Students’ questions inspire election debate

Mayoral candidates Franklin Ramsoomair and Dale Ross were eager participants in yesterday’s on-campus debate held in the Concourse, touching on key issues such as student engagement and Light Rail Transit (LRT). However, the event was ultimately marked by poor attendance and the absence of fellow contenders Jan d’Ailly and incumbent Brenda Halloran.

Moderated by Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU) policy researcher Chris Hyde, the discussion began with two minute long opening statements from both candidates.

Ross began, touching on his love for Laurier as an alumnus and part-time instructor, as well as his love for the city. He explained that Waterloo’s fiscal irresponsibility with rapidly expanding infrastructure and a high tax burden is the key reason he decided to get involved with municipal politics, referencing a need for “stronger leadership.”

Ramsoomair agreed, stating that he would like to peg taxes more accordingly with the rate of inflation. He added that his clout and ability to “walk the walk” will translate into results within city hall that are amenable to both students and other residents of Waterloo.

When asked by a member of the audience how they would help improve student engagement, the candidates diverged in their approach.

Ramsoomair noted a process called “participatory budgeting” which he would institute in order to allow students to have a say in community decisions through committee work; he also touted the benefits of providing infrastructure and forums within which students can discuss issues within the city.

While Ross stated that he “would like to find out what students’ solutions are,” he added that he is not sure how to ensure participation.
“Students have a tremendous amount of political clout and they don’t use it,” he explained, stating that politicians “can’t make [student engagement] happen if [students] don’t participate.”

Both candidates also touched on the LRT proposal, each stating that it is currently financially unfeasible. As well, Ramsoomair and Ross expressed disapproval with regard to the fluoridation of Waterloo’s drinking water.
Nearing the end of the debate, Ross urged students to vote, stating that this election is extremely important as it will “determine the direction of the city for years to come.”

He also referred to his experience working within large corporations, stating that his lack of “political baggage” makes him an effective candidate.
Ramsoomair also expressed his strengths, touching on his experience in dealing with governments abroad as well as his close relationship with students.

He noted that because of his 20 years of experience in working with students, specifically at Laurier, he has a strong grasp of student issues.
“I understand what you need,” Ramsoomair told the crowd.