Kichener-Waterloo candidates face raucous crowd

On April 19, the seven Member of Parliament (MP) candidates for the Kitchener-Waterloo riding in the upcoming federal election gathered at RIM Park to debate.

Present were Peter Braid of the Conservative party, the riding’s incumbent MP, Andrew Telegdi of the Liberals, Bill Brown of the NDP, Green candidate Cathy McLellan, independent Richard Walsh-Bowers, Pirate Party candidate Steven Scott, and Marxist/Leninist representative Julian Ichim. The candidates debated on the most poignant issues of the moment, including military spending, international relations, and balancing the budget.

Braid had a strong focus on keeping taxes low and continuing the stimulation of Canada’s economy. He also referenced the Conservatives’ plans to balance the budget faster than other parties planned to, with other parties aiming for 2015, and the Conservatives aiming for 2014. Walsh-Bowers and Ichim were in concurrence that corporate tax cuts have exacerbated the wealth gap among Canadian citizens.

“I think we have to be careful when implementing a balanced budget process,” said Brown, who stated that an NDP government would balance the budget slowly over the course of their first four years in power.

Braid also echoed federal candidate Stephen Harper in expressing his dissatisfaction with the contempt vote which led to the election, calling the vote “manufactured.”

“The only contempt that we’ve seen is contempt with Canadians for having this election,” Braid announced to a chorus of boos from the audience.

Despite the obvious presence of Conservative supporters, Braid was subject throughout the night to jeering and booing from members of the audience. While the parties were divided on most of the issues, all joined in criticizing the Conservative stance on a forced, unnecessary election by the opposition parties.

“Elections are something that people all over the world wish they could have,” retorted Scott, noting the particular relevance of the democratic process in light of uprisings in the Arab world.

The Conservative plan to spend roughly $30 billion on F-35 fighter jets was an issue of contention between candidates, and drew most of the broader discussion on military spending. Although Braid defended the decision as an economically prosperous, job creation opportunity, it did little to placate the barrage of anti-war and anti-Afghanistan comments from several of the candidates.

“What a shame that the quality of our economy relies on the ability to produce weapons of mass destruction,” commented Walsh-Bowers dryly. His sentiments were reiterated by the Green party representative McLellan, who criticized weapon production as a means of job creation.

This commentary on Canada’s militarism tied neatly into a discussion of Canada’s role in the international community. Telegdi was adamant in emphasizing the loss of Canada’s Security Council seat at the United Nations under the Conservative government, as well as their failure to take conclusive action in African aid. Brown noted the need for the elimination of the patent system to put more generic drugs into the system, while Ichim harshly denoted the government’s lack of action as “murder.”

The issue of student involvement, a topic of particular relevancy to the heavily student-populated region, generated a variety of responses on what is required to generate interest. As a current student of the University of Waterloo, Brown provided a unique perspective on interaction between voters and politicians. He cited his direct communication with students as a basis for understanding the desperate need for lower tuition costs. Telegdi, referring to the inopportune timing of the election, claimed that “It’s nothing more than voter’s oppression.”

The election falls after most students have finished their semester, and early voting opportunities conflict with the upcoming Easter holiday.

Though the Conservative government has been accused of alienating students, Braid informed the audience that he has been reaching out to college and university students as well as secondary school students, whom he believes are “the voters of tomorrow.” Braid also pointed out the numerous students he has working on his campaign team.

Though the debate held no particular conclusion, each candidate spent the evening attempting to sell their party as the strongest. Voter loyalty and voters decisions may have been highly impacted by the responses, or lack there of, from the participating candidates.

“It’s unfortunate,” Brown said. “That Canadians feel they have to vote strategically. This is Canada, voters should vote from the heart, not against the party they hate the most.”

The Federal Election takes place May 2nd, though students can vote early during the week at the Elections Canada office located at 230 Regina street in Waterloo.