C/O MSU Elections

The two candidates in the MSU presidential election clash over different approaches to advocacy

On Jan. 21, McMaster Students Union presidential candidates Simranjeet Singh and Denver Della-Vedova engaged in a two-hour long debate, in which they each responded to several questions pertaining to their platforms and the biggest issues on campus right now.  

In his opening statements, Della-Vedova expressed that he wants students to experience a better transition to in-person learning than the one they experienced this year. Additionally, he introduced the three main pillars of his platform: amplifying voices, student stability and keeping momentum.  

In Singh’s opening statements, he emphasized that his campaign is inspired by research and he introduced the five themes of his platform: building a more supportive student wellness institution, stronger Hamilton community, environmental sustainability, equitable education and career development. 

The candidates then went on to discuss several issues that are important to McMaster students right now. They were asked directly about how their platforms tackled issues such as environmental sustainability, student mental health and student expenses. The candidates were also asked several more general questions about how their platforms and styles of advocacy would benefit the student body. 

Regarding environmental sustainability, both Della-Vedova and Singh expressed that McMaster could be doing more for sustainability.  

Della-Vedova suggested offering more eco-friendly food packaging on campus and collaborating with student-driven environmental initiatives, stressing the feasibility of these targets.  

Singh also supported a reusable container program; however, Singh’s approach to environmental sustainability focused more on implementing auditing initiatives regarding McMaster’s waste management and educating students about sustainable waste management.  

Singh and Della-Vedova clashed over the need for waste management audits. Singh stated that, due to COVID-19, much has likely changed since the last audit in 2019 and that a key role of the MSU is to fill gaps in the university’s knowledge. Della-Vedova, on the other hand, argued that data from 2019 is still quite recent and because of temporary changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new audit may yield less reliable data.  

Regarding student mental health, Singh and Della-Vedova were in agreement about the seriousness of this issue and the importance of collaborating with the Student Wellness Centre.  

Regarding student mental health, Singh and Della-Vedova were in agreement about the seriousness of this issue and the importance of collaborating with the Student Wellness Centre.  

Amarah hasham-Steele, News reporter

Singh stressed his plan to advocate for further expansion of the SWC, expand and effectively market Thrive Week and advocate to expand McMaster’s student health and dental plan.  

Della-Vedova proposed introducing telehealth and online booking options to the SWC in order to expand the use of preexisting resources. Della-Vedova also stressed the importance of student security and a positive campus environment for student mental health.  

Regarding student expenses, Della-Vedova emphasized his aim to partner with the Food Collective Centre and with local businesses to assist food insecure students. Regarding rent expenses specifically, Della-Vedova discussed the possibility of revitalizing an MSU role dedicated to connecting students with reasonable housing.  

Singh, on the other hand, proposed a large-scale audit of student housing and expanding usage of Open Educational Resources to decrease textbook costs.  

Della-Vedova and Singh clashed over OER. Della-Vedova argued that financial changes due to OER would likely occur over many years and that more immediate expense issues should take priority. To this, Singh responded that the structures necessary to support OER already exist and that even a small decrease in average textbook costs would impact students significantly.  

Overall, it seemed that Singh and Della-Vedova clashed on two major issues: the importance of data collection and the scope of their platform points. 

Regarding data collection, Singh repeatedly stressed the research basis of his platform, proposing two major audits regarding environmental sustainability and a study about student housing. When asked whether he was more invested in student advocacy or in enhancing student life, Singh explained that his platform's research focus will enable him to enhance student life through advocacy.  

According to Singh, he aims to collect information that’s lacking so that it can be used as the basis for more focused and effective advocacy. 

According to Singh, he aims to collect information that’s lacking so that it can be used as the basis for more focused and effective advocacy. 

Amarah hasham-Steele, News reporter

Della-Vedova disagreed with Singh on the role of data collection. He responded by stating that the MSU often collects a lot of data that goes unused because new leaders enter the MSU with new ideas every year. Della-Vedova emphasized action over data collection, saying that preexisting and online data are sufficient bases for advocacy.  

Della-Vedova emphasized action over data collection, saying that preexisting and online data are sufficient bases for advocacy. 

