort Centre tonight from 6:30-8:30 p.m. with the public welcome to attend.