Lethbridge voters have seen all of their options for the provincial election — now they’re getting a chance to hear from them via the first election forums.
Two notable candidates will be sitting out of debates held by the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs (SACPA).
“I can understand you need to pick and choose which ones you go to, but this being the first one out of the gate, I think that would be an important one to go to,” SACPA chairperson Knud Petersen said Wednesday.
United Conservative Party candidates Karri Flatla and Nathan Neudorf won’t be at this week’s SACPA debates, instead choosing to focus on door-knocking.
A University of Lethbridge political sociologist said debates give voters the chance to learn more about how candidates interact.
“You get to see candidates against each other, how they respond to questions from people on the floor and respond to each other,” Trevor Harrison said.
It’s something that’s disappointing to at least one other candidate.
Lethbridge-West Alberta Liberal candidate Pat Chizek said all voices need to be heard in the same forum so voters can hear from all perspectives.
“This is important because all of the issues that the government is going to face, all of the issues that the people are concerned with, there is more than two sides. I think it’s important that people actually get out and listen,” she said.
Both UCP campaigns said they were invited to about a dozen forums and will be attending a few, but are prioritizing “direct voter engagement.”
“Karri’s priority is to engage Lethbridge-West voters at their doors, where real, productive and civil conversations are possible,” read an e-mail from Flatla’s campaign team to Global News. “After all, the goal of our campaign is to convince constituents that Karri is the right voice to send to Edmonton.”
Harrison said this sounds like a common political tactic for teams who feel they’re in the lead and don’t want to put candidates at risk to slip up.
“They’re not battle-tested out there, perhaps in a very perceived to be, very confrontational environment,” he said. “So you wonder if they’re sort of sheltering the candidates away to some extent.”
SACPA’s Lethbridge-East forum will take place on Wednesday evening and the Lethbridge-West candidates will debate on Friday.
Both Flatla and Neudorf have agreed to participate in Global Lethbridge’s forum, which will air on April 11 and 12 at 6 p.m.