With the upcoming provincial election candidates are hard at work on the campaign trail, one of their many stops was at Laurier Brantford for an all-candidates debate and open forum on the issues affecting students.
The debate was organized jointly between WLUSU and The Sputnik as a way of helping to promote student awareness of and involvement in politics, as well as to give students an opportunity to ask questions of the candidates for the upcoming October 6 election.
The debate was held in the new Research and Academic Centre East on Monday evening.
Six of the riding’s nine candidates were in attendance. Each had time for opening comments which outlined party platforms.
Liberal incumbent Dave Levac hopes to continue his work as MPP assuring people their voices will be heard and promising a thirty percent reduction in tuition.
Progressive Conservative Michael St. Amant brought up the fact that half of Brant youth never attend a post-secondary institution and that supporting Laurier and Mohawk, as well as opening OSAP to middle-class families, would help boost that figure.
NDP candidate Brian Van Tilborg wants to bring affordable change through reducing debts, as well as a freeze on tuition prices.
Ken Burns delivered the Green Party platform of an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable future.
Independent Martin Sitko is running with a platform based around the issue of abortion, and more importantly lobbying the Supreme Court to recognize the right to life of the unborn child.
John Turmel, the final independent, delivered his platform of interest free provincial bonds after interrupting Van Tilborg’s opening remarks.
Failing to attend were representatives of the smaller Ontario parties, Dustin Jenner of the Freedom Party, Daniel Hockley of the Family Coalition Party, and Liberatarian representative Rob Ferguson.
The debate covered a wide variety of topics incorporating many questions from the students who were in attendance, on issues ranging from electoral reform, to gender equity, to the environment.
One of the highlights was a question posed regarding recent discussions about extending teachers college in Ontario to two years.
The idea is a Liberal initiative and Levac fielded the question stating that “it isn’t about the teachers, it’s about the students,” backing his point by arguing that teachers college in Ontario is the shortest in Canada.
Though Sitko seemed open to the idea most candidates were quick to point out that it was not part of their platforms, with Van Tilborg arguing it was simply a way to curb the problem of their not being enough jobs for teachers, which will just cause a blip but not eliminate the issue.
To wrap up the debate, candidates were asked to identify who they thought of as the greatest Canadian of all time. Answers varied from Levac’s Mother to Terry Fox or judges on the Supreme Court but Turmel may have taken the cake when he referred to a Canadian politician who tried to enact a social credit program “during the great depression when people were really in bad times, like you’ll be soon.”
The debate ended with candidates making a few closing comments. Burns restated the need for long term planning and parliamentary reform, while Van Tilborg promised the NDP can bring change. Turmel again spoke about the benefits of eliminating interest. St. Amant reinforced his focus on creating jobs and reducing taxes while cutting down on the government bureaucracy. Sitko spoke briefly about the legal status surrounding abortion. Levac concluded the debate by thanking students and urging everyone to go out and vote.
After the debate the candidates and students were invited the the Research and Academic Centre West for a casual social event.