Students seek answers at all-candidates’ forum

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Spectators listen to candidates opening remarks at the USSU Saskatoon-University candidates’ forum at the U of S on Oct. 5, 2019

Students and student groups posed questions to the candidates on the topics of tuition, sustainability and Indigenous rights, among others.

Ahead of the upcoming federal elections, the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union invited all Member of Parliament candidates for the riding of Saskatoon-University to a public forum on Sept. 30. In attendance were Susan Hayton of the Liberal Party, Guto Penteado of the People’s Party of Canada, Claire Card of the New Democratic Party and Jan Norris of the Green Party. Notably absent was the Conservative Party candidate Corey Tochor. 

Six representatives from student groups were given the chance to ask one question, prepared in advance, for all of the candidates to answer.

The candidates took turns answering, speaking to what their party would do to implement bus rapid transit in Saskatoon, make international study in Canada more affordable, protect the environment, engage Indigenous peoples, address the cost of pharmaceuticals and make sure that university graduates can find work in their field.

Through their answers, each candidate highlighted their party’s priorities. The Liberal candidate boasted the party’s successes during their term in power, the PPC candidate asserted that the government must put “Canadians first” and both the NDP and Green candidates spoke up often about changing the system to address climate change.

The question portion took an emotional turn when Celeste Robillard, Indigenous Business Students’ Society representative, came forward. The day of the forum coincided with Orange Shirt Day, which elicited the student’s question.

“I am speaking on behalf … the lost children who faced oppression from the hands of the government in the early days, the residential school system and the Sixties Scoop. I apologize for getting emotional,” Robillard said. “I wanted to know what your initiatives are to encourage Indigenous growth and success, especially for our young people.”

The Green Party candidate said “Indigenous issues is right at the front of [their] platform” before listing several specific commitments to Indigenous people. The Liberal Party candidate touted the progress the Liberal government has made on resolving Indigenous issues. 

The PPC candidate relayed his party’s position that “we cannot rewrite the past. It has come to a point where First Nations and Canadians must renew relationships built on mutual respect.” Finally, the NDP candidate said that “reconciliation is the heart of what we’re proposing to do.”

Following this, the moderator asked for questions from the floor. A total of eight questions were asked, although not all by students.

Candidates were asked about their personal philosophies and to name any philosophers that have influenced them. Given that Saskatoon­University is currently held by the Conservatives, they were even asked quite simply “why should we vote for you to keep the Conservative out?” 

“I’d like you to think carefully about who you are supporting, which issues matter to you and think about whether you want the Conservatives leading the country and getting back on this riding again,” Hayton said in response. “For me, I’d like to see a change.”

After the forum came refreshments and the opportunity for the candidates to pass out campaign material and chat with audience members.

The forum is not the only USSU-backed initiative to encourage voting. The union is conducting a campaign known as “USaskVotes” to make voting more accessible on campus and to increase the number of students who choose to vote. On election night, the USSU will be hosting a Canadian trivia at Louis’ during which the live results will be displayed.

The federal election is on Oct. 21 and is set to be a close race between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Kienan Ashton

Photo: Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor