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Niagara Falls
Friday, February 3, 2023
Editorial: Candidate debate a lively affair

Tuesday’s all-candidates debate hosted by The Lake Report was a telling tale of our riding's political candidates for the federal election. 

Overall, we were delighted with the honest answers our candidates offered in response to questions from various NOTL organizations, audience members and our readers.

However, while all candidates were respectful in their answers during the debate, Peter Taras of the People’s Party of Canada, unfortunately did not abide by The Lake Report's (and the public health department's) rules for the event.

When we first arranged the debate, we phoned Taras to let him know he’d need to wear a mask at the debate. He initially said he wouldn’t, but after being told we’d need to rescind his invitation, he promised to wear one because it was our event and said he would respect those wishes — an ask made in the name of public safety, to protect the very people from whom he’s seeking support.

However, when Taras arrived and was told he needed to wear a mask until he was seated, he brushed by without care and said simply, “I don’t need one, I’m good, Rich.” (The next day, in another phone conversation, Taras apologized for ignoring the rules.)

Two people from the purple-clad posse he brought — who were at times loud and boisterous during the debate — made a passing remark that they were “medically exempt.”

While we don’t know the circumstances, these two young people appeared to be in fine health. Let’s just say we’re skeptical.

The irony is, they are a perfect example of why we absolutely need vaccine passports. 

Sometimes people will lie and, as Taras showed, even would-be political leaders will disrespect the rules.

We considered asking Taras to leave the event, but decided to allow him to stay, since being anti-science is a big a part of his platform. And we created extra space on the dais to distance him somewhat from the other candidates.

We strongly condemn his actions.

We learned early on that Melanie Holm, the Green party candidate, would not be able to attend due to a family commitment. We’re not sure what, especially during a tight election, would motivate a federal candidate to not attend a debate with about 150 people in attendance and more watching the live stream.

But we don’t know the details of the family event and we won’t speculate.

Unfortunately, the NDP’s Brian Barker came down with symptoms of COVID Tuesday afternoon four hours before the event. That required him to get a PCR test, which he was unable to do in time to make the debate. We respect the consideration he showed for all those who attended our debate.

At the last minute, St. Catharines Coun. Karrie Porter stepped in to represent Barker and his party’s platform.

There was only one heckler during the night, who told Porter that if Barker couldn’t be there, nobody from the NDP should be.

We disagree. Given the circumstances, falling ill was not Barker’s fault. And attending could have put others at risk.

That doesn’t mean a party doesn’t deserve a chance to have its voice represented.

Other than the debate being wrapped up a few minutes early due to threatening rain and high winds, the night was an unqualified success.

And if you missed it, you can catch the debate on our YouTube channel, The Lake Report Newspaper, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cpbs8OZAaAc.

A sincere thanks to Paul Harber for letting us to use Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery's beautiful venue, to Erinn and James of Sweets & Swirls Cafe for providing nibblies for the event, and to Digital Tree, for the video and audio production of our live stream.

And, of course, to all candidates and citizens who attended. Democracy was the real winner on Tuesday night.

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