Campus politicos duke out the issues

Members of campus political clubs debate the federal issues at the Common Ground.
Members of campus political clubs debate the federal issues at the Common Ground.

Mark Sholdice, ArtSci ’07, found the Liberal party in an unexpected position Tuesday afternoon.

“I have to say this is the first time I have been on the far right, in my whole life,” he joked, referring to his party’s seat at the far-right side of the table during a student debate involving campus political clubs.

The debate, which was hosted by the Government Issues Committee of the AMS and included all the political clubs on campus, took place at the Common Ground.

The debaters in attendance were Jared Giesbrecht, Law ’08 and Tara Tran, ArtSci ’08, of the Queen’s Greens; Jeff Parker, MA ’06, of the Queen’s Campus Conservatives; Chris Horkins, ArtSci ’08, and Chris Davidson, Law ’08, of the Queen’s New Democratic Party; and Reama Khayat, ArtSci ’07, and Sholdice, of the Queen’s University Liberal Association.

As last-minute student canvassers finished passing out flyers and leaflets, the debate began with each party giving a one-minute introduction about their respective platforms.

“This election is about issues, it’s about Canadian values,” Sholdice said. “If you elect Stephen Harper, say goodbye to same-sex marriage, say goodbye to all the good things that this Liberal party has done.

“By electing the Liberal party, you are voting for the truly progressive party in Canada’s parliament today.”

Horkins, representing the Queen’s NDP, said the upcoming election is about change.

“Canadians want a change from years of Liberal corruption and scandal to a government that respects and plays from the rules,” he said. “Change from the immaturity and name-calling of our previous parliament to one that will get things done for Canadians.”

Speaking next, Tran of the Greens focused on the need for change in today’s government.

“It is time for a fundamental change, and this is what the Green party can offer,” she said.

“Some people say the Green party is only concerned about environmental issues,” Tran said, adding there are many facets to the Green party’s alternative policy points.

“Take the issue of childhood asthma,” she said. “Is it just an environmental issue or is it a human rights issue? Is it a health care issue? Is it an economic issue because of the $8 billion it cost in health care?

“The answer is ‘yes’ to all of the above. The Green Party is the only party that integrates all of the above.”

Parker, of the Conservatives, finished off the introductions.

“This is a time where we can finally seize the potential of Canada and actually do something with the bountiful wealth we have,” he said. “That is why it is time for a Conservative change in government.”

The debate that followed covered a range of issues that are important in each party’s platform, including the government deficit and the sponsorship scandal.

Discussion about the same-sex marriage bill heated up the debate when every party except the Conservatives answered “yes” to whether they would support the issue.

Parker, amidst boos and catcalls, said his party neither agreed nor disagreed with the issue.

“The issue here is that the Tories have always supported the ability of the MPs to vote in confidence with their constituents,” he said.

National unity and education, which was one of the main topics of last week’s candidates’ debate, were also covered.

During the debate, Sholdice made a statement that drew a visceral reaction from the crowd.

“Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are the Canadian Taliban,” he said.

After the statement was published in Wednesday’s Kingston Whig-Standard, Sholdice sent a letter to the Whig, and the Journal apologizing for the statement.

Giesbrecht said during the debate he felt the rebuttals between the Conservative and Liberal speakers were not constructive.

“Political back and forth is not looking at the issues,” he said.

Questions from the audience covered other issues, including the softwood lumber issue in Canada, relations with the U.S. and gun control.

Luke Field, ArtSci ’08, said he thought the student debate was more informative than the Kingston and the Islands all-candidates’ debate on Jan. 9.

“I thought it was interesting to see the difference between the candidates last week and the student debate today,” he said. “I feel like there was less spin, and I felt like I learned more from this debate.”

Kylie Cumming, ArtSci ’06, agreed.

“I found that they addressed a lot of the issues that I was hoping would be addressed, while being very informed about their party’s platform,” she said. “I also found that even though we have this tendency to be submerged in rhetoric, they really tried to address the issues.”

Alex Huntley, ArtSci ’08 and a member of the AMS Government Issues Committee, said he felt the debate served its purpose.

“The debate offers students the ability to engage and question their peers, and I feel it went very well,” he said. “Having questions from the audience is absolutely vital, and I felt as though they were all educated and informed questions.”

Huntley added he had personal goals going into the debate.

“My objective was educating the voter and by doing this as impartial[ly] and fairly as possible,” he said. “My second objective [was] to engage the student.”

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