Last night the Chamber of Commerce held the Election Forum as they have done for many elections, and as in the past they did a very good job. Kudos to the organizers and especially to Vince Vavrek who handled the sensitive job of chair/facilitator in an exemplary fashion.
The Forum, essentially the only Election Forum is an important part of the campaign trail. The audience is composed mostly of community activists and people who are on the campaign teams of mostly the Mayoral candidates but also the Councillor candidates. These are influential people because they are engaged in the community, have large networks of friends and associates and will share their opinions. Many of the people there are opinion leaders in their circle of friends, and that is why the Forum is so important.
If you do well there, or of you do poorly, the next morning lots of voters will have heard. More about that later when I will share my assessment about whose “stock” went up, and whose “stock” went sideways. Note I do not think any candidate’s “stock” went down.
But first some general observations about themes in the campaign that were all too evident last night.
This is a campaign about being positive There are campaigns that are negative but this is one is not. The same theme is apparent in Edmonton and Calgary. Candidates who present a positive, encouraging view of the present and future are doing well, whereas those who are negative are struggling. This is a positive time in Alberta.
Many people commented last night that it was time for some “new blood” on the Council and were impressed by some of the new candidates. I mentioned this in one of my first posts and warned the incumbents that some of the newbies were articulate, prepared and would be running good campaigns. That has come to pass and now many of the newbies may well be successful on Monday night.
Of course the reverse of that is also true, many people said to me that although it was good to have a mix of new and veteran councillors, it was time for some to move on. The fact that some of those newbies are also young, also plays well in a community where the average age is 30 and where their are more people in pre school than over 65.
it may be a truism, but candidates who have a strong background og being involved in the community are doing very well.
Many candidates spoke about leadership, and some described in detail what a leader is, how they behave, and do, and coincidentally, that described the candidate to a “T” or “L”. In my experience real, true leaders, the sort of people you would go to war with, or set aside acres of time for and commit yourself for a project never talk about “Leadership”, never describe it…they simply get on and do it, while the describers simply want to stand at the front of the parade and warm themselves in the praise and glory.
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves”. —Lao Tzu
All the incumbents spoke about TEAMWORK, and they spoke with pride about what had been accomplished TOGETHER. It was teamwork they all emphasized. Other candidates spoke about teamwork and how they were a “team players”, here again team players never have to say so, they just are and you can tell by the way they speak and what stories they tell if they are team players or not
and another thought about Teamwork…in every election a candidate or tow thinks it a good idea to attack “the administration” or one member of such. This is a huge tactical error. Why?
Two reasons, first attacking one member of “administration” or the entire administration is unfair, they are unable to respond or “fight back. Second these people work together, attacking one is tantamount to attacking them all and they are ALL ELECTORS, and they have partners or spouses, and friends, and they talk, and they vote since the results of the election are very important to them. They are 500 full time workers , 500 part timers, and the their is the staff at Aquatera. Can you really afford to have several thousand people vote “against you”
And finally, the third reason, if you get elected you have to rely on these people, you have to work with them. I have seen Councillors who have attacked members of administration be “hung out to dry” at a later date. I am not saying that the administration is evil, but sometimes might be “forgetful”. Council and the Administration are a TEAM.
Again lots of talk about the need for VISION but few were able to enunciate their vision:
The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. —Max DePre
Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. —Warren Bennis
Leadership and vision are not about “me”, nor are they about simply showing up at meetings, attending events, answering emails, or talking about it. The way to get started is to stop the talking and get on with doing.
Clearly for those at the forum and even casual observers of the campaign, you can or will see some of these remarks resonate for some candidates.
and now for the assessment of the forum.
The following remarks are based a number of interviews and conversations with dozens of people at the forum. I asked them all the same question: “Who went up, and who went sideways?” “Who impressed you tonight and who stayed much the same?” I have syntesized them and added my own. Words in quotes are word said to me.
In my opinion few if any had their “stock” go down.
The candidate whose “stock” rose the most last night was Rory Tarant, who gave a very “energetic” speech and handled questions with ease and knowledge. Everyone I spoke with mentioned Tarant in a positive fashion
Next was Chris Thiessen who expressed some “alternate” policy options and is clearly passionate about them. People appreciated his”passion” and his stock rose. Miriam Mahnic also did well, she showed herself to be thoughtful and articulate, maybe too “thoughtful” as one person commented. Gossen on the other hand left many people unconvinced about his positions, but as many said they liked his ease and responses to questions, on balance I would say his stock rose a little, much like Mahnic.
Jackie Clayton who one observer suggested said she spoke “like an incumbent” acquitted herself well, as was expected, as did Lorne Radbourne, Justin Munroe and Kevin O’Toole, who delivered what can only be described as an endorsement for Bill Given, when he said that the Council had achieved a great deal under the “leadership of Mayor Given”. O’Toole is well liked and I am sure his endorsement is welcome. All of these people likely saw their stock rise, however since , in my opinion they were already quite high the rise was not significant.
Helen Rice, THE VET of the Council and one of the longest serving Councillors in Alberta stands in a class of her own, especially when in her opening remarks she said in a firm and commanding voice: ” I will stand up for Grande Prairie!” ” I don’t doubt it!” was the comment from a woman standing behind me. Helen will hold her own and will be exempt largely from the “need for new blood” theme mentioned above. And an aside: it is highly rumoured that if elected Helen will be asked to serve as the President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, the body that represents the interest of Urban municipalities in Alberta. For the past while Helen has been Vice president. As President she would have great contact with Provincial Government Ministers.
John Croken and Kevin McLean, both incumbents spoke well and delivered what they needed to do, which was a defense of their record and their role as part of the team.
Unfortunately Erin Steidel had problems with her first speech and some answers to questions, her usual thoughtfulness may have been lost last night. Much the same for Jun Binbangco. Jeff Campbell was not able to attend the forum.
And that leaves us with two candidates: Dwight Logan and Kim MacDougall. Here the observations were varied and not conclusive, and so their stock may have moved up or may have slid sideways. Logan a long serving former mayor and member of Council in the past looked “bored” in the words of one observer, however his speech and answers were clear and straight forward much like the man he is. However many people feel he has “been there, done that”. Although his experience is acknowledged and admired many minds were not made up, and many said they need to think more about him.
MacDougall was NOT bored and leaned into every discussion, answered questions with knowledge and ease, however many people were not impressed with her talk of her leadership qualities, or her general approach. To many her stock went up, but as many did not agree. She has been a controversial figure in this race and some admire that: “…she will challenge them, and they need it”, while others feel she is too much so and will not work as a team member and that her “tiff” with Aquatera will prevent her from working with them.
as for the MAYOR
Gladys Blackmore continued with her themes of controlling taxes, increasing revenues by calculating the shadow population, the need to cut expenses, challenging the administration of the Crystal Centre and saying that leadership by the Mayor is determined by the mandate the Mayor receives in the election.
Bill Given as he had to do spoke about the record of Council and how they worked as a team, the lowest tax increases in a decade while building roads, the Art Gallery/Library, Eastlink Centre and still paying down $11 million in debt. When asked about leadership he said it was all about collaboration, working together to achieve results. Given said that he would not expand Crystal Centre but would alter it to attract more conventions to the Downtown.
In the end they both did what they needed to do, Gladys brought forward the issues she has been pressing, while Bill looked and sounded like the Mayor defending a record.
Did either of their stocks go up…? I am not sure, but if you were there, what do you think?
In fact what do you think about the assessment and where people are? Or the Themes?