Laurier hosts mayoral candidates for debate

Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

Last Thursday three of the four Waterloo mayoral candidates gathered at Wilfrid Laurier University for a debate in the concourse.

The debate, which was moderated by local media personality Mike Farwell, was the first of two being held by the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, Wilfrid Laurier University Student Publications and the Federation of Students at the University of Waterloo. Erika Traub,

Dave Jaworksy and Rami Said were present, however Dave MacDonald was unable to attend.

Farwell started the debate off by asking candidates why they thought the 55,000 students in Waterloo should vote for them and how candidates would reach out to students. The common answer was that candidates would work to increase the relationship between students and the mayor’s office. Jaworsky asserted a bond between universities and the office might help student issues further come to light at city council.

“I want a strategic relationship between the city and the universities,” he continued.
Rami Said and Erika Traub argued for a more direct approach, with Said specifying a desire for meetings with student representatives.

“I want to have monthly, or at least quarterly meetings, with WLU, UW and Conestoga students’ unions,” said Said.
Traub promised advocacy for students.

“We have a lot of really good people coming here and you need to know that you have an advocate. I am an advocate,” said Traub. “That’s what I offer you: a commitment to hearing you and working with you.”

Farwell stated the most important factor in ensuring students stay in the region after they graduate is job availability. He then asked how candidates would increase employment opportunities for students, if elected mayor.

“Manufacturing is starting to come back to Canada, and I believe Waterloo could take a head start bringing it here,” Said stated. “We have a great tech and phenomenal insurance industry, but anybody who doesn’t lie in those two sectors tends to fall through the cracks.”

He went on to mention that he would help bring industry back to the region to aid in increasing various means of employment for the community.

Jaworsky mentioned jobs were the reason he and his wife, upon graduation from UW, started their family in the area. He detailed reasons why the community has lost employment, such as the decline of Blackberry, the economic downturn and manufacturing outsourcing.

“The Waterloo region, founded 40 years ago, has never had an economic strategy,” Jaworsky said. “To the world, Waterloo and Waterloo region, there is a lot of difference when you’re looking from China.”

Finally, Traub asserted the way to increase employment opportunities for graduates in the region might be removing red tape for businesses, possibly making it easier for new companies to come to Waterloo.

“My commitment is to make sure that we remove the roadblocks, which I have heard repeatedly stand in the way of progress,” said Traub. “We have a bureaucracy that is causing businesses to move elsewhere.”

Candidates were also asked about what role students have in the Waterloo community. Traub explained she believes that students’ real role is to come to the city and succeed.

“The role of the students is to commit to their purpose, study hard, work hard and get their degree so that they leave or stay in Waterloo, feeling like they’ve grown,” said Traub. “Your role is to come here and further yourself.”

Said stated that students should be more involved in city politics and that their role is really to be a part of the community.

“This will become their city as much as ours,” he said.

Jaworsky focused on students coming here to not only be educated, but to stay and bring innovative ideas to the city.

“We need to make sure it’s a top priority to get people to stay here,” he said.

The debate ended a few minutes shy of two hours and gave students a real chance to see candidates at their school and hear about their positions in a more casual setting. One of the event organizers, Rick Camman, vice president of student affairs for the Students’ Union, thought the debate was a great success.

“I actually thought the event went perfectly as planned, especially having Mike there. He was actually able to decipher what the candidates were saying to give a fair, clear message and to give more detail,” said Camman.

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