By NICKI CRUICKSHANK BARRIE EXAMINER September 18 2010
Want to know what they really stand for going into this election?
Lisa Gleva and her group — Barrie Citizens Connecting (BCC) — do, too.
And they’ve created a community-minded survey to pick candidates’ brains and feel them out before election day.
“Before they vote, we wanted to make sure citizens are able to compare apples to apples with these candidates,” said Gleva, a community activist and BCC member. “We didn’t want to overload candidates with questions, but this is an opportunity for us to learn who they really are and what they believe in for the city.”
BCC is a relatively new local group that formed to give all residents a voice and make it heard by city council.
Barrie’s municipal election is Oct. 25, and BCC sent out its survey with more than a month for those running to answer.
“We’ve already had three responses, and we’re happy to see candidates are taking this seriously,” Gleva said, adding answers came in from candidates Patrick Hebert, Patricia Copeland and Michael Fernandes.
“My instinct is that everyone will respond, because it’ll be very obvious that they’re opposed to engaging with citizens if they don’t,” she said.
Survey questions include: asking mayoral candidates about their future vision for Barrie, what all candidates feel are the city’s most pressing issues, and how they plan to better communicate with the public.
The survey also asks candidates if they’d consider supporting a citizen council, which BCC is hoping to establish.
“That’s something I’m very interested in seeing responses for,” Gleva said. “We want to promote dialogue between residents and city council, and I see the potential in a citizen council.
“I see it working if the mayor invites citizen council members to meet with city council to answer specific questions about city issues,” she added. “I can see something more formal working, too. A call from the mayor for a citizen ombudsman to volunteer and consult between council and the citizens of Barrie.”
Responses from all candidates will be posted on the BCC website www.barriecitizensconnecting.ca , and on the Barrie Citizens Facebook page.
Voter turnout has a history of being low in the city. In the 2006 municipal election, only 30.3% of eligible voters cast ballots, yet the number of those able to vote in Barrie is more than 84,000.
Gleva said having the survey answers online might help to bring that percentage up.
“Facebook is engaging people in a big way and people read our page and our online blogs,” she said. “I think we’ve got an opportunity to impact change in voter turnout. This is (candidates’) chance to show voters their concerns matter and take advantage of this newer form of communication with them.”