Amarah hasham-Steele, News reporter

The second major point of clash in this debate was regarding the scope of the ideas put forward and the role of feasibility. When asked which point on Singh’s platform he was most critical of, Della-Vedova stated that although he liked many of Singh’s ideas, he believed many of them to be unfeasible within a year. Della-Vedova was particularly critical of Singh’s plan to transition to more OERs, emphasizing that there are limits on what the MSU can achieve within a year. 

When asked which point on Singh’s platform he was most critical of, Della-Vedova stated that although he liked many of Singh’s ideas, he believed many of them to be unfeasible within a year.

Amarah hasham-Steele, News reporter

Singh, on the other hand, criticized Della-Vedova's platform points for simply focusing on increasing supports already in place. For example, as Singh explained, Della-Vedova was advocating for expansion of the compostable container program, whereas Singh was advocating for a widespread reusable container program.  

Singh, on the other hand, criticized Della-Vedova's platform points for simply focusing on increasing supports already in place.

Amarah hasham-Steele, News reporter

Further, regarding OER, Singh explained that while he did not expect to see this transition completed within a year, he believed that progress towards more OER would still be worth pursuing.  

Voting will take place online from Jan. 25 to Jan. 27. An overview of Della-Vedova's entire platform can be found here and an overview of Singh’s platform can be found here.  

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Photos by Kyle West

 

On Jan. 17, the McMaster Students’ Union hosted a debate featuring the 2019 MSU presidentials candidates four candidates. Here are some of the highlights.

The first question of the debate concerned whether the candidates are more focused on advocacy or student life.

Josh Marando said he would be more focused on advocacy.

Jeffery Campana explained that the limited one-year term of a president would mean smaller initiatives are more important to him.

A1: Campana: Platform aims to engage students to get them more involved; focuses on both advocacy points and student engagement. "I am more out for student engagement, but I don't sacrifice advocacy"

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) January 17, 2019

The debate quickly turned to Ontario government’s decision to restrict Ontario Student Assistance Program grants and make some student fees optional, a move that was announced the morning of the debate.

Madison Wesley pointed to the announcement as proof of why advocacy is central to the MSU president’s role. Justin Lee and the other candidates were also quick to condemn the new changes.

Q10: Campana - "The PC government is not for students like us". The option to opt out of student fees will cause a reduction of funding to services that the MSU needs in order to thrive.

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) January 17, 2019

When the topic reasserted itself later in the debate, Marando noted the need for students to be “prepared to mobilize.”

When candidates were asked to outline their main platform priority areas, Wesley pointed to the need for improved mental and physical health support systems, while Lee chose his “HSR Drivers Accountability” platform point.

Marando said he is focused on making students feel welcome, and Campana spoke about his plan to place free menstrual products in all-gender bathrooms.

On the subject of off-campus housing, all the candidates said they were in favour of the new MSU landlord rating system.

Marando pushed the need to continue supporting landlord licensing, while Wesley and Lee talked about continuing housing education programs for students.

The discussion became more heated when candidates were asked to critique an opponent’s platform point.

Marando pointed to the logistics of Campana’s on-campus ice rink proposal.

Campana, Lee and Wesley criticized Marando’s proposed increase of the maintenance budget and various advocacy goals.

A6: Wesley - Most critical of Marando's point on lobbying to freeze tuition. Previously, OSAP is a provincial legislation issue, problem is that there are entire groups of lobbyists that dedicate time to this and they haven't gotten very far.

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) January 17, 2019

One audience member asked how the candidates would increase campus safety.

Ideas ranged from Wesley’s call for improved police response to the need to upgrade lighting and fix emergency poles on campus, put forth by Campana and Lee, respectively.

A7: Wesley - Student safety big concern. Main issue is that Hamilton police have not been involved, advocating for students to Hamilton police important. If we have concrete advocacy coming from the school, we may be able to change a lot for the better.

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) January 17, 2019

When asked about sexual violence on campus, all of the candidates agreed that training for students, Welcome Week reps and staff needs improvement.

Marando pointed out that none of the other candidates’ platforms addressed sexual violence.

Campana countered by saying that the issue could not be fixed in a one-year term.

A11 Rebuttal: Campana - Didn't address the issue in his platform because it is not a problem that one president can fix. Several different groups across campus must be involved; it is not enough to put a "bandaid solution" on a platform

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) January 17, 2019

The candidates were also given the opportunity to explain what made them unique.

