By Robert Jump
Morinville – Five provincial candidates looking to fill the shoes left behind by retiring Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Ken Kowalski will get their chance to win over Morinville voters Apr. 16 at an All Candidates Forum being organized by The Morinville News and moderated by the Morinville Toastmasters club. The forum, scheduled for Apr. 16 from 7 to 10 p.m. will assemble five candidates to talk to voters about their vision for the constituency and the province.
The 2008 general election saw incumbent Kowalski facing four would-be challengers: Liberal Leslie Penny, NDP Rod Olsted, Alberta Green Dan Evans, and Carl Haugen running for the Social Credit. Kowalski, of course, took the election with more than 70 per cent of the voters. His closest rival, Leslie Penny, took 15.25 per cent of the vote.
Four years later and Penny is the only familiar face to Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock voters, once again running for the Liberal Party. Kowalski, who stepped down when the writ was dropped is replaced by Maureen Kubinec, a Westlock County Councillor who received her constituency associations nod prior to the election. Although a player in the 2008 election, the Wildrose Party had no candidate in the last race. This time around they have former journalist and senator in waiting Link Byfield to run in the area. Byfield ran in 2008 for the party in the Whitecourt-Ste. Anne constituency. Running for the NDP is Trudy Grebenstein, and for the recently formed EverGreens is Morinville resident Lisa Grant.
Morinville News editor and forum organizer Stephen Dafoe said the current provincial election is an important one, particularly in the Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock constituency where people are likely unfamiliar with the candidates.
“Two years ago we organized an election forum because we felt the 2010 municipal election was an important election in that there were 10 candidates for council, many of whom were unknown to residents,” Dafoe said. “That is certainly the case with the election currently before us. Media have an obligation to make their readers aware of their voting options, but not everyone reads or watches the news today. The All Candidates Forum is an opportunity for everyone to come out and hear the pitches and ask questions about the issues that affect them.”
Dafoe teamed up with Smith Music to put on the 2010 municipal election forum; this time he’s teaming with the Morinville Community Cultural Centre and the local Toastmasters.
“We were really fortunate to have the Community Cultural Centre step up and provide us their excellent venue and support staff to make this event possible for Morinville and area voters,” Dafoe said, adding the venue was the only one in town capable of handling the turnout he’s expecting. “We’re also fortunate to have a group in town whose whole mandate is centred on facilitating effective communication.”
That group is the Morinville Toastmasters who will be providing long-time member Peter Kossowan to serve the role of forum moderator. The group will also be on hand to assist with the overall operation of the evening’s activities.
“It is my belief that the community consists of people with some influence and some people with no direction whatsoever,” Kossowan said of people’s voting preferences. “I believe that a forum is an ideal opportunity to allow people from the entire community to see what is happening in the community. The forum gives you that kind of information that allows you to vote for the candidate of your choice, knowing what your values are and what the party’s values are.”
Kossowan said he is pleased to have Toastmasters involved in the election forum. “Toastmasters, with some experience, have the ability to transmit the information that is required,” he said. “They sort of coordinate. They introduce properly. They have the ability to introduce the speakers in such a way that it’s supportive to the speaker, regardless of which political party they are running for. We in Toastmasters have been doing it now for about five different elections. We get better with it as we go from one political forum to the next.”
The All Candidates Forum will take place Apr. 16 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.