With success of online candidate forums in B.C. election, they may still be a thing after pandemic | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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With success of online candidate forums in B.C. election, they may still be a thing after pandemic

Image Credit: YOUTUBE / Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce
October 09, 2020 - 2:36 PM

After kicking off one of the Okanagan’s first virtual all candidate forums for the upcoming provincial election, the manager of the Vernon Chamber of Commerce says he can see online forums continuing past the COVID-19 pandemic.

The online forum held yesterday, Oct. 8, included Conservative candidate Kyle Delfing, the B.C. Liberal Party's Eric Foster, Harwinder Sandhu with the B.C. NDP and the B.C. Green Party's Keli Westgate. It was held online through Zoom and YouTube live and has since been posted to the chamber’s YouTube channel.

Normally during an election season, organizers host forums in-person, but with the ongoing global pandemic Okanagan organizers have opted for live-streamed meetings to meet with provincial health regulations.

Around 100 people signed up for the Zoom forum and the YouTube video gathered roughy 160 views. An in-person event can gather around 80 participants depending on the venue, said Dan Proulx, Vernon Chamber of Commerce general manager. Last year, the chamber held one at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre which had a few hundred participants.

Online forums are easier to organize and less costly than an in-person forum, considering the cost of food and conference centre bookings, he said, adding the chamber was able to schedule a Zoom forum about an hour after the election was announced.

“I think people have gotten, over the last couple of months, used to using the technology so that likely helped,” he said.

The chamber was impressed with the questions coming in for the candidates during the live stream, which ranged from COVID-19 restrictions to climate change to senior issues, Proulx said.

“I think it was an extremely effective tool, especially to use it in the time that we have. I imagine that moving forward, it might be helpful with more forums in the future, especially to integrate it. I would love to go back to the in-person of course, but also integrating the technology so again, you can stream it live," he said. “It’s another way candidates can get engaged with people who want to hear from them."

READ MORE: When you vote in the B.C. election, these candidates will be on the ballots in the Okanagan, Kamloops

Proulx believes the online platforms allow for a different type of engagement from participants.

"There’s a lot of people out there that don’t feel comfortable public speaking, so if you want to ask a question you normally have to get up to a mic and address the candidates, whereas if you can sit and type out the questions, you might be able to articulate it better," he said.

“I think it’s so important to do these kinds of things and have them available and we appreciate that the technology was there. It’s too bad that COVID has happened and that’s created a couple of roadblocks but it’s important for people to innovate and adapt.”

B.C.'s election will be held Oct. 24.

For more information on the candidates running in Vernon-Monashee, go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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