Calgary Centre candidates come to MRU discuss the future of Canada’s education, economy and security
Nina Grossman, News Editor
Election time is almost here MRU! Spirits are high, Facebook arguments are running rampant and candidates are letting their claws come out! Okay not really…at least not in the case of the Calgary Centre riding, whose candidates met in Wyckham House for a debate on Sept. 23. Actually they were quite respectful, with minimal eye rolls and almost no interrupting (unlike the Federal Party leaders who have become increasingly sassy with one another). NDP Candidate Jillian Ratti expressed her deep personal and professional goals to eliminate student debt and increase accessibility to education. Young Green Party candidate, Thana Boonlert spoke candidly about the Green Party’s plan for investing in a greener future. Liberal candidate Kent Hehr discussed the countries need for equality in opportunity. Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt was well…not there. Here’s a quick breakdown of the debate in case you couldn’t make it.
All three candidates agreed that changes should be made to Canada’s education system. Both Ratti and Boonlert spoke of personal student debts that continues to hold them back financially. “(Student debt) is shackling,”said Ratti. “It’s holding us back as a nation. We cannot move forward if everybody is trying to pay off massive loans into their 30s and 40s. The NDP has proposed a post-secondary education act which would stabilize tuition over the long term, promote academic freedom as well as ensure public delivery of education in general.” In a phone interview, Ratti told me that her party plans also to implement $250 million dollars in grant tuition, and their post secondary education bill would ensure “long-term stable funding to post secondary.”“I think the NDP has a pretty good plan when it comes to eliminating student debt and increasing accessibility,”she said confidently. Boonlert was on the same page. “The green party just recently announced that by 2020 we would like to completely abolish student tuition,” he said to a round of applause from students. “Everybody deserves equality and a chance to expand their knowledge,”he went on. “And (the Green Party) would also make it illegal for interns to not get paid.” Hehr explained that the Liberals want to continue to expand opportunities both for the postsecondary realm and also in the skilled trades. “Right now only 17% of our students have the ability to get into post secondary,”he said. “That’s the lowest percent of students participating in post secondary across this nation.” Hehr said that the Liberals post secondary platform would be coming out over the next few weeks. Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt had no comment because she wasn’t there.
For a lot of students, employment seems far away, but we’ve all heard the horror stories about poetry majors working at Starbucks. Okay maybe they should have seen that coming. But even students enrolled in what they thought were highly employable fields have ended up in jobs that they didn’t want, or with no job at all. “Youth unemployment is not only a challenge in Canada, its throughout the Western world,”said Hehr. “Milleennnial’s all over the globe are facing the challenges of the evolving modern economy with more computers, technology, innovation and the like as well as baby boomers who are working longer. There is going to be no silver bullet to this solution.”Hehr went on to explain that the Liberal party has “also outlined (a) youth unemployment program, to try and direct more money into opportunities for people to succeed, to allow them to take part in new challenges and new horizons that are emerging.” Jillian Ratti claimed that the NDP have a plan to avoid this future for Canada’s young people. The NDP will implement “a 40 million dollar fund for youth unemployment which would help increase jobs for young people and increase funding to paid internships to try and get students in to job in their own fields,”she said. “The NDP is totally against unpaid internships.” Boonlert said he understands that “to get that initial first job in your field is really tough.”He explained that the Green Party would like to create a $100 million dollar fund for municipalities across the country to hire Canadian youth. Crockatt had little to say on the topic.
Ah the Canadian economy…certainly a topic on the minds of many Canadians. Unfortunately most of us are not economists, and so are left to trust our leaders and their promises of jobs and money and rainbows and kittens. Hehr explained that the Liberal party is taking the “realist’s”approach. “We’re the only party who has said ‘Look, we’re not going to balance the budget next year.’We’re going to make significant investments in infrastructure, hopefully that will keep the economy going during the downtown and make jobs available while the price of oil is low,”said Hehr. “(The Liberals) are actually following what most economists say is a reasonable approach; investing heavily in infrastructure here in Calgary and other places.”
Ratti discussed the importance of small businesses to the economy. “(Small business) is critical. It’s where the vast number of jobs actually come from. The NDP Platform is decreasing small business tax by two percent.”The NDPs platform details planning for an increase in corporate tax to fund some of the other programs that (they’re) proposing. “Personal taxes are meant to stay exactly the same,”said Ratti. “And I think that’s a common misconception about the NDP party.” Boonlert laid down the specifics of the Green Party’s economic plan, which was not dissimilar to their orange competition. “Like the NDP, we would like to decrease the small business tax from 11 to 9 % and we would like also to increase corporate tax back to 2009 levels, to 19%,”he said. Crockatt had no comment at that time.
The controversial anti-terrorism bill introduced by the Conservative Party has many Canadians concerned. Vague and ambiguous language in the bill could leave the door open for unconstitutional investigations and some people worry even moves Canada in the direction of a police state. “Bill C-51 is a horrible piece of legislation and it needs to be repealed,”said Ratti. . “IIt’s not right to be taking away our rights and freedoms this way.”She went on to explain that the NDPs have firmly opposed the bill since it was introduced. “There’s neither a terrorist hiding behind every tree or a spy under every rock, “said Hehr. “In the next three years (the Liberals) will decide whether we need the bill (C-51) or not.”Boonlert too stood in firm opposition of the bill.“I think the answer is quite simple here. We need to repeal the bill,”he said. “The green party was the first party to oppose this bill.”Crockatt remained mute on the subject.
Regardless of what party you’re planning to vote for and why, just make sure you go out and exercise a democratic right denied to many. Your voice really does matter MRU. For more information on Federal parties and their platforms, cbc.ca has you covered. Still don’t know who to vote for? Visit votecompass.com to see where you line up with Canada’s parties. Unsure where to vote? Visit elections.ca to find out your riding and where you can go cast your ballot.