Student Ambassadors cover the campaign, making headlines in the process
Last week, we asked the Student Ambassador Network to show or tell us how the 2015 federal election is unfolding in their electoral district. We would like to share some the outstanding responses that we’ve received, including interviews with candidates, interviews with family and friends, and experiences at all-candidates’ debates.
COVERING THE LOCAL CAMPAIGN
Isabella in Victoria, British Columbia
The Campaign in my community is a two-way race between NDP candidate Murray Rankin and Green Party candidate Joanne Roberts. The Liberal Candidate resigned after some controversial Facebook posts, and the Conservative Party hasn’t won here in over 25 years. I have been to many NDP events and have volunteered on my local NDP candidate’s campaign. It has been harder to campaign these days as one of the biggest ways to gain or solidify support is to call people, but now with caller ID, over 70% of the people do not pick up. Many Canadians also don’t read flyers in their mailbox. The biggest way to get voters is social media, but that can be problematic if the candidate posts anything that can be misinterpreted. I would say the NDP is still going to win this seat, because a lot of people know Murray Rankin and support to him, but Joanne Roberts is definitely giving him a run for his money.
Simonne in Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge, British Columbia
My community of Pitt Meadows shares a riding with the city beside us, Maple Ridge. We have 5 candidates running in this election: Bob D’Eith of the NDP Party, Mike Murray of the Conservative Party, Dan Ruimy of the Liberal Party, Peter Tam of the Green Party, and an Independent, Steve Ranta. Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge usually votes either Conservative or NDP, with Randy Camp from the Conservative party winning the last election. This year there was a prediction of a tight race and it has held up to be true. When driving around looking at the campaign signs, it is close between Mike Murray and Bob D’Eith. There are more Conservative signs in Maple Ridge, whereas the NDP seems to have more support in Pitt Meadows. I love driving around and seeing all of the support for our local candidates and seeing people so proud of their party that they want to show off who they’ll be voting for. Signs have been up since the middle of September and it seems like on every morning walk to school there are more and more. There have been three debates held for all of the candidates this year. The first was on September 29th, which had a turnout of over 100 people, and the last on October 6th, drawing a crowd of 200 to our local private school. The discussions centred around affordable housing, Canada’s international reputation, the C-51 anti-terror Bill, and mandatory vaccines for kids before they go to school. Even though the economy is a big part of the Conservative Party’s platform, it was not really discussed at any of the debates. When I talked to the adults in my life, my teachers, parents, and neighbours, I found the issues that were important to them are healthcare, seeing an increase in available family doctors, housing costs, aid for middle income families, job security (especially for teachers), and funding for seniors. It has been a tight race so far and everyone I have talked to seems to be leaning different ways for a variety of reasons. I love seeing all of our local candidates campaign with a common goal of being elected and making a big difference for our community. It has been an interesting campaign and I am looking forward to finding out who gets elected in my riding and who will be the next Prime Minister of Canada.
Callista in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, British Columbia
I had the opportunity to attend a Green Party rally in Squamish featuring my local green candidate, Ken Melamed and the party leader, Elizabeth May. The event was called, ‘Defending Our Coast Green Party Rally.’ It was an interesting event and we had the chance to get a picture with Elizabeth herself. It ended up in the Squamish Chief newspaper. Talking to a lot of Squamish residents and students, the environment and the economy is a hot topic. With the struggle for Woodfibre LNG to set up their base on the Howe Sound, there are lots of opinions for and against the project. There is definitely a clear divide between our environmental concerns and economic development. A lot of people have expressed to me that they want the Green Party to win but they’re worried the vote will ‘split’ so they’re planning to vote for our Liberal or NDP candidate. I personally think that is silly and people should just vote with whom they agree with, and where their values lie for the future of this country whether it is Green, Liberal, Conservative or NDP. My social justice class is also running our school election! Which is exciting and I’m very excited to see the results of the students from my school.
