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Chamber of Commerce explains why it left fringe candidates out of upcoming forum

Says criteria it used will allow event to 'delve deeper' into local issues with the four main candidates
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The head table will be a little smaller at the upcoming candidates debate than it was at this first one held at the Italian Canadian Club. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday

The Guelph Chamber of Commerce said it reduced the number of participants at an upcoming candidates forum so constituents get a deeper perspective of where the main candidates stand on local issues.

The chamber is hosting a candidates forum at Guelph City Hall on May 22.

It has invited only the four main parties: Liberal, Progressive Conservative, New Democrat Party and Green Party.

Candidates from the four fringe parties running locally - Libertarian, None Of The Above Party, Alliance and Communist - were upset that they weren’t invited to take part.

Chamber CEO Kithio Mwanzia said Monday that there is only so much time available and the chamber wants to hear from the main candidates on the issues as much as possible.

“We only have a two-hour window and we want to not just delve into the issues on a surface level, we want to draw out exactly what it is that being elected in the Guelph riding will mean for Guelph and what that voice will be in Queen’s Park,” Mwanzia said.

Limiting the number of candidates allows the event to “delve deeper” he said.

“We’re really going to be looking to get the candidates beyond the platform and policy points that their leaders have announced … and really get them to talk about what getting elected will mean for the community and what specific community issues they intend to tackle should they be elected.”

Mwanzia said when coming up with the format for the event, they used the same “fair and impartial” criteria used for past debates, the Elections Ontario “refund rule,” which refunds a portion of election expenses is you receive a certain percentage of the popular vote in the previous election.

“We said we’re going to use the same rule and apply it to this,” he said.

The last fringe candidate to garner more than 1 percent of the vote locally was the Family Coalition’s Party’s Alan McDonald in 2003.

Mwanzia will be moderating the forum, with submitted questions being asked through him.

The chamber CEO said he understands the frustration and disappointment of those not invited to participate. But the Elections Ontario criteria was chosen, as it was in candidates forum the chamber has run in the past.

All four fringe candidates expressed disappointment about not being invited. One, None Of The Above Party candidate Paul Taylor, said he plans on protesting out front of City Hall that night.