On Wednesday night, the Prospect Lake Community Association was set for its debate with the five main party candidates running in Esquimalt-Sooke-Saanich.

But two independent candidates, including Christian Heritage candidate Philip Ney, decide to inject themselves. And it didn’t take long for Saanich Police officers to arrive.

“Take your hands off me,” Ney said.

The debate went momentarily off the rails while moderator Kaeley Wiseman watched Saanich police escort Christian Heritage candidate Philip Ney out of the hall.

“I think it was uncomfortable for everyone involved. And it’s nothing you ever want to manage as a volunteer facilitator,” Wiseman said.

With 21 registered parties running in the federal election, it can be tough to decide who to invite to a candidates’ debate. But organizers are not obligated to invite everyone, according to University of Victoria political science professor Michael Prince.

“There is nothing under the law that guarantees candidates the right to access. Just because they are deemed an eligible nominated candidate by Elections Canada doesn’t give them any right to access,” Prince said.

One of those candidates shut out of the debate is the Communist Party of Canada’s Tyson Riel Strandlund.  He spoke with other candidates as they arrived at the community centre.

“For a community, I think, that wants to see more youth participation in politics, I don’t know why you’d be excluding the only youth candidate,” Strandlund said.

“Based on lessons learned from the last municipal election where we had 15 candidates and not a lot of depth in the conversation, we did decide to go with the major parties as identified in the national leaders’ debate last Monday,” Wiseman said.

Uninvited candidates did have a chance to speak before and after the debate, but not at the main event.

Mary Griffin