And surprise of the evening goes to…
Well, the Cosmos has another one of its getting-to-be-really-popular all-candidate forums under its belt, after having hosted the federal riding candidates at the arena/community centre on Monday night. And even though we’ve done it a few times, we’re happy to say that we are always surprised by what can happen in a room full of people when politics are involved. We’ve given a brief overview of the evening in our front page story, but here we’d like to fill in the picture a bit, give it all some colour (no reference to the cartoon, there). We can still be non-partisan, we’ll just flesh out the characters a bit more.
We do admit to having preconceived notions of how people may behave during these open forums. But things on Monday started to get fun almost immediately when Standard reporter Darryl Knight posed a very un-press-like question to the candidates, asking “Supposing you can’t vote for yourself, who on this stage would you vote for?”, drawing a collective gasp from the audience. That set things up, and it rolled from there.
For example – we’ve met Conservative candidate Cyma Musarat several times around town, of late. She’s been out to all kinds of events, and for such a petite person, she’s a dynamo personality. We expected her to take over the stage with her gregarious nature. But when it came to answering questions, she hid behind a binder, reading the party line on the issue at hand. Very few of her answers seemed to be her own, which likely did her no favours.
NDP candidate Eileen Higdon was a delight to listen to, with her Scottish brogue – indeed, the best line of the night was “I ha’nae been into th’ whiskey, I promise ya!” after stumbling over the phrase “electoral reform” and calling it “electrical reform” (in her defence, she said she was suffering from a cold and not popping on all cylinders). Between that and her fussing over making sure other candidates had water in their glasses, she was more doting grandma than political warrior. But she did know what she was passionate about.
Current riding MP Jennifer O’Connell didn’t seem to suffer at the hands of either her opponents (although Musarat didn’t seem to notice the other candidates, focussing solely on O’Connell at every opportunity) or the public nearly as much as we thought she might. From the levels of applause and not-so-quiet murmurings in the crowd, we think it safe to say the audience was largely made up of supporters. O’Connell knew her stuff (without a binder) and appeared genuinely eager to represent the riding for four more years.
PPC man Corneliu Chisu was lucky in that he didn’t have to face any questions from his party’s number one platform issue – immigration. He dodged a bullet on that one, but some of his other stances didn’t seem to impress the crowd.
The Green Party’s Peter Forint owned the evening. He appeared to be real, giving concise, genuine answers to the crowd and to his opponents, and he likely earned at least the respect, if not the vote, of many of those present. Those Greens may surprise us all come Oct. 21.
Thank you, candidates, for spending time with us on Monday night. Thank you to everyone who came to hear what they had to say. Thank you, Ted Barris, for moderating, and to Rogers TV who thinks our forums are worth recording and broadcasting!
Thirty-two days to go – we’re sure there are more surprises in store.