Marando cited his comprehensive MSU experience. Campana did the same while stressing his experiences outside the MSU.

While acknowledging their relative inexperience, Lee and Wesley stressed the creativity of their platform and noted that they represent the only ethnic minority candidate and only female candidate, respectively.

The full debate can be found on the MSU Facebook page.

 

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Photo from Silhouette Photo Archives

By Maanvi Dhillon

On Oct. 22, Ontarians will be heading to the polls for the second time this year to cast their ballots in an election. Hamilton’s municipal election will decide the mayor and ward councillors for the next four years, and the McMaster Students Union has been working hard on a campaign aimed at increasing student voter turnout.

In particular, the MSU Education team will be rolling out another #MacVotes campaign to keep students informed about the upcoming election and to motivate them to cast a vote. An important initiative will be the Ward 1 candidates’ debate, which will be happening in the MUSC atrium on Oct. 16.

As Shemar Hackett, associate vice president (Municipal Affairs), explains, it is crucial that voters are informed when they cast their ballot.

“The candidate who wins this election will represent Ward 1 for the next four years, which is why it is imperative that students are critical and research all the candidates before going to the polls on Oct. 22,” said Hackett.

The Municipal Election is Monday, October 22 - in addition, there are 5 ADVANCE poll dates available for voters. Full Election details: https://t.co/tt4eeHHe9x. #HamOnt #HamiltonVotes18 pic.twitter.com/4rcLntjLa1

— City of Hamilton (@cityofhamilton) September 20, 2018

The rest of the #MacVotes campaign will involve extensive promotion, both online and in-person. An official website will highlight advanced polling locations, platforms summaries and identification needed to vote.

In addition, the MSU will advocate for issues that have been selected as priorities under the umbrellas of transportation and housing.

One transit priority entails eliminating area rating, a controversial system that allows wards to pay different tax rates for municipal services. This initiative allows suburban and rural communities to pay less than older Hamilton wards to compensate for their purported decreased access to certain services.

With respect to housing, the MSU will be pushing for Hamilton to toughen up housing regulation by moving forward with a bylaw that requires landlords to be formally licensed. This would help protect off-campus students who often encounter unsafe living conditions in their rental homes but are left vulnerable by the lack of proactive enforcement of safety standards and bylaws.

In the wake of a string of break-ins in Westdale, safety has also become a growing concern for off-campus students. Questions are being raised about the effectivity of police responses to these incidents and to student safety at large. This may also become a deciding issue for student voters.

Overall, students make up a large and influential portion of the electorate in Ward 1. According to a profile of the Ward, the fastest growing demographic are those between twenty and twenty-four. This means McMaster students can have a significant sway in the election results should they turn out in large numbers.

 However, it remains unclear whether many students will actually vote. The most recent MSU presidential election had an unusually low turnout rate of 28 per cent. Despite this, Ward 1 has historically has had some of the highest turnout rates in the city.

Stephanie Bertolo, MSU vice president (Education), understands the potential power of student voters.

“By voting in this municipal election, students are able to have a major impact on the decisions made in the City of Hamilton over the next four years,” Bertolo said. “Each individual vote adds up to better transit, safer housing, and more opportunities for students before and after graduation. It shows the city that we are a major stakeholder and that they must listen to us.”

The stakes are high for students in this municipal election, and the MSU will be pushing to spread that message. Whether that is enough to get students out to vote, however, is a question that can only be answered on Oct. 22.

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By: Rachel and Megan Goodland/ WGEN

We often hear that our society is becoming too “politically correct”, or “PC.” It is true, that it is not uncommon to see trigger warnings on potentially upsetting content, and in many communities we see the elimination of oppressive language from everyday conversation. This has inspired a confusing amount of rage from people that feel that we are becoming too “sensitive” or “weak” as a culture — especially us young folk. As two people who are trying to uphold this “PC-ness,” we would like to apologize to all of those reading who feel bothered by this new social standard of caring.

Actually, we’re not sorry at all.

