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Despite pandemic limitations, groups hope to engage voters through all-candidate events

'This election has been harder. It has been harder to get people motivated,' says political analyst
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The pandemic, a short election period and its timing are all having an impact on how voters are engaging in the current campaign leading to the Sept. 20 vote, says a local political analyst.

“As with everything else in our lives, the pandemic makes elections harder, the day-to-day aspects of an election,” said Michael Johns, visiting professor with York University’s department of politics. “We saw this in the U.S. (federal) election where they lost a debate.

“In the heart of the 2020 campaign, it was hard for them to even have two candidates on stage and have it aired nationally. That was hard. And now you’re trying to do it on a local level," he added. 

The entire election process is complicated by the timing. The election was called for Sept. 20 in August, when people were still in summer or vacation mode, kids are home from school and when Johns says it’s typically more difficult to engage people.

This year, that campaign goes into the start of the school year.

“This election has been harder. It has been harder to get people motivated, I think. We just saw that... they couldn’t get a Green candidate in either riding,” he said of Barrie-Innisfil and Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte.

“Generally, I think, the pandemic and the timing of the election in both its duration and the time on the calendar. You put all those things together, I think this is what you end up with," Johns added.

Even all-candidates meetings have become a challenge. Several local groups are organizing events, but they’ve all had to be adapted to accommodate ongoing public health concerns and are presenting live events online.

“I think for a lot of people, they feel uncomfortable going to an all-candidates meeting,” Johns said. “Some of them might be so sick of doing everything on Zoom, the last thing they want to do is sit through a two-hour candidates meeting on Zoom”

In addition, some people might be uncomfortable using that technology, particularly seniors, who are typically the most engaged at election time.

Johns says he’s curious to see what happens after Labour Day. Will the pandemic have taken the wind out of the election, or will it ramp up in the last two weeks?

“That’s what we’ll have to wait and see,” he said.

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ALL-CANDIDATES’ EVENTS

Sept. 7 and Sept. 8  CARP, a non-profit organization that advocates for older Canadians

7 p.m., Sept. 7  Barrie-Innisfil  

7 p.m., Sept. 8  Barrie-Springwater-Oro Medonte 

The events can be accessed on CARP Barrie’s YouTube Channel by clicking here or on CARP Barrie’s Facebook page.

The chat feature on both Facebook and YouTube will be activated during the live stream so viewers can submit questions to the candidates. Questions can also be submitted in advance by emailing barrie@carp.ca.

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Sept. 8  100 Debates for the Environment online

7 p.m.  Barrie-Innisfil, available on Zoom by clicking here. Registration required. 

7 p.m.  Simcoe-Grey, available on Zoom by clicking here. Registration required. 

1 p.m.  Barrie-Springwater-Oro Medonte, available on Zoom by clicking here. Registration required. 

7 p.m.  York-Simcoe, available on Zoom by clicking here. Registration required.

The online federal debates for Simcoe County ridings will focus on climate and environment. The format will be a blend of preset and audience-generated questions.

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Sept. 15  Greater Barrie Chamber of Commerce 

6 p.m.  Barrie–Innisfil

8 p.m.  Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte 

The live event for each riding will be broadcast by Rogers TV and online. All four registered candidates in each riding will be invited.

Attendance will be restricted to candidates, panellists, host and venue staff, and filming crew only. There will be no live audience, although voters are encouraged to email their questions beforehand.

Following an introduction by the moderator, each candidate will be given two minutes for opening remarks. There will be questions from a panel and an open debate and audience questions followed by closing remarks.

Questions can be sent to debate@barriechamber.com.