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Will petitions have any impact?

With discussion around the proposed airport tunnel heating up, two candidates have launched online petitions — but the impact may be minimal,  according to one political scientist.

With discussion around the proposed airport tunnel heating up, two candidates have launched online petitions — but the impact may be minimal, according to one political scientist.

Ald. Bob Hawkesworth, the only mayoral candidate vocally opposing the airport tunnel, launched his online petition www.noairporttunnel.ca on Aug. 19.

Fellow candidate Naheed Nenshi, who is in favour of the tunnel, officially launched his site www.buildthetunnel.ca on Wednesday.

According to campaign representatives for both candidates, Hawkesworth’s petition tally is around 1,400, while Nenshi’s is nearing 1,000.

While both camps said numbers are growing, Duane Bratt said these online petitions might not be an accurate gauge of people’s feelings on the issues or support of the candidates.

“Quite frankly, this has become probably the big issue of the campaign. Almost every candidate has gone on one side or the other,” said Bratt, an associate professor of political science at Mount Royal University.

“The fact that one guy has 1,400 signatures out of a million and the other has 1,000 out of a million isn’t going to change the arguments.”

Peter Rishaug of CivicCamp said it’s important to consider where the support for these petitions is coming from.

Many of those who have signed the petitions may have already been supporters of the candidates themselves, he said.

“The overall effectiveness (of online petitions) is undetermined as of yet,” he said.

Bratt said that, while these petitions may have little impact on the election, the topic is generating discussion about transportation policy.

 
 
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