The candidates for the upcoming October 6 provincial election are making their presence known at U of T. On September 15, the Hart House Debate Committee and the University of Toronto Students’ Union co-hosted an all-candidates debate for the Trinity-Spadina riding.
The debate, entitled “At Issue: Youth and Education,” brought forward topics dear to students, including health care, tuition, unemployment, and government spending.
The participants were Liberal Party candidate Sarah Thomson, NDP candidate Rosario Marchese, Progressive Conservative Party candidate Mike Yen, and Green Party candidate Tim Grant.
Shaun Shepherd, UTSU VP External, opened the debate by highlighting the “Take It Over” campaign. This voter education initiative aims to make student issues an election priority. Shepherd noted that the large audience turnout to the debate proves that students “are listening … [and want] to ensure [student] concerns reach the table.”
Thomson was quick to define this election as being “between the Liberals and the Conservatives,” but her dismissal of the other parties did not deter them from presenting their views and goals.
While discussing health care, Grant put forward the Green Party’s Junk Food Tax initiative. The tax is meant to make healthy food more affordable in order to curb rising obesity and its associated problems. Marchese supported the idea of prevention versus treatment, lobbying for the provincial budget to allocate more of its resources to preventative measures.
Yen argued that having more long-term beds, front-line service, and investment in the health care system in place of bureaucracy would improve the well-being of Ontarians. Thomson reminded the audience that the Liberals opened 18 new hospitals, are lobbying to provide more at home care for seniors, and are lowering the costs of generic medicine.
Dr. Nelson Wiseman, debate moderator and professor of political science, raised the issue of rising tuitions. Green Party’s Grant responded by asking the audience if anyone had experienced a tuition increase over the last few years; without hesitation, all hands were raised.
NDP’s Marchese acknowledged that tuition has been increasing at a rate of 5 per cent every year, pushing more and more students into debt. He proposed a tuition freeze for the next four years. Thomson rebutted that the Liberals have already frozen tuition over the last two years and that they are now looking to decrease tuition by 30 per cent.
“Is anyone going to believe what McGuinty says?” asked Yen. The PC candidate went on to propose that money be invested in Ontario students and that OSAP be made more accessible.
As for unemployment, each candidate agreed that increased taxes have rendered many businesses unable hire and keep employees. Marchese suggested that the government support employers who provide long-term and full-time employment and that it reward companies for their provision of adequate training.
Yen stressed the importance of reigniting our economy, arguing that higher taxes do not facilitate job creation. He supported a more business-friendly approach, suggesting that by helping businesses, employment opportunities will rise.
As the election approaches, the candidates encourage voters to review their party’s platforms in order to have their voices heard on October 6.
For more information on the candidates and voting, visit elections.on.ca/en-CA/