Take a second to bear in mind that changing our language to be inclusive is not, in reality, difficult. Why is it that the second we ask people to check themselves when saying “gay” or  “whore” in a negative context, they look at us as if we have asked them to aspire to sainthood? If we can exchange one degrading word we use to make people around us feel more comfortable, then why wouldn’t we? And to be honest, if you don’t care about making the people around you feel at ease, then may we suggest you consider speaking less in general.

We know what you are thinking: “I have the right to free speech so I can say whatever.” Very good, that is a valid argument, and to that we will respond that free speech does not protect you from facing the consequences of the things you say.

Freedom of speech does not mean you can bypass the critical backlash you may encounter if your words are hateful. So if you say, “I have a right be offensive,” then we could respond in turn, “I have a right to be offended and make it known that I am offended.” You see the interesting cyclical pattern here? We do admit that considering your words more carefully may be slightly inconvenient, it may even involve reflective critical thought (a horrendous task). No one can change their language in a day — it involves making many mistakes along the way. But we promise you that it’s worth it.

We would like to present an example of one phrase in particular that is popular in Western vernacular. Have you ever heard someone refer to a woman as a “crazy bitch”? The answer is almost definitely a resounding yes. There are a few major issues with this phrase. When a woman is called a crazy bitch she is left to question the relevance or importance of her own words and feelings. In many cases, a man will call a woman crazy because he does not want to acknowledge that she is upset for a legitimate reason.

If you don’t care about making the people around you feel at ease, then may we suggest you consider speaking less in general.

Another issue with calling someone crazy? It involves the use of a word that calls into question mental stability, therefore making one feel that their opinions are less important as a result. There are words, such as “mad” or “crazy”, that are problematic. They are open for reclaiming by many communities — as delightfully demonstrated by the Hamilton Mad Students Collective — but using them in an insulting context to bring someone down perpetuates stereotypes about the mentally ill and is not a way to get a point across. We argue that this is nothing more than a thoughtless way to shut someone up and make them question the validity of their feelings, in lieu of taking the time to consider and address their concerns.

So here we are, in this new standard of “checking ourselves” before we speak. Does it involve effort? Just a bit. Are we being sensitive? Sure. But does it make a difference? More than you know. If your right to casually use oppressive words and phrases is something that is very important to you, perhaps the small shift in language is not the real problem here.

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By: Haoda Yan

What’s the most important political issue of 2015? Is it global warming? The Syrian refugee crisis? Increasing rates of Islamophobia in Canada? Donald Trump as President of the United States?

The biggest issue of 2015 is brought to you by the letters T, P, and P, an international trade agreement which will directly affect the average citizen. If you thought the Stop Online Piracy Act — an American bill proposed to control internet activity — was troublesome, you’d be surprised at how much damage the Trans-Pacific Partnership could do.

Although it is being promoted by governments as a way to foster innovation, encourage economic growth, and create jobs, the TPP instead benefits corporations, who aren’t necessarily in the business of serving citizens. Although it is clear that the TPP intends to increase corporate profits, nobody is willing to explain just how it intends to accomplish that. The main question is why nobody involved is willing to divulge any information about the arrangement. Canadian citizens should really be concerned about an agreement where the only documents the public was privy to during its drafting were the ones released by Wikileaks. Many things become less regulated under this trade agreement including environmental policies, food safety standards, and labour laws. Food safety legislation would become moot as the TPP allows any corporation to sue any government over policies that could “impact expected future profits.” Factors that would impact profits include things like package warnings and virtually any other policy that exists to protect consumers.

Under the guise of defending innovators from thieves, the TPP intends to snuff out smaller businesses by creating monopolies for almost every product. Ironically, although supporters of the TPP claim it will create jobs, the agreement will actually ship jobs overseas. With no more trade barriers, corporations would be entirely free to outsource labour to countries with lower wages. This is bad news for workers, consumers, and especially students, robbing them of learning resources, job opportunities, and much more. Are we just going to stand idly by as this policy threatens to hurt everyone but big businesses?

The TPP would give multi-national firms an incredible amount of international power. Individual politicians come and go, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership has no expiry date, which is why it has to be sunk before it reaches the Pacific shore. Given that the public is still largely in the dark, the only groups currently influencing this legislation are the same self-serving corporations. Canadian citizens need to respond quickly and loudly if we want to stop this trade agreement from being fast-tracked through parliament. The TPP is a Trojan Horse, and much like the Trojans happily inviting this threat into their walls, we will all suffer for it.

