UTSC students had a chance to meet with Scarborough-Rouge Park candidates, Gary Anandasangaree (Liberal Party) and Calvin Winter (Green Party), at an all candidates’ panel hosted by the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU).
In collaboration with the Highland Creek Community Association, the Centennial Community & Recreation Association, the West Rouge Community Association, and the University of Toronto, the event held on October seventh featured discussion on issues important to both students and community members of the Scarborough-Rouge Park riding.
Although the panel organizers promised attendance of all the Scarborough-Rouge Park riding candidates, Leslyn Lewis (Conservative Party) and KM Shanthikumar (New Democratic Party) were not present.
Yasmin Rajabi, vice-president external of the SCSU, explained that they had to cancel last minute.
“Leslyn Lewis had to prioritize, but she did state that she will be present at her fundraiser. But the tickets are $200 minimum, which is too expensive for it to be accessible for students and even general members of the community. KM Shanthikumar did inform us that he had to cancel due to illness. But he was later found canvassing, claiming that the panel was cancelled,” she said.
Jane Veit, a community member attending the event tweeted her disappointment at Shanthikumar and Lewis’ absence: “Attendance at community and televised debates should be mandatory! #votesrp15 #elxn42 #listeningtoCanadians.”
Rajabi also expressed concern at the two candidates’ failure to attend. “It’s really disheartening to see so many students excited and participating in our electoral system, but the candidates themselves not reciprocating.”
Despite the absence of the other two candidates, Anandasangaree and Winter said that they were pleased to have more time to answer students’ questions. They debated issues ranging from tuition fees and youth unemployment to senate reform and social justice. “I am really happy that we could discuss the issues that we care about and were not limited,” Rajabi said.
“I am really happy that we could discuss the issues that we care about and were not limited.”
The first question posed to the candidates asked how their party planned to benefit students at University of Toronto. Winter promised to eliminate the two per cent cap on tuition for Inuit and First Nations students and mentioned plans to eradicate post-secondary tuition fees by 2020.
Anandasangaree said he was concerned with the youth unemployment rate, which stands at 18 per cent in Toronto and that he planned to increase both the income threshold for eligibility for student loans and the grant proportion for those in more financial need.
The candidates also commented on their commitments to the Scarborough-Rouge Park ridings. Winter emphasized his commitment to Rouge Park as an important landmark, while Anandasangaree said he would focus on access to education and the lack of jobs. Anandasangaree also proposed that the three levels of the government should make time to meet in Scarborough once a year, to which the audience responded enthusiastically.
Winter and Anandasangaree closed the discussion by expressing their appreciation for the attendance and encouraging students and community members to come out to vote on Monday, October 19.