Times Colonist

Duelling candidates’ debates in Colwood

- DEREK SPALDING dspalding@timescolon­ist.com

The scheduling of two allcandida­tes meetings tonight has revved up the election drama in Colwood as political hopefuls have divided into two opposing groups.

Separate debates for the Nov. 19 election will take place at two churches.

A group of residents calling themselves a coalition of concerned citizens organized their event at the Colwood Pentecosta­l Church, saying they disagreed with the format to be used in the rival meeting set up by the West Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Organizers for both the coalition and the chamber say they announced their forum first, and neither has plans to reschedule their events. But the animosity goes beyond the overlappin­g schedules.

At least two candidates have an affiliatio­n with the chamber, which organized a candidates’ forum at the Anglican Church of Advent. Opponents worry that biases may show through when organizers select questions from the public in advance of the debate.

Coun. Judith Cullington is a member of the chamber and candidate Carol Hamilton is a former director. Council has also approved grant money for the chamber, giving critics the impression that there is a conflict of interest in having the chamber organize the event.

“They screen the questions, so some candidates get the lollipop question and another person gets a real humdinger,” said council candidate Rick Mckay.

Cullington does not shy away from her membership with the chamber. “Am I supposed to be ashamed because I’m a member of a progressiv­e group in Colwood? It doesn’t make sense,” she said.

The coalition forum has been organized by former members of the Colwood Ratepayers for Accountabi­lity Associatio­n, said mayoral candidate Brian Tucknott. The coalition is a “bit of an offshoot of the ratepayers,” he said.

Mayor David Saunders, who isn’t seeking re-election, called on both sides to either reschedule the debates or combine them.

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