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By: Emily Smith

Coming out as a queer woman was a political experience for me. Intrinsically, our personal identities and experiences are political. When we are able to share our stories and create community, we come together to create social change. Recognizing this, I think it’s time to come out again in a very different way.

In July of 2010, I exercised my legal and inherent human right to choose and had an abortion. I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and my abortion took place around nine weeks. At the time I was in my first long-term relationship, which was both emotionally abusive and sexually coercive. I was struggling significantly with my mental health. My abortion was a painful decision in an unfortunate situation. It is something I have struggled with, though never regretted, for the past five and a half years.

In my four years at McMaster I’ve seen an increasing presence of pro-life propaganda on campus. Although I strongly believe in the right everyone has to an opinion, and by no means seek to eradicate groups on campus, I do think it’s important to recognize the inaccuracies and frankly emotionally manipulative tactics being used to stigmatize and marginalize the people in our community who have had abortions.

Recently I’ve seen some chalk writing on campus tarmac. One stated “your mother chose life.” I don’t know if my mother is pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in between, but I do know that I was a pregnancy that was planned, wanted, and prepared for. Had I been a pregnancy that was unwanted or unplanned would my mother have chosen differently? Would it have mattered? Her path would have been different, as would those around her. This tactic is frequently harnessed by pro-life groups and does not reflect the reality of choosing to have children. Pro-choice people have children on a regular basis, choosing choice.

Another quote stated that “the first inalienable human right is to life.” Many justice groups are rightfully up in arms from the moment a child is born about bodily autonomy. We protest the circumcision, cosmetic or surgical alteration, and piercing of infants. In all of these situations, we recognize that a basic human right all children should have is the right to choose what they will do with their bodies, and modifications should only be made when the individual is capable of making that decision. Yet somehow the importance of bodily autonomy diminishes when we start talking about abortion. When we allow women the ability to pierce their own ears but not to terminate a pregnancy, what are we telling women? That their bodies are their own but only to an extent. Women’s bodies are not public property. They are not walking incubators, and no one should have a say in what one person does with their own body.

Finally, a chalk message said “adoption is a loving alternative.” Adoption is a beautiful option for women who choose to carry their pregnancies but do not want to parent children, but it is an alternative to parenthood, not pregnancy. When we talk about adoption in the context of a substitute for abortion, adoption becomes a weapon in a misogynistic political agenda against women. Adoption should not be disrespected and used as a guilt tactic or presented a last ditch effort against abortion.

Every moment that this pro-life propaganda exists on our campus, more and more people are shamed, silenced and provided with false and manipulative information. Perhaps if accurate quotes were shared on sidewalks, accurate signs displayed in our student centre, or accurate pamphlets handed out on corners, we might see a marked change in how women who have had abortions navigate their university experience. If well-intentioned and productive information was being disseminated on campus our pro-life organizations would cease to exist.

When these quotes are publicly displayed the intention is clear. To silence, shame, and deny women spaces to talk openly about their abortions. When we fail to talk about abortion as a valuable and viable option for an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy we force women to see themselves as having shameful secrets. Most people can imagine what it’s like to carry with you a secret you cannot share without fear of disgust, rejection, or humiliation. There is a simple fix to this one: accept abortions.

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By: Amber Faith Miller

To begin, you should know that I'm a third year student studying English and Theatre and Film. While I enjoy my program for the most part, some of my classes make me feel uncomfortable.

In mandatory film classes, I've been assaulted by disgusting images without warning. I had no way to protect myself from visual and emotional disturbances brought on by razor blades and guttural screaming. What would possess a professor to actually force students to experience this? My professors use these films as examples of contemporary art. In other words, I have to sit through the good or bad gruesome scenes for the sake of higher learning. I'm sure you could think of a time when an idea, image or activity in class made you feel uneasy. How do we deal with course content that we don't like but cannot avoid?

Sometimes, when faced with an image or idea that they don't like, some people choose to protest, and that's good. The great thing about university is that varying opinions can coexist peacefully, and even interact respectfully.