Joel in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
Within my riding, the race has been pretty static. Most rural people support Randy Hoback, who is the Conservative candidate. Lon Borgerson, the NDP candidate, has also attracted some support in the rural areas. This is interesting because you’ve got two different worldviews competing for votes in the rural areas. There are plenty of rural people in my riding and not all of them are farmers. There are a lot of people in Prince Albert who commute into town and live out of town. Within the city of Prince Albert, most people are supporting either Borgerson or Hoback. For the past 15 years or so, the Liberal voter base has been shrinking. In terms of the campaign itself, I’ve seen a few of the debates held by the candidates. Mr. Hoback has mostly stuck to defending the record of the Harper Conservative Government, especially in regards to local infrastructure investment and lower taxes. Both Mr. Borgerson and Mr. Gordon Kirkby, the Liberal candidate, have spoken about their party’s plan for change. The campaign has been civil thus far, with no controversial statements made about candidates personally. The campaign here is about different plans for both the riding and Canada, not throwing mud at other candidates.
Nicholas in Oakville, Ontario
Since the end of August, I have had the privilege of being involved in the Oakville Conservative campaign where the incumbent, Terence Young, is seeking re-election. During my time working with Mr. Young’s campaign, I have gone canvassing in various parts of the Oakville riding which has taught me invaluable social skills as I have had the opportunity to interact with hundreds of constituents and have had very meaningful conversations with them. While working with the campaign, I have learned about all of the important work Mr. Young has done in Ottawa since being elected in 2008, such as being able to secure substantial infrastructure funding for Oakville, creating and passing a bill named Vanessa’s law which protects Canadians from harmful prescription drugs, and continuing to protect Oakville’s interests. After hearing all of his accomplishments and successes he has had while representing my riding, I began to realize that Terence truly devotes all of his time and effort into looking out for Oakville and Canada and works tirelessly to serve our community. Before getting involved with the campaign, I was not very familiar with the electoral process and how elections functioned. Fortunately, my experience over the past two months has taught me all about elections in Canada and I am looking forward to being a scrutineer on Election Day. I am truly grateful for the life changing opportunity I have been given and I look forward to being much more involved in future elections and maybe serve the Canadian people one day.
Robert in Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, Ontario
Rural ridings, such as Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, have very different values and needs than most urban ridings. Agriculture is a common means of living in this area, and the policies and trade agreements set forth by each of the parties will certainly play a role in the vote. A predominantly middle-class region, many voters are looking for support from each of the candidates and their party’s platforms. However, it goes without saying that countless citizens feel as if the nearby cities of Ottawa and Kingston are encroaching on the area’s long tradition of rural culture and lifestyle. The preservation of natural ecosystems, management of natural resources, and dedication to agriculture is what rural ridings need to succeed, and I feel that whichever party is strongest on these three points is likely to win.
Sydney in Langley-Aldergrove, British Columbia
My riding is currently being represented by Mark Warawa of the Conservative Party. Warawa was elected in 2006. During his time as a Member of Parliament, Warawa has worked to improve justice, human rights, emergency preparedness, and public safety. Mr. Warawa is now running to be re-elected as an MP and he is competing with Leon Jensen, Margot Sangster, and Simmi Dhillon. Leon Jensen, who is a member of the Liberal Party, is a retired Canadian Forces lieutenant who is passionate about serving his community and country. A member of the New Democratic Party, Margot Sangster, has recently worked in Afghanistan as a technical advisor. She is passionate about delivering solutions to challenges in our community and hopes to strengthen our city and the people in it. The fourth candidate for MP is Simmi Dhillon, and she is a member of the Green Party. Dhillon is dedicated to act on climate change in our community. While I have not had the opportunity to attend a debate or campaign event, I have researched all the candidates. I have visited them on their party’s page, discussed the topic with my peers and family, and paid attention to my local news. After extensive research, I have decided who I would vote for.
Student Ambassadors from four different schools across the country made headlines for their role in organizing and participating in all-candidates’ debates.
Jack in Simcoe-Grey attended a debate held at his high school that featured every candidate in the riding! He was able to meet the candidates afterwards and learn about their party’s ideas in detail. The event was covered by local media, and you can read about it here.
Sadia in Stevenson-Richmond East attended the all-candidates’ debate at her school and took the opportunity to ask the NDP and Conservative representatives about an issue that she says concerns her and many of her fellow citizens. Her question and the candidates’ responses were reported in the Richmond News.
Shannon in Cumberland-Colchester watched her school’s debate with her Grade 12 Law class. The class had compiled a list of 20 questions to ask the candidates, but weren’t able to because of enthusiasm from the rest of the student body. Her fellow students rushed to the stage of the auditorium to address the candidates directly.
“It was extremely motivating to see how many people in my schools had something to say,” she explains. “It demonstrated how much students care despite not being of age to vote.”
Her school’s debate was featured in the Truro Daily News.
