OPINION: Let’s keep the campaign debate civil

Insults rarely further a debate. They only muddy the answers.

Rejection is rarely welcomed.

But that’s what the majority of people who announced their candidacy for Chilliwack council and school board last week face.

It takes a lot of nerve to run for office. It takes drive and determination, vision and imagination.

But above all it takes confidence – confidence you can make a difference; that you can make a contribution to the growth, prosperity and collective health of the community.

Others will challenge that assurance.

Indeed, in this age of social media, few escape the online assaults that assail anyone who pokes their head above the cover of anonymity.

And to some degree, that’s fair. Political hopefuls on the campaign trail are essentially applying for their job. It is up to us to then assess that application and provide our verdict on voting day.

We need to study their credentials, listen to their response to our questions, challenge their assumptions and critique their conclusions.

Democracy is an active process. It was never meant to be a spectator sport. It requires our participation as much as the candidates.

But there are rules.

And personal attacks are definitely off limits.

We’ve said this before in this space: attack the issues, not the individuals.

There is ample room for debate on most issues: Should we spend more and provide more services? Or, should we spend less and keep taxes low?

We don’t need to make it personal; insults rarely further a debate. Instead, the mud hurled usually obscures the answers.

That doesn’t mean candidates are exempt from criticisms for the opinions they hold. They should be ready to defend them when challenged; the electorate will grade them on election day.

It is not an easy process, nor one for the timid.

But it should remain civil. The candidates who have put their names forward have prompted discussion simply by their willingness to initiate debate.

And, regardless of who we vote for on Oct. 20, that deserves our thanks.

READ MORE: Internet can be a dark place for respectful conversation

READ MORE: For comprehensive campaign coverage, check our election section

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