The UTM Debating Club and the Mississauga City Youth Council hosted “#SaugaSpeaks: Mayoral Forum on Youth” last Thursday, a debate between the candidates in the municipal elections taking place later this month.

The nine mayoral candidates at the debate were Scott Chapman, Bonnie Crombie, Kevin Jackal Johnston, Masood Khan, Stephen King, Steven Mahoney, Derek Ramkissoon, Andrew Seitz, and Grant Isaac.

The Master of Ceremonies was 16-year-old reporter Ryan Rocca, who opened the event with a speech honouring the legacy of Mayor Hazel McCallion.

Rocca posed questions on the subjects of youth unemployment, access to and affordability of transit, and support for homeless and at-risk youth.

Below is a summary of each candidate’s responses.

Scott Chapman spoke about working with some of Mississauga’s largest employers to hire youth. He also mentioned an affordable housing plan that will make it mandatory for all condominium buildings along Hurontario Street to allocate 10% of their space to community housing in order to provide low-income families direct access to major transportation.

Bonnie Crombie, also a U of T alumna, promised investment in economic development to create jobs. She added that she would initiate a mayor-youth job challenge with the hope of creating 1,000 jobs per year by encouraging businesses and Fortune 500 companies to hire youth. Her plan for transit involved extending the U-Pass to part-time students (although part-time UTM students do have access to it) and community college students, and improving the bus schedules. Her plan, named “Mississauga Moves”, includes regionally integrated transit systems and frequent all-day two-way GO service. On the subject of homelessness, Crombie suggested that developers put a portion of their development aside for affordable housing.

Kevin Johnston planned to address unemployment through better communication with youth. He also recommended relying on skilled people to train youth on public speaking and job searching skills, saying this could be done for free through the Internet.

Johnston also mentioned a plan to redevise the lines of the waterfront from Cawthra Road to the Toronto border, which he said would create thousands of construction jobs.

Masood Khan said youth should be encouraged to get higher education in order to achieve higher-paying jobs. He also had a new plan for transit, which included a special pass for students, improving ridership on the buses, and managing the budget to bring prices down.

Stephen King proposed having light-rail transit on Dundas connecting to Kipling Station to create a western connection with Toronto. He said that this would spur development on Dundas and create more jobs. On the homelessness issue, King said he would prefer to address the root problems, recommending an examination into the causes of homelessness and poverty and the creation of more jobs.

Steven Mahoney focused on his plan to create 1,500 co-ops in his first four years as mayor, while challenging the private sector to match that number again. In addition, he suggested working with the private sector and increasing the commercial tax space to take the pressure off the residential tax space, and thus increase jobs.

Mahoney also said he would increase the ridership of the entire transit system. He proposed carpool lanes to start moving cars with multiple occupants and buses. Like King, Mahoney’s approach to homelessness involved addressing the deeper causes of the issue. “Bringing them into an affordable house is not going to solve their problem, if they’ve got […] multiple issues that could range from substance abuse to mental illness to physical abuse to problems at home. That’s what we need to address,” he said.

Derek Ramkissoon said that he would like to create better jobs for youth and for the homeless.

Andrew Seitz’s platform involved creating co-op placements and building social enterprises. Furthermore, he said he would love to reallocate the funding for the Hurontario LRT towards extending the subway from Kipling Station to Square One. He would call for 24-hour transit tickets and a 24-hour transit system.

Addressing the homelessness issue, Seitz suggested building greater pride in homeless people through social enterprises and cooperative businesses to increase their self-esteem.

Grant Isaac said he would use moral suasion on the government and banks, saying they would have to make credits more available to those who want to start businesses. Isaac also suggested doubling the capacity of buses.

In the second part of the debate’s forum, each candidate had the chance to pose a youth-related question to a fellow candidate.

Crombie brought up the fact that this year, the city council voted to invest $1 million a year for 10 years to support UTM’s Institute of Management and Innovation in the hopes of economic gain. She asked the candidates to hypothetically re-vote on it, and they voted in favour.

The third part of the forum consisted of questions from the audience, which had either been submitted through question cards during the event or had been posted on Twitter using the #SaugaSpeaks hashtag.

Nicole Danesi, a UTM student who helped organize the event, expressed her satisfaction with the event, which she said drew over 200 people.

“We have heard great feedback from our audience, and we are proud to have hosted the largest mayoral event to date,” said Danesi, who is the Ward 3 councillor on the Mississauga City Youth Council. “We are proud to have hosted a very fruitful discussion engaging youth in Mississauga politics and providing the opportunity […] to make an informed decision.”

Towards the end of the event, Rocca announced that the hashtag #SaugaSpeaks was the fifth-highest trender in Canada.

The municipal election will take place on October 27.

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