K-W prepares for another election

As students move back to Waterloo and prepare for the school year, local candidates for member of provincial parliament (MPP) have already been long at work. In just over a month’s time, on Oct. 6, Ontarians will again step up to the polls to vote in the provincial election.

The region’s most heavily student-populated riding has been long held by Progressive Conservative constituent Elizabeth Witmer, who was first elected in 1990 to represent the Kitchener-Waterloo riding. In the most recent 2007 election, Witmer defeated her Liberal opponent by a margin of just under 5,000 votes.

“I’ve worked hard, and I’ve demonstrated my commitment to be responsive to the needs of this community,” Witmer commented, showing confidence in her work as the elected representative.

However, the other candidates are demonstrating equal commitment to their own unique plans and ideals. All have intentions to canvas the student neighbourhoods in hopes of attaining the crucial, yet often elusive student vote.
Green party candidate J.D. McGuire will soon be “knocking on doors in neighbourhoods that I know are student neighbourhoods, trying to listen to what they’re actually saying, not just telling them what they should care about.”
McGuire has previously run for the position of councillor in Kitchener, and as an independent candidate in the 2007 provincial election, but has since found his values more closely aligned with those of the Green party.

Often marginalized as a purely environmental party, McGuire hopes the campaign will provide the opportunity to quell this misconception.
“There’s obviously lots of environmental issues and that’s what a lot people think that’s what the Green party’s all about,” he explained.

“But I want to kind of show that we’re about different things too, and that thing to me is about being a different kind of representative that wants to listen to people and participate in discussions.”

Eric Davis, a Laurier graduate and Liberal party candidate, derived his belief in the importance of student involvement from his early years as a member of the Ontario Young Liberals. Through door-to-door campaigning, it is his goal “to make sure that people are aware that, you know, there’s an election happening … and talk to them about issues that concern students.” This will also be supported by visits to local post-secondary campuses, and the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

This level of involvement with students and the community is nothing new for NDP representative Isabel Cisterna.
“Prior to being a candidate, and prior to becoming the NDP candidate, this was my way of life,” she explained.

“It’s not something I do just because I have to go and meet people, or because somebody did invite me, or I had a meeting there.”

Like many of the other candidates, Cisterna has been struck by the difficulty of ongoing tuition increases and will to work towar freezing the cost if elected.

Through this, she aims to grant “everybody who is looking for an opportunity to learn, to do it in a way in which it doesn’t become a burden.”
Witmer also plans on tackling the tuition cost problem. In accordance with the initiatives put forth by the greater Progressive Conservative party, she hopes to create greater accessibility to financial assistance for students by increasing scholarship funds and undertaking reform to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

She explained, “One of the initiatives that our party is actually undertaking is to make … the OSAP program more available to students, to students who perhaps because of parental income, might have been deprived of an opportunity in the past.”

From Laurier’s “Get-Involved Fair” to upcoming rallies and information sessions in the region, students will soon have the opportunity to become easily involved in the political process.
And in doing so, will hopefully dispel myths of youth disinterest and create change that is so often desired, but rarely demanded.

Kitchener Centre candidates
Liberal: John Milloy (incumbent)
PC: Dave MacDonald
NDP: Cameron Dearlove
Green: Mark Vercouteren

Kitchener Conestoga
Liberal: Leeanna Pendergast
PC: Michael Harris
NDP: Mark Cairns