How to organize a candidate’s forum on art and culture for your community.

A public forum on arts and culture is an important way for local candidates to speak about their party’s policy, as well as to share their own views on arts and culture, and reflect on their particular riding or community. It is a non-partisan event. It aims to provide candidates with an opportunity to share policy and ideas, and for constituents to pose questions.

Here is a step-by-step guide to organizing one in your riding.

Organizing Committee

Ideally there will be an appropriate local partner to host the event, such as a local non-profit organization dedicating to promoting the arts (i.e. The Fredericton Arts Alliance), or other non-partisan organizations that are not in a conflict of interest, and whose mandate is to promote arts and culture, or community engagement.

Date & Time

Choose several possible dates to offer candidates.

Hold the forum in the evening – 6-8 or 7-9 pm works well.

Make sure both the venue AND moderator are free on all dates before approaching candidates.

Approach candidates via their campaign headquarters to check on availability.

Venue

Identify a location that is available on all identified dates.

Ideally you will be able to find a free or reduced-rate space. If there is a rental fee, how will it be covered?

Consider capacity: how many people can you reasonably expect to attend? Book accordingly.

Accessibility: is the room accessible to people who use mobility aids?

Moderator

Line up someone who is articulate, credible and experienced in public-speaking or moderating. They should feel comfortable enforcing speaker time limits, and managing audience questions and candidate discussion. Bilingualism may also be important in your community. Make sure the moderator is available on all possible dates for forum. Most importantly, the moderator must be scrupulous about fairness to all.

Candidates

Contact the election headquarters for each candidate to invite them to participate, and offer dates. Be sure to consider not just the major parties (Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green), but also any independent candidates.

Logistics

A/V: Ensure that microphones, speakers, etc., are provided, or make arrangements to bring in equipment. A good set-up is one microphone for the floor, one for the moderator, and one for each of the candidates. Have an experienced technician handling A/V.

Refreshments: Serve tea, coffee, water and light refreshments. Do not serve alcohol.

Post-event: Allow for an hour of social time and mingling.

Promotion

Identify at least one committee member or organizer who will be the spokesperson/people for media inquiries.

Draft a press release. It should include all pertinent information, including date, time, candidates and their parties, moderator, location, etc. Include contact information for the designated spokesperson/people. Please see the press release issued by the Fredericton Arts Alliance as an example.

At least a week before the event, send the press release to local media, including free weeklies. The Government of New Brunswick has a list of all media outlets on its website. Follow up three days before the event.

Share your event as Public Service Announcement on CBC Radio and private stations.

Send event details to local listings, such as those many municipalities have on their websites. Allow as much lead time as possible.

Share your event with arts organizations such as ArtsLink NB, AAAPNB and artsnb to add to newsletters and social media and online promotion.

Enlist committee members to use their own personal and social media networks to share.

Send to local politicos to share on their networks.

If you have the time and money, hard-copy postering is a great way to promote.

The Event

Seed a few good questions in the audience for the Q&A part of the program.

Gather contact information for attendees to include them in invitations to future fora. A sign-in form at the entrance works fine.

Questions: Do not share questions with candidates ahead of time as it produces dull, scripted replies.

Format: Do share an outline of the event with candidates.

Ask candidates to arrive 10 minutes early to get settled and draw names for speaking order of opening statements. Closing statements will be in reverse order of the opening statements.

Format:

Welcome and introduction from moderator. (One minute)

Opening statements –three minutes for each candidate (Approx. 15 minutes)

Candidates are asked to address their party’s policies on arts and culture, with an emphasis on concrete actions that would move the policies from words to action.

Questions from the moderator: (Approx. 44 minutes)

There are four questions from the moderator. Each candidate will have two minutes to respond to one of the four questions, with the other candidates getting one minute each for rebuttal.

The four questions are:

  1. Supporting the Canada Council for the Arts

The Canada Council for the Arts is essential to the health and sustainability of the arts sector. The Canadian Arts Coalition has long advocated for increasing the Canada Council’s appropriation to $300 million. How will your party support the Canada Council over the next four years?

  1. The Arts on the International Stage

International market access is a cornerstone of the arts sector. How will your party increase international market access for Canadian artists and their works?

  1. Protecting and Disseminating Canadian Digital Content

The Canadian creative industries produce high quality content that is accessible across a range of traditional and digital media. Canada has historically had various mechanisms to foster Canadian content (regulation, copyright, etc.), some of which have become outdated in the digital age. How will your party modernize and strengthen policies supporting creation, distribution and access to Canadian content?

  1. Supporting the Canadian Broadcasting Company

The different revenue sources of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation have steadily declined over the past several years. As a result, CBC’s capacity to reflect Canada’s regional and cultural diversity – two important elements of the Corporation’s mission – is compromised. What are your party’s intentions for the future of our public broadcaster and how will your party ensure that it has adequate funding levels?

Questions from the floor (Approx. 45 minutes)

The moderator will ensure that these are distributed fairly. Questions may be directed to one or more candidates. Others will be invited to add comments.

Not every question will be addressed to all candidates. Candidates who do not have an opportunity to respond to a specific question will be able to address the issue in their closing statements if they so wish.

Closing statements three minutes for each candidate (Approx. 15 minutes)

Candidates can use their time to sum up or rebut comments that arose during the question period.

Refreshments:

Following the forum, there will be an opportunity for candidates to meet audience members, to address particular questions or to answer other issues that might arise, and to share some light refreshments.