Covering Irricana’s byelection candidate forum on May 7, it was hard not to notice the clear division happening within the community.
During the forum, residents and candidates broke out into an argument over the question, ‘What does Irricana need to change?’ The heated back-and-forth made it evident there is some ongoing animosity in the community, and perhaps some miscommunication.
With all of the ongoing issues in a town of less than 1,500 people, at least they can say their residents are paying attention.
It can be a bit surprising to see a small community have such a lack of unity, but sometimes small-town politics are what get residents most involved, due to the immediate impact on their lives.
The byelection campaign hasn’t been very peaceful – multiple residents spoke of campaign signs being vandalized following the forum, and showed photos of signs that were broken in half.
During an argument at the forum, one resident spoke out to say the division stemmed from the byelection. He felt social media posts were a big driver in widening the community’s divide and said he’d never seen neighbours and friends turn against each other like they are doing now.
Another resident called into question the legitimacy around online posts about unsafe chlorine levels in the Town’s water. Whether there is truth behind it or not, several online posts have discussed the chlorine levels and questioned whether it is higher than safety standards allow.
When problems arise, elected officials must listen, said one candidate in response to what Irricana needs to change. They said council works for residents and must respond to their concerns.
In many ways, Irricana’s division could be indicative of society as a whole. Canada has seen an increase in “us against them” mindsets in the last few years, exacerbated by politics at the provincial and national level. It’s a shame, but logical to assume this division would carry over to small-town politics as well.