Local citizen creates forum for political awareness and increased votership
Written by Chris Glassford
The idea started over a drink and a conversation with a friend but Ben Labadie never expected his plan for increasing voting and accessible candidate information in Chatham-Kent to expand as large and fast as it did. Ben Labadie, real-estate agent and health advocate took on the project hoping to get more citizens aware of the candidates in their wards and to give more people a chance to see the mayoral candidates in action.
‘Live With Ben’, an internet Facebook “live” series was born and quickly gained popularity amongst Chatham-Kent. Ben is now one of the major faces of the election and with no political affiliation or bias, it is evident that Ben is doing this for the community. Ben’s events invite candidates to both one-on-one sessions and round table discussions with council hopefuls around Chatham-Kent.
One of the most active event’s held thus far was the mayoral debate on October 3rd at Ten Seven Cafe on St. Clair Street in Chatham. Approximately 100 people showed up at the event itself, while the video has since been viewed on the Live With Ben Facebook platform 8,300 times.
In addition to this event, Ben, his son Brock and Ben’s friend Daniel Brousseau, along with camera man Matthew Tape, ran from Mitchell’s Bay to Erieau on Facebook Live to prove that if they can make the trip then voters can get out and vote, and additionally if the potential voters are viewing this run on Facebook, then they have the ability to vote online.
In many cases, candidates are looking for outlets in Chatham-Kent to get out and make voters aware of their platform. Ward 6 incumbent Brock McGregor noted “It is a great opportunity to engage in honest, open conversation with the public and other political candidates” adding, “Ben has offered a platform that removes barriers for individuals trying to access information about what’s going on in our community. The platform he provides allows engagement with members of the community which is a vital component of the political process”.
The ‘Live With Ben’ event has unified wards by providing the information to all of Chatham-Kent simultaneously. Wallaceburg’s (Ward 5) candidate Nick Cadotte stated “I think Ben has done a great job of encouraging conversations within the Municipality and to broaden the spectrum of the conversations to include candidates from all wards. I encourage more people to stress the importance of getting informed and starting the conversation when it comes to elections”.
When asked why he chose to do this Labadie said it was not for recognition, it was not for himself, but for the community of Chatham-Kent.