November 23rd, 2017

Website gives voters insight into local candidates


By Villeneuve, Melissa on October 5, 2017.

Melissa Villeneuve

Lethbridge Herald

mvilleneuve@lethbridgeherald.com

In a bid to help voters make an informed decision in the upcoming Lethbridge Municipal election, a local web developer has compiled an online survey of council candidates.

AvO WebWorks has published the results of the Lethbridge Accountability survey. After Nomination Day, each candidate was sent the online survey to complete before Sept. 28. After the survey was closed to all participants, the results were posted online last Friday.

“The idea behind Lethbridge Accountability is that instead of having all these different surveys done by all these different groups, we have … one place where citizens can look and get a wide range of answers from the candidates. So it’s really a larger scope of their ideas around different issues pertaining to the city,” said Annelies van Oers, owner of AvO WebWorks and Lethbridge Accountability web developer.

This is the third municipal election in which Lethbridge Accountability has provided an online survey. It was founded in 2010 by the late Wade Galloway, who wanted to provide a source of municipal election information for the Lethbridge community. After his election to council in 2013, he passed the duty on to van Oers.

The survey has grown over each election cycle, including questions from additional community groups. Taking part this year are: Aerris-Managing Solutions; Allied Arts Council; Arches; Canadian Home Builders Association; Chamber of Commerce; Coalition of Indigenous Voices; Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone; Environment Lethbridge; Lethbridge and District Labour Council; Lethbridge Public Library; No Drilling Lethbridge; and OUTreach Southern Alberta.

The questions were edited to omit any leading statements in order to elicit an answer. Until the results were posted online, candidates did not know which groups were asking which questions.

“They knew which groups were involved, but they did not know which question came from which group,” said van Oers, and when it comes to the answers, what you see is what you get.

“What the candidates fill out and send to us is what you see on the website,” she explained. “We do not edit. We do not rank. We do not comment. It’s purely a service so that people can see how the candidates answered those questions.”

The survey provides a neutral platform so individuals can make an informed and unbiased decision, she said.

They were able to get responses from the majority of council candidates. Only mayoralty candidate Bob Janzen and council candidate Kevin Layton do not have any answers listed.

Questions cover such broad topics as administration and governance, arts and culture, economic development, the environment and social and equity issues. People can browse the candidates by name or bring up a particular question to view how each candidate responded.

“I think it’s really about making a more informed choice for Lethbridge residents,” said van Oers. “Let’s get Lethbridge residents engaged in the voting process and let them get informed about who they actually are voting for and what that candidate stands for. I think this survey really draws that out.”

In the 2013 municipal election cycle, Lethbridge Accountability received over 51,000 page views to the website. Van Oers has noticed quite a bit of traffic to the website already.

“In the first two days we had over 10,000 page views with 6,100 of those being new visitors. That’s partly I think because of the reputation it had in 2013,” said van Oers.

The results will remain online after the election to allow the community to reference the responses of elected council members. The results of the previous survey are also available.

The survey can be found online at http://www.lethbridgeaccountability.ca.

Follow @MelissaVHerald on Twitter

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