Despite a tight leadership race for leader of the Ontario Liberal party, the Queen’s University Liberal Association (QULA) isn’t endorsing a candidate after meeting last week.
Ontario Liberal Party (OLP) candidates made a stop at Queen’s to discuss issues such as the housing crisis and climate change.
The QULA hosted a panel featuring all five candidates in the OLP leadership race on Sept. 23 in Mackintosh-Corry Hall. In attendance were Adil Shamji, Bonnie Crombie, Nate Erskine-Smith, Yasir Naqvi, and current Kingston and the Islands Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Ted Hsu. Focusing on concerns central to students, the candidates discussed student debt and issues with the current Ford government.
As of Sept. 28, Adil Shamji has dropped out of the race to support Bonnie Crombie.
“We recognize if students want to have a better life, they can only do that if they’re authors of their own society,” Borna Najafi, vice-president (federal) for QULA, said in an interview with The Journal. “The way we do this is by meeting politicians and policymakers and shaping our society through conversations.”
Crombie plans to use taxpayer money to support the burdened healthcare system. As the current mayor of Mississauga, she believes the OLP has swung too far left and wants to better support centre-right vote, according to The Globe and Mail.
Shamji, MPP for Don Valley East, plans to address healthcare concerns in Ontario. If elected, Shamji promised to expedite the credentialing of doctors who didn’t complete their medical degree in Canada.
Naqvi, Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Ottawa Centre is focusing on Ontario’s hospitals. Naqvi plans to contribute $875 million to address the shortage of doctors and nurses in Ontario.
Erskine-Smith, MP for Beaches-East York, plans on implementing a housing plan which includes changing zoning standards to allow for more stories in buildings.
Hsu’s plan to tackle the housing crisis includes building medium density housing connected to public transportation.
While the candidate’s platforms differ, they all stressed the impact the housing crisis has on Queen’s students.
“The candidates emphasized the stress [affordable housing] can have on students especially because of the current housing crisis,” Maddy Bhardwaj, vice-president (provincial) for QULA, said in an interview with The Journal.
At the event’s conclusion, QULA didn’t endorse a candidate for the upcoming provincial election. The executive told The Journal they don’t want to sway QULA members and Liberal students to vote in a specific way.
“Neutrality in this race and all upcoming races is something that’s very important to us as we truly believe voter choice is something that should be protected and honored,” Kiana Pilon, communications director for QULA said in an interview with The Journal.
QULA released a statement to their Instagram account announcing their neutrality on Sept. 20.
Despite their neutrality, QULA executives are hopeful about the Liberal candidates. Bhardwaj expressed the lack of support students received under the leadership of current Conversative Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
“With the current government, you’re seeing a huge disconnect between youth and their values, versus what the current Ontario government is pushing,” Bhardwaj said.
Beyond matters solely concerning students, candidates expressed the negative impact Ford’s leadership has had on the environment, Bhardwaj explained.
The Greenbelt has been a hot topic of debate among candidates. Last year, Ford announced his plan to build new homes on the Greenbelt, an environmentally protected area of land in Southern Ontario.
Crombie initially wasn’t opposed to developing on the Greenbelt but has since changed her position on the matter. On the other hand, Erskine-Smith, Naqvi, Shamji, and Hsu all opposed Ford’s development project on Greenbelt land.
“With the damage the current [provincial] government has done with the Greenbelt and the wildfires that have been going on around the country [the candidates] really emphasized wanting to take steps towards alleviating climate change,” Bhardwaj said.
While all candidates agree on the importance of climate action, which has been a pressing issue at all levels of government, QULA executives underscored the candidates’ differences and their unique lived experiences.
“The biggest highlight worth mentioning is the diversity of choice within this leadership race,” Pilon said in an interview with The Journal.
The panel was open to all students, with the aim of the event focused on encouraging student involvement and interest in the Ontario Liberal Party leadership election which is taking place on Nov. 26.
QULA President Gillian Miller emphasized QULA’s neutrality is meant to underscore to Liberal students the most important part of elections is participating, regardless of their choice at the polls. Miller emphasized that the box your check on the ballot has the power to influence the future of Ontario.
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