Rogers TV and the Waterloo Regional Record hosted the K-W riding all-candidate's meeting tonight, and boy did they do a poor job.
The venue was RIM Park, on the far north-east corner of the riding and not on a bus route. The small room was crowded with TV cameras and had only 100 seats, but at least 250 people showed up. (From my vantage point I couldn't see how many were waiting in the back corner and corridor.) The Liberal and NDP candidates were plagued with microphone problems. The podiums forced the candidates to stand, which gave the proceeding a very formal air. Candidates also complained that the podiums were too small for both papers and a water bottle, and at least one candidate ended up with wet papers. The moderator, Record editorial page editor John Roe, talked too much. All in all, it was a bust.
But despite the discomfort and annoyance of the venue, all-candidate's meetings are always worth going to. There's just no way to get the measure of candidates like hearing them give a prepared account of themselves and then answer unprepared questions. You can learn a lot about their intelligence, grasp of the issues, and level of commitment to the people they hope to represent.
The only nasty note in the entire evening came from -- don't all shout out the answer at once now -- the Conservative candidate, Peter Braid, who made a snide comment about Liberal incumbent Andrew Telegdi not supporting Stephane Dion. It backfired on him: he was roundly booed by most of the audience and Telegdi was given a chance to respond, in which he strongly affirmed his support for Dion. My impression of the Conservative candidate was that he was fairly slick but not a nice man at all, and definitely not someone I want to see in power.
The Green candidate, Cathy MacLellan, was quite impressive and used the opportunity to share some of her insights and make some good suggestions. Describing Harper's handling of the environment she said, "The steady hand of government is like a hand holding us under water." She said that "cap and trade is not enough... it's not even a beginning." In an answer about the Security and Prosperity Protocol, she said, "We should keep in mind the saying: 'America does not have friends and neighbours - it has interests.'"
The NDP candidate, Cindy Jacobsen, did not seem very comfortable at her podium and didn't answer the questions particularly well. A couple of times she didn't seem to address the question at all. For a pastor and very kindly-seeming person, she was oddly aggressive, at one point saying that Liberals and Conservatives both "have forgotten that Canada is a democracy", which is totally unfair to both parties.
Andrew Telegdi did a great job. Of course, the rest are neophytes and he has been in parliament representing our riding for a great many years, but he's one of those people who has devoted his life to public service and has done a great deal to help people (especially poor people, immigrants, and people in conflict with the law). When someone in the audience asked a question about housing he rattled off all the commissions and boards he's been on dealing with the issue (had I had a seat I'd have been able to take better notes). When someone asked about human rights and the charter, he was the only candidate who had a confident answer about fighting for civil rights. We in K-W are very lucky to have Telegdi as our representative.
It was close, but a good thing that Dion released the "Richer, Fairer, Greener" platform yesterday, because Telegdi was able to answer every policy question with solid Liberal policy suggestions.
Telegdi suggested that all-candidate's meetings should be held in Waterloo City Hall, which is set up for TV cameras, has decent podiums, has plenty of space, and is centrally located and easy to access by transit. Did you hear that, Rogers/Record?