How does one engage in productive discourse with an argument that they don't approve of? It starts with acknowledging the person before judging their opinion. Imagine how dignified our debates would be if we actually listened to understand our opponent, instead of cutting them down while trying to have the last word. We are losing our ability to debate with friends, and our ability to stay friends with people whose ideas differ from our own.

"What do you think about abortion?" I genuinely want to know. It's okay if your opinion differs from mine; the important thing is that we respect each other, while holding firm to our core values.

This past Thursday Oct. 9, McMaster Lifeline's information table was set up in hopes of sparking a good conversation. Pro-choice advocates began to protest at the table beside us, which generated even more buzz. We engaged passers-by in interesting discussions focused on basic biology and human rights. Unfortunately, not all the protesters were willing to engage in any discussion about abortion. Instead, they summed up their views in four-word phrases and had some choice words to speak about the pro-lifers next to them, including the phrase "f--- these people."

"They have fetuses!" You probably don't hear this phrase very often, unless you're a medical student. As a group advocating for human rights, we show plastic models of humans in their earliest stages of development, from blastocyst to embryo to fetus. These 3D models by no means depict a gruesome image, but are a tool for learning how the pre-born develop in the uterus over the span of nine months.

If any of the pro-choice protestors wanted to know where we got these models, we gladly would have told them. Yet, they refused to speak with us, or even look at the images they were protesting. This makes me wonder whether these protestors wished to teach us or shame us.

You may disagree with some or all of the things I said in this article, but thank you for reading it regardless. I heard once that "everyone [in Canada] has the freedom of speech, but that doesn't give one the right to be heard." Expression of opinions and active listening are invaluable tools for expanding our horizons as students, and making our campus a true medium for free speech.

TedWEBTed McMeekin

@TedMcMeekin

Liberal Party

www.votetedmcmeekin.ca 

Climate change, McMaster University, social work, Chapters bookstore and public service were all topics of conversation with local MPP Ted McMeekin, who is running for re-election after 14 years of representing the ADFW riding.

McMeekin was born and raised in Hamilton and has a deep connection with his riding. He spent two terms as a Hamilton City Councillor and as the Mayor of Flamborough, and has served in the cabinet as Minister of Government Services, Minister of Consumer Services, Minister of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs, and most recently, Minister of Community and Social Services. He received his Bachelor of Social Work from McMaster University and has also attended Wilfrid Laurier University and Mohawk College.

The upcoming election has introduced debate around a number of issues, but when asked which one is the highest priority for our area, Mr. McMeekin responded with climate change.

“I think one of the most important issues that we face is one we are facing around the world, and that’s climate change,” McMeekin said. “I think we need to be doing everything we can to educate ourselves about what we can do to curb climate change and what kind of investments we can make, be they in public transit, bike paths or with the Cootes to Escarpment Park.”

But climate change is not his only concern. A veteran of the education system, Mr. McMeekin is determined to place emphasis on education.  “My first love is McMaster,” he said. “I have a series of advisory committees but the one I enjoy the most is the advisory committee about post-secondary education. There are 16 students and I meet with them four times a year and get advice from them on all kinds of issues. That makes me a better representative for students and generally the McMaster community.”

He also addressed the Progressive Conservative Party’s threat to dispose of the 30% tuition rebate, stating that the Liberal Party will keep the tuition rebate if re-elected.

Mr. McMeekin has represented ADFW as the MPP for almost 14 years, and in that time he has worked with students and the administration to bring in approximately $170 million in capital investment to the university to fund projects such as health sciences expansion, the Nuclear Research Building, the Centre for Spinal Cord Injury and the new L.R. Wilson Hall Humanities building.

A lifetime resident of the area, Mr. McMeekin has held many positions including the Mayor of Flamborough, the owner and operator of the original Chapters bookstore, a professor, a community worker with the United Church of Canada, and has worked in many other positions in government.

With a background in social work, Mr. McMeekin places an emphasis on helping people in the community. “The promise I made when I was first elected was that I would put together the best constituency team in the province. And I did that,” McMeekin said. “As of last week the three women in my office have responded to over 548,000 requests for information and assistance. […] So I think all of that together equals being a pretty good MPP.”

