KW candidates prepare to run
After Stephen Harper’s federal Conservative government was found to be in contempt of Parliament on Mar. 26, a general election was called and the date of May 2 set for Canadians to take to the polls. As the 41st election campaign is underway, most university students are wrapping up their last weeks of class and entering exam season — hardly an opportune time for an election.
In the last federal election in 2008, Kitchener-Waterloo, was the closest race in the country as Progressive Conservative (PC) political rookie Peter Braid edged out incumbent Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi by a margin of only 17 votes in the long-time Liberal riding.
The Cord spoke to the three candidates for Member of Parliament in Kitchener-Waterloo, home most of the year to tens of thousands of students, in the days after the campaigning began to get a sense of the role students play. All candidates have run in previous elections, though a New Democratic Party candidate for the riding has not emerged as of yet.
Telegdi rallied his supporters Mar. 26 at his campaign headquarters on University Ave. in Waterloo. “We are going to have one tough campaign and what happens in this region is going to in a strong way determine what’s going to happen nationally,” he began, moving on to discuss the turnout in the previous election — the lowest in Canadian history at 59.1 per cent of eligible voters.
“There isn’t a group of people that elections are more important to than young people,” he stated. “We need their engagement, we need their involvement and we need them going to the ballot box.”
With the election set on May 2, the day after many students’ leases end and advance polls held over the Easter weekend, Green Party candidate Cathy MacLellan feared that students being away or being caught up in moving could be detrimental to turnout. “There’s always a challenge, getting them out to the polls,” she said, adding that this isn’t the first time the election date has found many students out of Waterloo. “Every time, every time, last time it was Thanksgiving weekend,” she recalled. “Is that done on purpose? Well, you know there’s a lot of strategizing going on around elections.”
Incumbent Peter Braid also noted the complications caused by when the election falls. “I appreciate that there might be certain challenges for students given the timing of this election, it was the opposition coalition that forced the election,” he said. “I’m hoping that we have a high student turnout vote.”
MacLellan brought up issues relevant to students such as the large debts that students rack up completing their education and the job prospects available once they do leave school. “When I graduated in 1985, I had a $3,000 debt, I immediately got a job that paid $21,000,” she said. “Today somebody could be graduating from a similar program and they have a $30,000 debt … for that ratio to be the same, they’d have to make $210,000.”
Telegdi noted the importance of Waterloo Region’s strengths in technology and post-secondary education. “The most important investment we can make in this country, where we end up competing with the rest of the world, is post-secondary education, early childhood education and research and development,” he said.
Braid explained that post-secondary issues have and will remain important in government. “I’m really proud of the support that we’ve provided as a government to students,” he said, adding that he relies on student volunteers in the lead up to the election. “Students will continue to be a key part of my campaign team.”
Green candidate MacLellan explained that in the previous election she had done well in areas with high concentrations of students. “So is the student vote important, for me? Yes, I could win on a student vote alone,” she said.
Laurier professor Richard Walsh-Bowers has declared his candidacy as an independent in the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo
Stay tuned to thecord.ca and @cordnews on Twitter for updates throughout the campaign