Laurier represented in local campaigns

Byron Williston: Green Party candidate, Kitchener Centre

For most university professors, the month of April is dominated by grading term papers and proctoring final exams. But this year, Wilfrid Laurier University philosophy prof Byron Williston has found himself doing something a little different.

As the Green Party candidate for Kitchener Centre, Williston’s month has been dominated by debates, campaign rallies and knocking on doors in his riding.

“Luckily, the election was called almost the day after my classes ended, so that was good timing,” said Williston, who also serves as chair of Laurier’s philosophy and religion and culture departments. “I’ve had pretty much the whole month to do election work and my committee work at school, but that being said, it’s been a really busy time, it’s quite the learning curve for me.”

This election marks the first time Williston has been involved in politics and when asked what made him want to be a Green Party candidate, he cited both his background as a specialist in environmental ethics, having recently written a book called Environmental Ethics for Canadians and the current state of affairs in the nation.

“I’m a little appalled at the lack of attention the other parties have given to the climate change issue,” said Williston. “I talk to a lot of students and I get the impression that it’s a major issue for young people, but the two major parties are really saying nothing about it all…. I never had designs to run for parliament, but I felt morally obliged to do so.”

Considering his academic background, it is no surprise that the Greens were the party for Williston. The Vancouver native possesses an undergraduate degree from Carleton, a master’s from the University of Ottawa and a Ph.D from the University of Toronto, with his main area of interest revolving around nature, climate change and other environmental issues.

After getting his doctorate in philosophy from U of T, Williston taught at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla, but only stayed for three years, before coming back to Canada to teach at WLU. “I couldn’t stand Florida, there were no winters, it freaked me out,” laughed Williston.

Being a prof, Williston sees first-hand the problems that exist when it comes to student voter turnout and although his riding is does not have as high of a student population as the neighbouring Kitchener-Waterloo, he still encourages students to get out and vote.

“Last election 41 per cent of eligible voters didn’t vote and a lot of them were young people,” he said. “That 18-35 demographic is where most college and university students fit in and my message to them is not even to ‘vote for me’ but just ‘vote.’ Find out where your polling station is, get informed and just vote”

Justin Fauteux

Bob Rosehart: Liberal Party candidate, Kitchener Conestoga

It wasn’t until this year’s election that Bob Rosehart, Wilfrid Laurier University’s ex-president and Liberal candidate for Kitchener-Conestoga, was fully able to devote his time to politics.

“Well, I’ve been tempted many times over the last 30 years for a variety of parties, for a variety of ridings and for a variety of elections. But also had some commitment to the universities I was heading,” the recently retired Rosehart explained. “This time when they approached me, I really didn’t have any reason to say no.”

As a first time candidate, Rosehart noted his positivism and the current state of politics in Canada as some of the reasons why he took the initiative to run.

“I think Canada is a country of opportunity, and I must admit that in the last couple of years there has been far too much doom and negativism in politics,” continued Rosehart. “I thought on my own way that I might be able to make a difference.”

According to Rosehart, some of the issues of concern in the Kitchener-Conestoga riding – which is approximately one-third rural – are job security, pensions and healthcare. He also stated that poverty, especially in the rural areas, is an issue that must be addressed in that particular riding.

When the campaign began, Kitchener-Conestoga set up a virtual town hall meeting where the residents answered a poll that enabled them to input what issues they thought were the most important during the election. Leading the poll with 30 per cent was “trust and integrity” in government.

“Trust and integrity really hit a cord, which is again fundamentally one of the reasons why I’m out there on the hustings,” said Rosehart.

With his vast experience with students at both Lakehead University and WLU, Rosehart said he has always been a strong supporter of the student cause and that the government should be invested in their young people.

“I’m a little discouraged by some of the initiatives that make it not as easy for students to vote. It’s very important for students to go out and vote,” he added. “No matter what party they vote for, it’s important in a democracy to practise that democracy.”

As well, Rosehart expressed his support for the Liberal party’s appeal to offer a thousand dollars to first-year university students. He also pointed out his distaste for Stephen Harper’s removal of the Canadian millennium scholarship awards.

When asked about how the campaign was going, Rosehart concluded by saying, “It’s like starting up a company, and you have to finish your business in five weeks.”

“It’s kind of like an adrenaline push. I don’t mind it.”

Justin Smirlies

Laurier professor Richard Walsh-Bowers is also running in the election. Click here for his profile.