It wasn’t a spectacular example of civic involvement or political interest, but a small audience of students was quite attentive when an all-candidates debate was staged at the college on the afternoon of October 8, as a precursor to the federal election on October 21.
On the stage were Windsor West riding candidates Brian Masse, the 17-years-long New Democratic incumbent; Liberal challenger Sandra Pupatello; Conservative Henry Lau; and Quinn Hunt of the Green Party.
The debate, organized by the Student Representative Council, was moderated by Media Convergence student Liam Adams, and a trio of MediaPlex students acted as the question-posing panel.
Although he was late in arriving, Hunt may have presented the best-received policy platform during the session when he emphasized the Green Party’s plan to “abolish tuition immediately” and forgive all student loan debt. He bolstered that by saying the party also had plans for affordable housing development to offset the skyrocketing rents experienced by students.
Masse echoed those sentiments, to an extent, by saying the NDP would eliminate interest on student loans, develop more governmental grants for postsecondary education, and move towards a free tuition policy. He, too, said his party would implement a rent subsidization program.
Pupatello reminded the audience that the incumbent Liberal government has been very supportive of grant programs to students, and has introduced “friendlier” repayment formulae for their loans. On the same day as the debate, she noted, the Liberals announced an increase in funding to encourage industries to hire more apprenticeship students.
Lau made no specific commitments to students based upon the Conservative platform, saying only that the party’s creation of a stronger economy would provide them with greater post-graduation employment opportunities.
Indeed, that was Lau’s position throughout much of the event – few detailed responses to questions about any of the issues, only a reiteration of the mantra of “lower taxes, a stronger economy, and making sure Windsor had a seat at the table by electing a local Conservative” (based, of course, upon the assumption that his party would win the election).
The other candidates, meanwhile, differed with one another, to a greater or lesser extent, on the other topics ... But all three, interestingly, did commit to the introduction of pharmacare (free prescription drug coverage) plans (with the NDP tossing in dental- and vision-care), and carbon-taxation to deal with climate change.