Election season has kicked off in earnest in Fernie, with signs up, an actual campaign kickoff, political attacks and repose, and a big fat ask from the Fernie Chamber of Commerce.
Starting off the campaign, signage went up around town on September 17 first thing in the morning, with placards imploring drivers think about candidates names in bright colours on their way to work.
Mayoral candidate Nic Milligan formally launched his campaign that night, with an open house event at the Fernie Legion, complete with free pizza and a stump speech delivered from between a popcorn maker and a hotdog warmer.
Milligan hit all the notes expected of a speech at the local legion, talking about those who built the community, and the importance of retaining the ‘genuine’ flavour of the town.
“The primary plank of my election platform is to re-engage the community with its local government,” he said. “To work together to reconstitute some of the committees that provided direct citizen input to the processes and direction of the city.
“I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but if you look around the community, there isn’t a problem that is beyond us if we work together, and you cannot do that if you have a closed local government.”
He spoke about his connection to the town, and his desire to use the voices of the community to help guide it.
The event at the legion was attended by six other candidates for city council, all of whom spoke with The Free Press about the importance of working with others.
Meanwhile, on September 19, incumbent mayor Ange Qualizza was pushing back on criticism from prospective council candidate, Jonathan MacGregor, who shared a post titled “Ange Hates Soccer” on his campaign blog, and which was shared around social media.
The post, which was about efforts to better establish youth soccer in town being “crushed” by “Ange (Qualizza) and her voting block”, triggered a spirited response from Qualizza and incumbent candidates for re-election Troy Nixon and Kyle Hamilton – who all denied the accusation by taking issue with both the claim, and the way it was delivered.
“Let’s elevate the discussion this election,” wrote Qualizza on Facebook.
“It is on all of us that we hold each other to much higher standards. We all own this space. If we want regular people to keep putting their names forward, we’ve got to hold people accountable for their words.”
The post was later deleted.
Later that same day, a “Municipal Election Platform” from the Fernie Chamber of Commerce landed with a thud, listing 18 ‘asks’ of all candidates running in the election to consider working towards for the betterment of the business, and wider community.
The list, broken up into four general areas asks the future mayor and council to engage meaningfully with local businesses and community, to urgently address housing attainability, make Fernie more livable, sustainable and including, and to make it easier to do business in Fernie.
The list of asks was timed to be released with the start of the campaign, and has been created by the chamber’s Advocacy Committee. The chamber itself is non-partisan, and will be hosting an all-candidates forum on October 4.
In late news for the election cycle, Fernie will now have 14 council candidates to select from, with candidate Dean Runzer withdrawing his candidacy as of September 19.
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