Last Tuesday, candidates running for the federal elections discussed issues related to youth voters at “The Gen Y Vote with UTM: Candidates Forum”.

Hosted at Studio 89, the forum was held in conjunction with UTM Student Life and Youth Troopers for Global Awareness, the founder of the non-profit cafe Studio 89. The candidates present were Green Party candidate Linh Nguyen, Omar Alghabra for the Liberals, and Fariah Chowdhury, an NDP representative replacing the Mississauga East-Cooksville candidate, Ali Naqvi of the NDP. The Conservative candidate was absent.

Audience members could ask questions to all of the candidates or to a specific one, and candidates were allowed two minutes to respond.

Below is a summary of each candidate’s position on the topics discussed.

Positions on tuition

The Green Party is the only political party pledging to completely eradicate tuition fees by 2020. Nguyen described the party’s plan to reassess the subsidization of the fossil fuel industry. Nguyen said that the subsidies would be reinvested toward funding student tuition.

“At U of T in particular, there is a very strong movement in investing the subsidies away from the oil and gas industry […] and back to the students,” she said.

Nguyen also spoke about a collaborative grant system between colleges and provinces and the need to prioritize students who have greater financial needs, such as Aboriginal students.

Chowdhury said that the NDP is committed to abolishing unpaid internships and phasing out student loans entirely.

“Research has actually shown us that, once working, students are actually able to pay off their principal amount. It’s the interest rates that make it impossible,” Chowdhury said.

Alghabra explained that the Liberal Party’s vision is to increase student access to grants and to put a hold on student loan repayment until students earn a stable income of $30,000 per year or more.

Views on Bills C-51 & C-24

Bill C-51 is a controversial anti-terrorism legislation that allows the Canadian government to disclose information about individuals who pose a threat to the national security of Canada and make more arrests without a warrant, among other changes.

Bill C-24 allows the government to annul the Canadian citizenship of dual citizens who are found guilty of terrorism and other major crimes. The bill has been criticized by some who allege that it makes dual citizens into second-class citizens.

Alghabra argued that both bills undermine the value of citizenship, and although the Liberal Party voted in support for C-51, the party has promised to make amendments to C-51 and to repeal C-24.

The Green Party was strongly against both bills and has promised to repeal C-24 and C-51.

Chowdhury said that the NDP is against C-51 and C-24 because “for the NDP there is no grey area in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”. Chowdhury also mentioned that the NDP tried to create a coalition with the Liberal Party in order to fight both bills, but the latter declined.

Syrian refugee crisis

The NDP has promised to give entry to 46,000 refugees into Canada over the next four years, and 10,000 by the end of 2015.

“We very much have a vision to go back to the refugee and immigration policies pre-Conservative,” said Chowdhury, noting that this includes shorter wait times for family reunification.

The Liberal Party, according to Alghabra, “has been very vocal about immediately accepting 25,000 government-sponsored refugees, plus as many as we can through private sponsorship”. Alghabra also spoke about enhancing funding for UN agencies working amidst the conflict in Syria.

The Green Party has called on Canada to increase its intake of Syrian refugees to 40,000 over the next five years. Nguyen also mentioned the party’s interest in eliminating the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and establishing a federal minimum wage of $15.

Senior population

In terms of Canada’s growing senior population, the Liberal Party pledged to enhance the Canada Pension Plan, invest more money to create senior homes, and provide employment insurance for “Canadians who take time off work to take care of a loved one”. The party has also proposed a plan to allocate three billion dollars to offer more home-care services.

Nguyen said that Canada is lacking a national strategy for senior care. She described the Green Party’s National Housing Strategy, which includes a plan for senior housing and a review of senior pension plans.

Chowdhury discussed the NDP’s plan to invest 1.3 billion dollars on infrastructure on a national level.

“When people think of infrastructure, they often think of roads, but infrastructure also means senior homes, community centres, and youth shelters,” she said. Chowdhury also talked about creating 50,000 new beds for senior nursing homes and increasing access for seniors requiring home xcare.

Voting for the federal election will take place on Monday. Polls will close at 9:30 p.m.

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