Ritu Khanna took over as executive director of the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce this month. (File photo)

Business groups announce public debates for mayoral candidates only

White Rock councillor candidates to speak at members-only event

Peninsula business organizations are hosting four all-candidates meetings prior to the Oct. 20 civic elections, however the public will only be invited to the two that host mayoral hopefuls.

On Oct. 3 at Morgan Creek Golf Club, Surrey mayoral candidates will be invited to speak; and on Oct. 12, White Rock mayoral candidates are to meet at the White Rock Community Centre.

Two other all-candidates meetings – for White Rock council hopefuls – will be held exclusively for South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce and the White Rock BIA.

New chamber executive director Ritu Khanna confirmed Friday morning that the chamber and BIA have booked Oct. 2 and Oct. 9 at Centennial Hall (14600 North Bluff Rd.) for business members to hear from councillor and mayoral candidates, respectively.

“I think it makes sense to have a business one separate, because there’s so many concerns for the business community, and then a separate one for… community-related issues, broader issues,” Khanna explained, describing the election as “pivotal… across the Greater Vancouver area.”

Invitations to the members-only meetings were sent to candidates late Thursday afternoon, and Khanna acknowledged she received some negative feedback regarding the exclusive events.

Factors in the decision – in addition to a desire to provide business owners with focused opportunities to put their concerns to candidates – included venue capacity, the number of candidates running and ensuring fairness to candidates and attendees alike, she said.

“We’re basically doing our best,” Khanna said.

“We know that the business community has issues they need to be addressed by the potential candidates so we wanted them to have that forum. Because there are so many councillor candidates, it doesn’t make sense to do mayors and councillors (together). You don’t really effectively get to hear what they stand for and what they represent.

“The purpose is, really, to have all the issues addressed for the community, and if we did one with business and broader community issues, that wouldn’t happen, because the time is limited and there’s lots of candidates.

“I don’t think that’s doing service to the community – or candidates.

“We don’t want to hear soundbites.”

Format of the meetings is still being determined, as are attendees. All meetings are set for 6:30-8:30 p.m., with doors to open at 6 p.m.

Khanna said that at the Oct. 12 mayoral meeting, councillor candidates will be invited to introduce themselves at the end of the forum, and a meet-and-greet opportunity with all of the candidates will follow.

Pre-registration is being done for the members-only events.

A fifth, previously announced meeting for White Rock candidates, hosted by the Peninsula Homeless to Housing task force, is also set for Oct. 9, at the Church of the Holy Trinity at 7 p.m.

READ MORE: White Rock all-candidates forum planned for Oct. 9

Khanna said the chamber and BIA have reached out to the task force regarding a councillor-candidates-only forum for the general public.

Task force officials were not immediately able to comment.

Candidates have until 4 p.m. today (Friday) to file their nomination papers.

Voters go to the polls on Oct. 20.

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