WLUSU hosts debate for students

In an attempt to get more students at Wilfrid Laurier University involved in the upcoming provincial election, the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU) held an on-campus forum last Thursday with four of the candidates running in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding. Similarly to the federal election, this riding holds special importance because it encompasses two universities and a diverse local and student population.

The forum was moderated by Chris Hyde, WLUSU director of policy, research and advocacy and The Cord’s editor-in-chief, Linda Givetash. While only an hour long, the debate offered students the opportunity to ask the candidates questions about their concerns and issues for the Oct. 6 election.

“We really wanted to give students an opportunity to ask their questions,” Sean Madden, vice president of university affairs at WLUSU, told The Cord after the debate. “As well, I wanted the candidates to speak to kind of a unique perspective in terms of provincial politics because I can’t think of any other riding with two universities and a college.”

Ultimately, the debate focused on the issues relating to students — such as education and the growing number of university students — but also healthcare, trade and the environment. Present at the debate were incumbent Progressive Conservative candidate Elizabeth Witmer, Liberal party candidate Eric Davis, NDP candidate Isabel Cisterna and Green party candidate J.D. McGuire.

After a brief introduction from each of the candidates, the floor was then opened up to students where the first question regarded the issue of provincial debt and proposed budgets.

“So when we do it [implement the NDP budget], we’re not cutting services but enhancing them. And we’re doing it in a responsible way that puts families first,” explained Cisterna, noting that her party will balance the budget.

Davis and McGuire stated similarly to Cisterna, saying their parties will not cut services but try to control spending. Witmer, on the other hand, felt that the current McGuinty government hasn’t been responsibly controlling government spending.

“We have seen irresponsible spending in the past eight years. We have a debt, by the way, that has been doubled by the current premier,” said Witmer.

The second question of the debate was more centred around student issues, where a student asked the panel of candidates, “Why should I let everyone pay for my education?”

Davis replied to this by saying, “Fundamentally, there are some people who don’t have children and we pay for public schooling, there are some people who don’t need hospitals yet we pay for hospitals. The point is that we’re all in this together.”

One of the more interesting questions of the day — something which lightened the mood of the debate somewhat — was a question from a Twitter follower of the debate. The question was simple; asking each candidate who their all-time favourite Canadian was, where each candidate gave a different answer.

After a brief pause from political discussion, a female student came to the podium and asked how each of the candidates were going to ensure the rights of women within the sphere of health and job equality. Most of the candidates said that women’s rights and equality is still an issue to be aware of and that more women need to get involved in the political theatre.

At one point during the debate, Cisterna questioned Davis on the possibility of the Liberal party building more nuclear plants, which Cisterna believes is too expensive and detrimental to the environment, especially when more renewable options are available.

“We also have to make sure we keep nuclear energy going, at least for the time being. It makes up 50 per cent of our energy mix,” answered Davis, mentioning that the Liberal party will refurbish many of the existing plants. “We want to diversify the green energy mix but we can’t do that overnight.”

One of the concluding questions of the session was from a student who, most appropriately, asked why students are important topics of discussion during this provincial election.

“I don’t want to be singing that children are future or anything like that, but it’s true,” joked McGuire. “We’re a party focused on the future.”

“When you take a look at our future, we realize we’re going to be living in a global economy. It’s going to be extremely important that our young people have skills,” added Witmer.

“Not just professional and educational skills but social skills in order that we can continue to develop solutions to problems.”

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