EDITORIAL – Council candidates should just say no to “Yes or No” questions

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

PITY THE POOR civic election candidates. One of their burdens during campaigns is to respond to a seemingly unending series of questionnaires from special-interest groups.

Business groups, social causes, environmentalists, arts groups — you name it, they all want to know what candidates plan to do to pander to them if they’re elected.

The worst kind of question is the “Yes or No” question. The Kamloops Chamber of Commerce released video-taped responses to its questionnaire on Friday. One of the three questions asked for a straight Yes or No to what the chamber calls “14 hot-button issues.”

Without context, the candidates were expected to provide a simple yay or nay, and most of them fell right into the trap.

It’s alarming to listen to council hopefuls happily give Yes or No answers to complicated issues like tax incentives, a convention centre, parking, needle buy-back programs, pulling land from the ALR for residential development and so on.

How could the chamber possibly expect an intelligent Yes or No with no information on costs, timing or process, no idea of the impact on budgeting or hidden consequences?

But here’s where the alert candidates called the chamber’s bluff. Arjun Singh, Jimmy Johal and Dennis Walsh simply declined the entire question, Johal and Singh calling it “unfair” to render judgment on controversial issues without explanation, and Walsh pointing out that issues are never “black and white.”

Good for them. Several others chose to pass or add qualifiers on some of the options.

The master, though, was Ken Christian, who went along with the 14-point quick snappers but then explained his position on each and every one in a short sentence, ignoring the Yes-No rule.

And that’s what every candidate should have done with this fundamentally unfair exercise. But, it does provide a clue on which candidates are on their toes and unwilling to declare positions on complex issues without all the facts.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on and CFJC Today. Contact him at

About Mel Rothenburger (7725 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on EDITORIAL – Council candidates should just say no to “Yes or No” questions

  1. One “issue” that has not become an election issue is the failure of the water treatment plant. I guess the failure was one thing but the addressing of the failure still leaves some questions in my mind.
    Over the period of operation of the treatment plant, were there never any tests done along the way to simulate power failures, loss of computer programming, and redundancy? Did this come down to a single point of failure which essentially crippled our city’s water supply?
    I believe Kamloops Fire & Rescue do daily tests of their operational communications equipment, they have built-in redundancy and a “Plan B” in the event of primary loss of communications. I also believe a design feature was to avoid a single point of failure.

    If I was to raise any election issue, it would be about our water treatment plant.

  2. But the yes/no questions can tell us the personal sentiment each candidate may have on an issue, and that is important. Granted the fact not all pertinent information on the subject has been discussed hence a change of heart could be forthcoming, and that is ok too.

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