For the first time in many a long year, the provincial election race in Richmond - a race which previously had foregone conclusion written all over it in all three ridings and has fostered one of the lowest voter turnouts in history - threatened to get interesting.
With incumbent Liberal Rob Howard stepping down, Richmond Centre is there for the taking and the predominatly Asian populated riding has attracted seven candidates, an unprecedented six of whom are Asian and three independent.
Both the NDP and BC Conservatives are taking aim at Richmond-Steveston and have fielded credible, locally-grown runners in former policeman Scott Stewart and former school trustee/activist Carol Day in a bid to wrest the seat from the under-fire, long-time Liberal incumbent John Yap.
So it was with great surprise Monday night at the very first all-candidates meeting that a mere 60 per cent of the candidates bothered to show up.
Sure, there were excuses; some better than others. The BC Liberal's Richmond Centre hopeful Teresa Wat was apparently sick for a day, and we hope she's feeling well enough over the next two weeks to attend the remaining three public forums.
Day, who sped to the TV studio to help John Cummins at the leaders' debate, sent her apologies to the voters, missed a wonderful opportunity to slap her main rival, Yap, while he's up against the ropes.
And the reasons given by the NDP's Frank Huang (Richmond Centre) and Yap - Huang mingled with "high donors" to watch the TV debate, while Yap supported "the team," also tuned in - will hardly sit well with Richmond's voters, many of whom (judging by previous turnouts) are looking for reasons to switch off, if they hadn't done so already.
What seems to have been lost is that all-candidates meetings are an invaluable tool for the voter to find out who the candidates are and to test their credibility.
There were some highlights Monday night, a few candidates have done their homework and were accomplished speakers, and we'd encourage people to take time out of their busy lives to pack the halls of the remaining meetings, as they did Monday.
Let's hope all the candidates can take time out of their busy campaigns to meet the people who matter most - the voters.
© Copyright 2013