Mahdi and Sophie in Richmond Hill were appointed by their teacher to ask the opening questions at their school’s all-candidates’ debate. Liberal candidate Majid Jowhari commended the Student Ambassadors and their classmates for the quality of the questions they posed.
“I think we should have come here first, before he did the [chamber of commerce] debate because these are amazing questions,” he said.
The debate covered a wide range of issues from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to Bill C-51, to Canadian refugee policy. You can read more about what the students and candidates had to say here.
INTERVIEWS WITH CANDIDATES
Peyton in Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, Ontario
To complete her second mandate, Peyton reached out to her local candidates for a one-on-one interview. So far, she has received responses from Green Party candidate Lorraine Rekmans and Conservative Party incumbent George Brown. You can check out her full blog post here.
Jérémy in Gaspésie-Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine
Jérémy created a YouTube video featuring an audio recording of his interview with NDP candidate Philip Toone.
Olivia in Oxford, Ontario
Olivia also reached out to her local candidates and was able to interview NDP candidate Zoe Kunschner and Conservative incumbent Dave Mackenzie.
Interview with NDP candidate Zoe Kunschner
O: What are the main points in your platform, and are there any that relay specifically towards the population in Oxford County?
Z: The pillar of our platform is the 15$ a day childcare, not only will that have a HUGE economic boost, it makes childcare affordable and lets working families get back into the workforce.
Oxford is agriculture under supply management, and very very heavy on the auto industry. Which is why for this entire campaign I have been on about the Trans-Pacific Partnership which has come down today, and is a signed deal. Oxford County is basically the “eye of the storm”, and the two main economic drivers of our county are now in complete jeopardy with what Harper has done.
Our environmental platform is huge. It’s very closely connected with our economic platform. A lot of the green energy jobs that are going to help our country get back on a good economic standpoint is going to be through developing sustainable energy. Oxford County is leading the pack already! The county itself has come up with some great initiatives, and I really think an NDP government is going to help make us a centre of excellence.
I think of how big our platform is, and those three are the main points that really have an impact on Oxford.
O: I was wondering if your platform had anything specific for youth, especially those that are new voters or people currently in school?
Z: We have a fantastic youth platform, not only working with the provinces to properly fund our universities, our government wants to get back into funding the research done by universities. It’s ridiculous how expensive tuition is. Some of the most innovative parts of our country come out of our university programs. The government,
- Has to have an active role not only in funding these programs,
- But working with the provinces to get tuition rates to an amount where young people can actually graduate with a manageable debt load that you don’t have to spend the next 30 years paying off.
Our youth employment strategy is to use the existing government organizations we have, whether its Crown corporations, municipalities, provinces to create job opportunities. We’ve put on the table 40,000 youth jobs just by getting young people working in government. We want to make sure that people trying to get into the workforce get paid internships. Why should you still having to pay rent, still having to pay living expenses, be working for free? Who is that benefiting? The company, not you. We definitely want to put an end to unpaid internships.
I also personally had a problem when they put in Student Minimum Wage. Is student work any less relevant than someone my age working? No. We definitely want to make sure that our youth are paid fairly and that they have access to jobs.
O: Why do you think it’s important for youth 18-24 to vote?
Z: It’s your future. Why would you want a bunch of what we have right now, old people sitting in Parliament making decisions about your life, about the quality of jobs that may or may not be available for you? It’s one of those things that unless you get engaged at a young age, you’re never going to be engaged. Unfortunately in a democracy, if you’re not actively involved in the democracy, you’re going to end up with what we have right now – a dictatorship that will determine for us what they want done.
If young people don’t vote, then your concerns won’t be taken seriously and that’s not a way to engage you. I think once we get a government and a member of the local party that’s actually interested in bringing youth to the table, they will ask “hey, what are your concerns and how can we work together?” Having an NDP government is going to be so different for this country because we are about partnership and about listening and about that grassroots movement. The government under its current form is reactionary, whereas with us we’re on the ground and talking to people so our policy basically comes from the ground up, not the other way around.
O: Do you have any advice to youth that want to pursue politics, or want to start getting active with the government?
Z: Just do it! It is so rewarding when you get involved in your community. Whether it’s the environment, or sports, there are so many ways to get involved! Getting involved when you’re younger helps you gain your confidence and it helps you get those connections and helps you build a wonderful resume. My motto is, the more people that we can bring to the table, the more effectively we can bring about change.
