Before Red Deerians head to the polls on Oct. 18, election candidates have to get their messages out to voters — and this is more of a challenge during a pandemic. (Advocate file photo)

Before Red Deerians head to the polls on Oct. 18, election candidates have to get their messages out to voters — and this is more of a challenge during a pandemic. (Advocate file photo)

No handshakes: Red Deer mayoral candidates face campaign challenges during pandemic

Fewer opportunities to meet with people face-to-face

Traditional door-to-door election campaigning isn’t yet in the cards for Red Deer mayoral candidates at the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You have to be really careful — a lot of people don’t want to have somebody show up at their door,” said Bradley Magee, one of four people who have, so far, declared their candidacy for the top job on city council.

James Allen, Dwight Hickey and Jeremy Moore are also running for mayor of Red Deer, while incumbent Tara Veer hasn’t yet announced whether she’s seeking re-election.

Although most pandemic restrictions have been lifted in Alberta, Magee has noticed some people are still uncomfortable with having someone approach them, even outdoors, without a mask on.

There’s so much polarization on the issue, Magee said, “I try not to talk to people about masks, vaccines and COVID if I don’t have to…”

He’s instead focusing on a social media campaign — as is another mayoral contender, James Allen.

Allen agreed “Not everyone is super comfortable with someone at their door,” so he’s mostly campaigning through Facebook. But Allen is also putting his phone book to use by telephoning random Red Deerians to talk about his platform.

“People will sometimes say, ‘How did you get my number?’ and I say through the phone book, and they’re like, ‘Oh, OK…’”

When it comes to social media, both Allen and Magee prefer Facebook to Twitter.

Magee recalled that one guy called him out on Twitter for refusing to disclose who he voted for in the last provincial election. He had to explain municipal politicians are supposed to be non-partisan so they can work with whichever party is in government — then the man became informed.

Allen believes Facebook is less divisive than Twitter and the information tends to get shared more.

Both candidates are considering meeting people face-to-face at the two farmer’s markets and have signed on to a Zoom-format meet the candidates event organized by the Golden Circle.

Allen, who runs a horse training business, wants to promote a message of working together to solve issues around Safe Harbour’s temporary homeless shelter. If people became more informed by speaking to Safe Harbour workers and clients, they could adopt a more “loving, understanding approach” instead of being angry and frustrated, he said.

Magee, a former oilfield supervisor who’s now a truck driver, wants more conversations about downtown revitalization through tax incentives and perhaps forming a “tiny home community” for shelter clients. He is seeking a better plan than the crime-ridden tiny home community in Vancouver.

Moore and Hickey could not be reached immediately on Tuesday.

But Hickey, a local business owner, advocates for more growth stimulation for Red Deer, according to his Facebook page as well as attracting more employers to the city.

Moore, an electrician and entrepreneur, has stated he wants to crack down on crime and provide more economic stimulation.

The Golden Circle is hosting “Meet the Candidates” Zoom sessions for mayoral and city council contenders on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. for an hour. Anyone interested in questioning candidates on issues can call the Golden Circle to get the Zoom link.

Executive-director Monica Morrison said the Golden Circle usually holds an election forum, but with so much pandemic uncertainty this fall, a Meet the Candidates virtual event was organized in case a traditional forum can’t be held.

Allen was on Zoom on Tuesday and Magee will be on Zoom on July 22.

Red Deer city council candidates Matt Chapin and Grace Engel are speaking on Thursday, Graham Barclay and Hans Huizing are speaking on July 20, Sadia Khan is speaking on July 22, and Sarah Harksen is on July 27.

Chad Krahn is speaking on Aug. 3, Kraymer Barnstable on Aug. 10, Shay Olubowale on Aug. 12, and Janise Somer and incumbent Lawrence Lee on Aug. 19. Additional candidates still have the option of signing up for a Zoom slot.

Other council candidates who have announced they are running so far are: Ryan laloge, Lindsay LaRocque, and incumbent Dianne Wyntjes.

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