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Newmarket chamber cancels only local all-candidates debate

Aurora chamber debate available online, Aurora library hosting meet the candidates event Sept. 14
20191008 Newmarket chamber debate kc
Newmarket-Aurora candidates at the 2019 federal election debate, organized by the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has cancelled a planned debate this year. File photo

Newmarket voters hoping to watch local federal election candidates debate on their home turf won't have the opportunity, with the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce cancelling the only local debate planned.

The Newmarket Chamber of Commerce is cancelling the virtual debate that was to be held Sept. 16 due to “logistical issues.” Instead, the chamber is gathering information from the candidates to address local issues, which it will share on its website.

Chamber CEO and president Tracy Macgregor said although organizing a Zoom webinar does not seem complicated, the specifics of the format proved challenging.

“Timing, schedules, moderator, online platform, Q&A and other pieces that layer in can be quite complicated,” Macgregor said. “We had some setbacks in the planning that led us to conclude we would not be able to deliver a platform that would give depth to the issues, enable interaction from our businesses and allow our local candidates sufficient voice to address those issues in debate format.”

The Aurora Chamber of Commerce ran a debate via Zoom Sept. 8, which featured candidates from both the Newmarket-Aurora riding and Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill riding. From Newmarket-Aurora, Liberal Tony Van Bynen, NDP Yvonne Kelly, Green Tim Flemming and independent candidate Dorian Baxter participated. Conservative candidate Harold Kim and PPC candidate Andre Gagnon were not present. A full video of the debate is available on Youtube.  

The Aurora Public Library will host a virtual meet the candidates event Sept. 14 featuring candidates from both ridings.

The Newmarket-Aurora riding had three debates in 2019: two run by the Aurora and Newmarket chambers, and another co-hosted by environmental justice group Drawdown Newmarket-Aurora and social justice group KAIROS York Region.

Debbie Fletcher-Queen, a member of Drawdown Newmarket-Aurora, said the group did not host another debate this year due to a short timeline and COVID-19 complications.

“Truly, the election shouldn’t have been rushed,” Fletcher-Queen said.

Macgregor said the lead-up to the election was “very short,” without much time to adjust to setbacks.

“Last-minute changes to one or more of these elements with very little lead-up time, and with the timing of the debate being so close to the election date, can make it difficult to coordinate and course correct,” Macgregor said. 

“As a business organization, we want to ensure that what we are doing is done well and helps to add understanding to the issues related specifically to business and economic recovery,” Macgregor said.

You can register for the Aurora Public Library Meet the Candidates event on Eventbrite. It will run virtually Sept. 14 starting at 7 p.m.