O: Thank you so much for your time and best of luck in the Election!
Interview with Conservative incumbent Dave Mackenzie
O: What are the main points in your platform, and are there any points that affect Oxford County?
D: This election we’re going to build on the things that we’ve already done. There will be additional tax credits for widows and seniors, the 2016/2017 taxation year will have home renovation tax credits and it will amount to 15%, up to 5000$. It is good for the contractors in Oxford and others.
The Prime Minister announced a “Hub” of Excellence which will be placed in the Burlington area. This will connect manufacturers with people who need their product, but more importantly it will build the Canadian brand and the brand of our manufacturers.
O: Actually, building off the manufacturing point, do you think that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will affect that at all?
D: No I don’t, because today the Prime Minister announced a billion dollars for the auto industry going forward, and that can be used for a variety of things in the auto sector. The other thing that I’ve noticed is that whenever we do anything there is always that “fear of the unknown”. People always tend to air on the side that it will be disastrous. Interestingly, the Japanese auto manufacturers that are in Canada today export 6 times more cars out of Canada than we import from Japan. So, our auto industry in Oxford has become very efficient and it needs to become more efficient in many ways. Some of this billion dollars will go towards that.
O: Is there anything in the Conservative platform that affects young people, that could entice them to vote?
D: Over the years we’ve made a lot of changes for that group of people. Bursaries and scholarships are no longer taxable, they are tax free. We’ve changed the Canada Student Loan and Grant Program, enhanced them for students. We’ve also encouraged funding for the apprenticeship programs because we see more and more people going into trades and apprenticeships, so we’ve worked on that part. There are additional incentives for employers in the trades.
O: Do you think it’s important for young people to vote?
D: Absolutely! People think that their vote won’t matter, but in reality every vote does. If we have 50% of the population thinking their vote doesn’t matter than 50% of the population won’t vote, which really affects the results of the election.
My view is that deciding to vote also comes from your parents. The parents need to make sure to teach their kids about politics and teach them that they have the responsibility to vote because if a person’s parents don’t vote, they most likely won’t vote either. But if you get in the habit of voting early, it will stay a habit for life.
O: Do you have any advice for people that would like to go into politics when they’re older?
D: I think that you should really be involved with your community. It’s the best way that I know to learn about what’s going on in your community.
O: Thank you so much for your time, and good luck in the elections!
INTERVIEWING FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Madison in Battlefords-Lloydminster, Saskatchewan interviewed both of her parents and two friends about the issues that matter to them in this election.
Madison’s Mom: Being a woman with a chronic illness and autism, I have faced many forms of discrimination across all of Canada and throughout the healthcare system that is currently implemented. It is my concern, that I am not the only one who has faced these types of challenges living in Canada. I’d like to see the elected government take steps to prevent abuse within Canada’s healthcare system and to possibly put further funding into programs that deal with both mental illness, and chronic illness, properly and effectively.
Madison’s Dad: Due to the healthcare system discriminating against your mother, I was forced to spend my entire pension plan, and our savings to send her down to the States for proper treatment. What I want to see changed and improved within Canada, is how our government treats single income families and more funding to be added to the Canadian pension plan. I find it to be unfair, that because I make a certain amount every year, I am considered privileged, and yet I am forced to live pay cheque to pay cheque because of taxes and fees. It is unfair to my family, that we can’t afford new winter clothes, or groceries, simply because one of us is sick.
Friend 1: Student loans are currently a huge issue for my family and I. I am unable to move out of my parents’ house and afford rent on my own. The debt will be a constant weight on both me, and my family for the years to come. Education is of the upmost importance to me, however I feel like the cons currently outweigh the pros of continuing on to secondary education. While in school, I am only able to work a part-time job, and that definitely doesn’t cover the debt. My parents have two other children that they have to feed, clothe, and put through school. It’s blasphemy I tell you, blasphemy!
Friend 2: The cost of tuition fees and everything else was too much for my family to be able to afford. Since I live in a big city (Edmonton), the opportunities available are filled up pretty quickly. Employers see a young person, and the first thing they do is stick you in a minimum wage role. Minimum wage doesn’t cover much of anything in this economy. The inherent assumption that students don’t need to be paid as much as working adults grinds on my nerves. Our parents can’t provide everything for us, try as they might. I want Canada to take a completely different approach to both youth employment, and secondary education fees.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA CONVERSATION