Municipal candidates ignorance of student issues appalling
After spending the last few months creatively planning and following through ideas to provide coverage of Waterloo’s municipal election with the goal of engaging the student community, I can’t help but question what the city and candidates have done to achieve the same goal.
One of the most basic initiatives any government can ensure is to provide accessible polling stations to its voting population. While the city has planned to have stations at both Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, they will only serve a fraction of students.
According to the City of Waterloo’s website, the on-campus polling stations are only available to students who live in the universities’ residences. For students living off-campus, they have to follow a series of links through the city’s website to determine which polling station to attend based on their street address.
As a student without a car, living in the vicinity of University Place residence, I was not pleased to discover that I’ll have to find time in between my classes on Oct. 25 to race over to the Waterloo Public Library to vote. While it is only a short bus ride to get to Uptown, with a station already on campus I don’t quite understand the purpose of the commute.
Students already aware that there is no possibility for them to get to a polling station on election day have been left with the same two locations as the rest of the city for advanced polling – Conestoga Mall and city hall. If there is a true interest in having more than four per cent of students casting their ballots, showing an interest in the student population and placing a polling station in to their line of vision can only help build bridges.
One would hope that the city’s lack of action in engaging students would in the least be rectified by the candidates’ endeavours. Having spoken with the candidates for mayor and for Ward 6 and 7, along with having read their platforms, this does not appear to be the case.
In the mayoral race, the topic of students or the universities, which both have an incredibly positive impact on the city’s economy and global esteem, reflect an overall lack of time and critical thought put in to the matter.
Incumbent mayor Brenda Halloran, who in previous interviews has spoken in support of students’ role in the city, has no concrete plan to facilitate their involvement beyond her already existing Mayor’s Student Advisory Council and collaborative discussions with all stakeholders living in close range of the universities.
The mayoral candidate and current councillor for the student-centred Ward 6, Jan d’Ailly, has no greater presentation in support of students, listing on his campaign website his previous contributions to land use studies involving student housing, yet providing no solution for the future of accommodation in Northdale.
Dale Ross, another mayoral candidate, fails to include students in his platform at all. Although in his campaign blog Ross does question the public’s view on the “slow creep of students renting homes on existing quiet streets that current residents take great pride in” as if they are an invasion of bed bugs to the area. While his attitudes towards students seems clear, candidate Franklin Ramsoomair takes a more obscure route stating he will “address the housing and employment issues” that pertain to students.
With such a void in leadership among the mayoral candidates it’s no surprise that students don’t take an interest in municipal politics.
The issues that they care about are simply not on the agenda, or in cases such as transportation, not geared towards the implications it will have on students.
As the attitudes of candidates running in the wards, with a very few exceptions, are no better, I will not be remotely surprised when voter turnout among the student population remains persistently low as in previous years.
As a believer in the phrase “if you don’t vote, you can’t complain,” I turn the same ideology to those running for council: if you treat students as a temporary problem, you can’t complain if they treat your city as a temporary dumping ground.