Kootenay-Columbia candidates had the opportunity to save their voices and work their eardrums Wednesday night.
Nelson at its Best held a reverse forum that included six of the seven candidates and a packed room of participants at the Nelson United Church.
The unique format called for attendees to discuss topics around three tables while candidates made the rounds to listen in.
George Chandler, a board member of Nelson at its Best who helped organize the event, said the reverse forum highlights local issues that might be lost in traditional debates where the focus is on party platform minutiae.
“There’s a limited opportunity for voters to speak, so we’ve reversed the forum to make this the one where candidates are coming in listening mode and they’re going to listen to a variety of topics from average every day voters who have things to say, stories to tell,” said Chandler.
Candidates included Wayne Stetski of the NDP, Robin Goldsbury of the Liberal Party, Abra Brynne of the Green Party, Rick Stewart of the People’s Party of Canada, Trev Miller of the Animal Protection Party and Libertarian nominee Terry Tiessen.
Conservative candidate Rob Morrison did not attend.
The two-hour event began with candidates circulating around tables that focused on the climate crisis, poverty and inequality, and economic development and technological disruption. Afterward, Indigenous issues and the health care system were also discussed as a group.
Attendees were asked not to direct questions to the candidates but instead to participate in group discussions on a variety of issues including: cost of living; lack of transportation options; dental health insurance; small business taxes; fossil fuel alternatives; tax bracket reform; affordable housing; transition economies; and food security.
Chandler said he believes the format helps voters feel heard.
“Sometimes they get to raise issues that are not really part of a party platform,” he said. “I mean, you get more party platforms the higher you go up. … So some people say they get a chance to raise issues that they hope will be taken into account or some takes on policies that people already have.”
It’s the second event attended by candidates ahead of the Oct. 21 federal election with the next scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 26, in Kimberley.
Nelson will host two more events before voters go to the polls. The West Kootenay EcoSociety and Citizens Climate Lobby co-host a climate change forum at the Nelson United Church on Oct. 7, and the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce is hosting a meet and greet with candidates on Oct. 10 at the Chamber’s office.