In light of the upcoming federal election, Model Parliament held an all-candidate debate after-school in the library on 13 October. Students and staff were invited to watch the debate. The discussion featured Rob Oliphant, Syeda Riaz and Elizabeth Hill. They are Don Valley West candidates of the Liberals, NDP and Communist parties respectively.
The debate itself was conducted in a professional manner, with candidates discussing issues in an orderly fashion. They were allowed to respond briefly if their party was mentioned in another’s argument. Though many relevant topics were covered, they were just a sample of the key issues to the election on 19 October, 2015. Among other issues, they debated on the proper action to deal with the recession of the Canadian economy, the environmental concerns of the 21st century, and the issue behind the fair representation of citizens in government. As the debate was catered towards students, they spent a significant amount of time discussing the representation of the voices of youth.
As Oliphant said, “Around 20 students at Marc Garneau are involved in my campaign, I want 200. I want the youth to be aware of the issues addressed in our platforms presented today.” In addition to the questions presented by moderator Frank Hong, a student in Grade 9, there was an open session for the audience to ask questions to the candidates. Two questions were asked regarding the workforce and the obstacles that post-secondary students currently face, such as the cost of tuition and the lack of sustainable job opportunities.
Connecting with youth was seemingly an important platform for the three parties present. As Seiyed Riaz said, “The largest benefit for students like yourself to see these sorts of debates is the realization that you hold power. More knowledge of the state of Canada’s government will allow the next generation to evoke greater change, students can learn at these debates that people have the real people, a government body requires you to vote for them and a riding has the power to remove their representative from their seat.”
The platforms of all parties were shown clearly in this debate. Unfortunately, there was a misrepresentation of the major parties, as the Conservative candidate for the riding was not available for this event.
After watching the debate, many students had either changed or reinforced their opinions about politics. Mahnoor Shaikh, in Grade 12, she said, “I initially perceived that politics was all dirty work and that none of the candidates were really here for making a better community. However, hearing them speak of their plans completely changed my opinion. These individuals are trying their best to bring positive change.”
The event was inspired by the president of Model Parliament, John Le. Heavily involved in volunteering for politics himself, he noticed that the voices of the youth weren’t being heard nearly enough. Addressing this issue, he said, “Although you can’t vote, your voice matters.”
This all-candidate debate was run to encourage youth participation in the government. Model Parliament, a school club, is a way students of Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute can learn more about how the Canadian government functions. Always welcome to new members, they meet every Monday at lunch in Room 211.