Candidates square off
If today’s youth are apathetic about federal politics, it wasn’t evident during an all-candidates meeting at Moscrop secondary Tuesday morning.
Four candidates from the Burnaby-Douglas riding participated—New Democrat Kennedy Stewart, the Green Party’s Adrianne Merlo, Liberal Ken Low, and George Gidora of the Communist Party.
Serving as moderator, Moscrop teacher Patrik Parkes noted that Conservative Ronald Leung was invited but declined to attend, citing a “doorknocking appointment.”
Those that did attend fielded questions from about 300 students on a number of topics, including the labelling of genetically-modified foods, global warming, making post-secondary education more affordable and job creation.
Merlo, presenting the Green Party’s environmental platform, appeared to garner the most interest from students (judging by the dozen or so who stopped to speak with her afterwards).
Referring to other issues being debated by federal parties, Merlo said, “All these issues are important but if we don’t do anything about climate change, none of it will matter.”
As for what the parties would do first to reduce global warming, Stewart said the NDP would remove $2 billion in subsidies to oil companies and divert the money towards public transit.
Merlo said the Greens would also cut subsidies to polluting industries, such as oil and coal producers, cap pollution, tax polluters, increase the price of products that are bad for the environment and invest in renewable energy sources.
The Liberals, Low said, support a cap-and-trade system of reducing overall emissions from industries.
When it comes to making post-secondary education more affordable, Gidora (Communist) said his party would make university “free and fully accessible,” funded partly by increased taxes on corporations.
The Liberals are proposing a $1,000-a-year grant for four years for students to use to attend college or university, partly funded by cutting a corporate tax break, Low said.
That’s “not going to cut it,” said Stewart, when students are spending up to $20,000 a year on tuition, housing and books.
The NDP introduced a “post-secondary education act” which would treat education like health care, with adequate and universal funding across Canada, along with a grant program to help reduce student debt.
The Greens, meanwhile, would tax corporations such as oil companies and shift the money to support the middle class, said Merlo. It also proposes forgiving student loans of medical students who agree to practise in rural communities to address doctor shortages there.
As for what parties would do to increase job opportunities for young Canadians, Stewart cited a recent study that concluded that by 2020, 90 per cent of high school students will have to finish university for Canada to compete in the global economy.
“The only way forward is through education,” and making such education more affordable, he said.
Merlo said job opportunities will come as Canada adopts a green economy with a focus on areas such as alternative energy sources.
“Not everyone wants to go to university,” she said. “There will be those jobs in a green economy.”
The Liberals will provide incentives for small businesses to hire young people, said Low, who added dealing with the economy is his party’s strong point.
“In 2006 we left the government with a $13-billion surplus and a year later the Conservatives turned it into a $12-billion deficit.”