Oceanside News hosted a Coffee with Your Candidates forum on Monday, May 3 and was disappointed only one of five Qualicum Beach byelection candidates attended.
A letter was received Sunday evening signed by four candidates expressing intent to not attend the forum, but staff decided to move forward as planned with hopes candidates would join.
News staff collected reader-submitted questions and looked forward to candidates answering them in a public, engaging format. The full event can be found here.
After the event, many readers questioned the absence of the four candidates. Staff was also puzzled, as the cancellation came the day before the event. The date for the forum was set and shared with candidates weeks prior.
The letter was signed by Peter Kent, Anne Skipsey, Jean Young and Brian Denbigh and sent by Ron Everard, who said he is a volunteer with Anne Skipsey’s campaign.
“Wouldn’t you think the message you might want to take away from that is that three other candidates had enough confidence in my neutrality, in my integrity that they would ask me to carry this letter forward,” he said.
Oceanside News could not reach Anne Skipsey for comment.
“I was contacted by the four candidates, they had a letter that they had mutually prepared and they asked me to carry it to the Oceanside News and also to copy it to Parksville/Qualicum Beach News and Second Opinion and the town and I did all of that,” Everard said.
Sarah Duncan was the only candidate to attend and said she received the letter, but still chose to join the forum. She was not asked to sign the letter and was not aware of it until it was sent out.
“I felt a little bit hurt. I felt like there was some manipulation and I kind of feel like right now I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t really know why. And then to put me in a platform like that last night and then not show up,” Duncan said. She added it was more difficult being the only candidate and thought the others might decide to join the stream.
Oceanside News was able to reach Jean Young, who answered a call from publisher Joel Grenz. She said she did not know a lot about the event and did not receive an email until recently, though she agreed to participate in the forum during a phone interview with Oceanside News on April 14.
“We just thought we’d give you notice. We have reasons that we all can’t make it, it seems,” she said.
Young suggested Oceanside News forward the forum questions to her website and said she is available through phone or email any day of the week. Calls and messages from news staff to get more clarity on May 4 were not returned.
“I am not one to be manipulated by the media either. I am here on my own personal integrity to stand up for the people of Qualicum Beach,” said Peter Kent in a video posted to his campaign’s Facebook page. “That is what I owe to you and that is why I recused myself from that meeting the other night. Because I felt it is biased.”
Brian Denbigh could not be reached for comment.