I have been accused of being biased on several occasions this week and I think it’s important to set the record straight.
Debate is a fundamental principle of democracy. Disagreement is a healthy concept in our society. Without those two ideas, we would never grow or develop as a society. We would stagnate, and live in echo chambers of our own ideas. That’s not healthy for anyone.
So I don’t mind that people have questions about our coverage. I encourage and welcome it. Without feedback, what is the point of doing what we do?
I don’t believe our coverage is biased and I believe we provide both sides of every issue we tackle. We have dedicated, passionate journalists who believe in reporting honestly and truthfully and have done so for decades. They have reported on all manner of issues on every side of the aisle.
Over the last few weeks in particular, these calls have ramped up and I would like to offer an opinion as to why things have looked the way they have. You may have seen more stories about the NDP in our publication throughout the past month.
Alberta’s NDP has held half a dozen major campaign announcements in Red Deer. The UCP hasn’t held any. The UCP did make a number of major commitments in our region before the writ officially dropped on May 1 and we were there for each and every one.
Any time the NDP has levelled criticism on the UCP, which frankly was early and often and far too frequent for my liking, we offered the UCP an opportunity to rebut that criticism.
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley has been here on several occasions in the past several weeks and UCP leader Danielle Smith was here for two public events on April 20. Smith was here for the Central Alberta Mayor’s prayer breakfast and the grand opening ceremony of Youth HQ’s Centre for Social Impact. She graciously took time to answer our questions on a number of local issues after the latter, including the hospital and recovery community.
This week I received more letters to the editor than I ever have in the past year as editor. Which is great! It means people are engaged about the issues and problems facing us.
(I’d just like to point out, on most regular weeks I get between 1-3 letters and this week I have received 10. I hardly ever turn down a letter, in a lot of cases letters get submitted and they are far beyond our maximum word count.)
What is most unfortunate, is almost every one of those letters was highly critical of Danielle Smith and the UCP. While I don’t believe they should be completely void of criticism, because they have had four years to govern, I think all those letters don’t accurately reflect our community or readers.
Which leaves me disappointed. I hope going forward, whichever party you support, you see more of the issues you care about reflected in our publication. That’s a real failure on my part if I can’t provide that.
We live in a highly conservative region and that will never change. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The UCP won more than 60 per cent of the vote in both Red Deer ridings in 2019. For nearly every NDP sign you see in town, there is a UCP sign to match it.
As long as it’s not divisive, which I think the majority of this election has been, from both sides, I’m all for people expressing their opinions. Maybe I haven’t done enough to encourage that in my time as editor, which I promise to do more of down the line.
As for Monday, I do not know who will win the election and I’m not here to make any predictions. I think it will be close and maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
One thing I implore you to do, no matter who you support is to get out and vote. Not everyone in the world has the opportunity to exercise their democratic right like we do and we should never take that for granted, no matter which party we support.
Saturday is the last day for advance polls and you can do that almost anywhere. Monday is election day and all I truly hope for is a strong voter turnout.
In 2019, Alberta had its highest election turnout since 1982 with 68 per cent of eligible voters showing up at the polls.
I hope democracy wins out and we can maybe see 70 per cent or more show up to vote.
That would be the real win in my books.
But please, I’ll say it one last time, just go vote.
Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate.