KW candidates answer students’ questions

On Wednesday April 27, six of the seven candidates of the Kitchener-Waterloo riding were in the University of Waterloo’s Student Life Centre, taking questions from students in a debate co-hosted by UW’s Federation of Students and the Wilfrid Laurier University Student’s Union.

New Democrat Bill Brown, the Green Party’s Cathy MacLellan, Marxist-Leninst Julian Ichim, Pirate Party candidate Steven Bradley Scott, Liberal Andrew Telegdi and independent Richard Walsh-Bowers — a psychology professor at Laurier — were all present at the debate. Absent was Conservative incumbent Peter Braid, who was at the factory of local business Sports Systems Unlimited where Prime Minister Stephen Harper was making a campaign stop.

The other candidates, meanwhile, read more into Braid’s absence.

“Look at the contempt that the local Conservative candidate has, he’s not even here,” said Telegdi when the candidates were asked about the timing of the election’s effect on student voter turnout. “Make no mistake, Stephen Harper called the election for May 2nd to suppress the student vote.”

Other candidates shared Telegdi’s views on the timing of the election and its effect on the student vote.

“How interesting that the Harper government would set the election date for May 2nd,” said Walsh-Bowers. “Do we honestly believe that they didn’t know there would be a conflict with university and college students’ participation in the vote? The timing is intentional in my opinion.”

MacLellan and Brown, meanwhile took a different stance on student involvement in this election, both citing positive experiences with young voters.

“I’m encouraged and excited with the youth enthusiasm in the vote this time, I’ve been amazed with the level of conversation online,” said MacLellan.

While Brown added, “Everywhere I’ve gone, every door I’ve knocked on, students are excited and I’m excited. We’re consuming information differently, we’re taking a look at things on the internet…. students are engaged, and we may not see it here, but they’re out there in vote mobs and taking [the election] very seriously.”

An issue that was repeatedly raised was Canada’s current ‘first past the post’ electoral system. Advocates of a proportional representation system have been criticizing the current election format for a number of years and most of the candidates argued for a change in the way Canada elects its leaders.

“The problem is that first past the post doesn’t represent [the people],” said Scott. “We need to move to a democratic model where results can encourage voters, not suppress voters. A lot of people don’t vote because they feel as though their voices won’t be heard…. so let’s switch to a system where people don’t feel like they have to vote along major party lines.”

“I think we should go further than proportional representation and allow for the people themselves to have a say in what goes on,” added Ichim. “We need to create riding associations or whatever you want to call it where the people can discuss the issues, actually have a say and tell our member of parliament what to say.”

The candidates also discussed issues ranging from the legalization of prostitution to saturation in parliament as a result of a potential proportional representation system.

The debate was streamed live by both UW’s FEDS and WLUSU, and it will be available on demand on the WLUSU website.

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