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Security concerns shutter candidates’ debate in Northern B.C.

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A federal all-candidates debate in northeastern British Columbia was cancelled due to concerns about the safety of candidates and the public.

The debate hosted by the Dawson Creek and District Chamber of Commerce was scheduled for Tuesday night, but officials decided being able to host a safe and orderly meeting was too risky.

Chamber executive director Kathleen Connolly says a series of threats to community leaders, recent arrests at city hall over COVID-19 protocols and the likelihood of pandemic issues overtaking the meeting all contributed to the decision to cancel.

She says the seven candidates contesting the riding of Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies have been invited instead to post online campaign videos.

The riding is a Conservative stronghold where the incumbent, Bob Zimmer, won by 58 points or more than 32, 000 votes over the second-place Liberal candidate in the 2019 election. Zimmer, 52, was first elected in 2011.

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Connolly says the Dawson Creek area has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccine rates in the province and the community has been engulfed in a debate over how vaccine cards might affect the business community.

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She says the decision to cancel the gathering is disappointing since the chamber has been hosting all-candidates debates for municipal, provincial and federal elections for more than 75 years in Dawson Creek.

“There have been threats to our MLA (Mike Bernier),” Connolly said. “There have been threats to our elected officials within the community. We had folks arrested and removed from city hall last week. We’ve just seen sort of an escalation of violent behaviours.”

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