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This article was published 14/10/2015 (710 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A challenge to Brandon-Souris candidates to only speak about the "positive things in our campaigns" backfired on Conservative incumbent Larry Maguire at the student forum held at École secondaire Neelin High School on Tuesday.
"There’s enough negativity out there, so rather than looking at all of the negativity ... can I get a pledge from each of my fellow candidates here today that we’ll just stick to the positive things that we’ll do in our campaigns?" Maguire said in his opening statement.
Green party candidate David Neufeld quickly responded by saying, "Kinda like the Conservative ads?" The remark sparked laughs and applause from the crowd of students.
Maguire stuck to his message, saying students want to hear "what we’re for, not what we’re against;" however, his goal of a pledge did not seem to resonate with the other candidates.
More than 125 people attended the forum, organized by Neelin’s Grade 11 Canadian history class. Students Hannah Van De Woestyne and Martina Beaulieu served as moderators.
While all candidates were cordial to each other, the students picked up on some friction in the group.
"You could almost tell when they first walked in here, they’ve all got a smile … and are professional, but you can just kind of feel the tension," Van De Woestyne said.
Election day is less than a week away, which follows the longest election campaign in modern Canadian history. Candidates have been on the campaign trail since early August and participated in many different debates, with one more scheduled today at Brandon University.
The first question asked each candidate what their party’s plan is to make post-secondary education more affordable and accessible.
Neufeld said the Green party’s goal is to make sure that students have equal access, no matter their parents’ income.
"Eventually we would like to see ... no tuition for the first two years of post-secondary education," he said. "To get the young people off to a really good start, with an education that would serve the broader economy very well."
Neufeld explained that the Green party would also take interest off student loans and have more bursaries available.
Maguire highlighted several initiatives introduced by the Conservative government, including tuition and textbook tax credits, Canada Apprentice Loan, Apprenticeship Completion Grant and the Canada Jobs Grant.
"We’ve also made it … much easier for students to get a Canada Student Loan," Maguire said, adding that both Brandon University and Assiniboine Community College continue to be a priority.
NDP candidate Melissa Wastasecoot talked about the importance of making sure more people can access a good education by "tackling skyrocketing costs," and said the NDP will help students by making life more affordable by providing investments in affordable housing and public transit.
Liberal candidate Jodi Wyman started with a more personal answer, referring back to when she went through university.
"When I finished high school, my parents didn’t have money for university," she said. "I ended up taking advantage of student loans, student grants and working nights all through school … and I still graduated with $30,000 in debt, which took me 10 years to pay off."
The Liberal party would spend $750 million to expand Canada student grants and increase eligibility, Wyman explained. People would not have to start paying back loans until they are making at least $25,000 per year.
The class asked the candidates how their party would handle the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women.
Maguire spoke about how the Conservative government established The National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains.
"We’ve created a national website to identify and find these missing persons more quickly," he said. "I’m very proud of our track record. We’ve put forward the Victims Bill of Rights … to make sure that the victims have more rights than the criminals."
If elected, the Conservative party would put in more RCMP human trafficking teams in Manitoba and double the funding to help victims reintegrate back into society.
The NDP candidate said missing and murdered indigenous women is a "sociological issue" in Canada.
"(NDP Leader) Tom Mulcair has made this a priority. He would call an inquiry … within the first 100 days," Wastasecoot said. "Prime Minister Harper has said that we are not high on his radar, which I take very personally."
The Liberal party would also call an inquiry, Wyman pointed out.
"It’s all well and good to introduce a Victims Bill of Rights and a website, but that’s really of no use to the women who are missing and murdered," Wyman said. "The key is to prevent this. Let’s stop this, and the only way we can do that is with an inquiry."
Neufeld said the Green party would support an inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women as well.
"Every leader in Canada has to model a different way of being, that we have relationships that are empowering, and that we pass laws that create increasing equality," Neufeld said.
Also discussed at the forum was the issue of increasing housing costs and Bill C-51, also known as the anti-terrorism act.
"I think they all did a fantastic job presenting their ideas and making sure they proved their stances up there," said Van De Woestyne, 16. "I’m so thankful they do things like this for the youth because it really opens our eyes. We get a taste of what it’s like and we are more informed about what our future’s going to be."
Kerri Malazdrewicz teaches the Grade 11 Canadian history class and said the goal of the forum was to get students engaged in the political process.
"Whenever I talk to my students about why is the youth voice not coming out every election, they’re telling me that they don’t understand how it works or they don’t care, they don’t know the issues," she said. "So this is my opportunity to help them understand what the issues are."
Neelin students will participate in a mock election on Friday, as part of the national Student Vote initiative.
"It’s an opportunity for the kids to go out and see what ballot looks like and actually have their voice and their opinion," Malazdrewicz said. "Almost 6,000 schools across Canada are taking part in this, so I think it’s a really neat perspective of the youth voice."
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