 

AlexWEBAlex Johnstone

@alex__johnstone

NDP

http://electalexjohnstone.com   

You can see the contribution Alex Johnstone has made to the community through initiatives like the declaration of Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) as a living wage employer and the organization of the Elect More Women conference.

As a current School Board Trustee for HWDSB, member of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction’s working committee on Shifting Attitudes, and board member for the Quest Learning Centre United Church in Westdale, it becomes even more obvious that Alex Johnstone is dedicated to the city and its people.

Education is very important to both Johnstone and the NDP. The party promises a tuition freeze for university students, and is looking to make student loans interest free. For students in medical school, a credit of up to $20,000 for debt reduction will be given for employment in rural communities.

“I’m still paying down my student debt, actually,” Johnstone admitted. “I graduated in 2008 and I still have three more years to go.” NDP policies like tuition freezes and interest free loans will help manage the debts incurred from attending post secondary school.

Johnstone is also an advocate of improving the education system, especially for special needs students. “I was a special needs student myself – I actually failed grade one,” said Johnstone.  “But I had really amazing teachers and resource staff that changed my whole trajectory. I was able to go ahead and earn two University degrees. That to me really demonstrated that with the right supports, you can change a child’s path.”

In addition to improving the education system, the NDP is looking to attract businesses to Ontario by lowering hydro rates. Their plan involves merging four of Ontario’s hydro agencies to minimize duplicated management costs.

In the business sector, NDP plans to reward businesses that create jobs by giving a tax credit of up to $5000 per employee hired. They also plan to cut back small business tax to 3% to help small businesses thrive.

“I have a record of working hard on behalf of families, certainly as an elected school board trustee this past term. I’ve worked very hard to get results for families,” said Johnstone.  “I always start by saying that I can’t promise you’ll get 100% of what you’re asking for but I will try my hardest and we will look towards a compromise, always. It has worked out really well that way. I think that my track record alone demonstrates that I’m an excellent person to fill this role as MPP.”

 

DonnaWEBDonna Skelly  

@donnaskellypc

Progressive Conservative Party

http://adfw.ontariopc.com

Donna Skelly describes herself as an extremely hardworking person and a strong supporter of the community. She lives in Ancaster, and is highly involved in the non-profit sector and in local sports. Skelly was a journalist for 22 years at CHCH Television in Hamilton, and has moved on to become involved in politics with the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

Skelly’s platform focuses largely on job creation and the economy. She has seen a worry in the community about a lack of well paying jobs and avidly promotes PC leader Tim Hudak’s plan to create one million jobs if elected in Ontario.

“I grew up in Northern Ontario, north of Sudbury in a tiny little town,” Skelly said. “I’m a journalist and I knew back then – I knew when I was 14 – what I wanted to do. I also knew that when I graduated that as long as I wanted to work hard I could work anywhere in Ontario. I knew I could get a job in any field anywhere in Ontario and that is simply not the case anymore.”

“If you end up graduating from university with debt and can’t get a job it’s devastating,” Skelly said. “We have to turn the province around by creating high paying, full-time jobs.”

The Progressive Conservative Party’s plan encourages students to look to the trades for apprenticeships that will promise high paying, stable jobs in the future. Other sectors they say will assure high paying jobs are science, technology, engineering and business.

The plan emphasizes strengthening the private sector in order to create more jobs. This includes making the tax rate for business the most competitive in North America, as well as reducing rising hydro bills that may deter businesses from settling in Ontario. This comes at the cost of the lost 30% tuition rebate, and reductions in numbers of teachers and education staff under Tim Hudak’s plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs.

Skelly described the plan as “tough medicine,” but necessary to balance Ontario’s budget.

“It’s a good solid plan and it’s going to give you hope, it’s going to give you an opportunity to grow up in the Ontario that I grew up in – where taxes were low and where jobs were so prosperous and readily available across Ontario,” said Skelly about the PC plan.

“I’m the right choice because I’m extremely motivated,” she said. “This is my second time running, and trust me, if you give me an opportunity to represent you I will work really, really hard. But more so, you have to have the right plan. We have the right plan.”

 

RayWEBRaymond Dartsch

Green Party of Ontario 

http://www.gpo.ca/riding/3/candidate-0

Rayond Dartsch is a registered nurse, a political and environmental activist, and a McMaster and Mohawk graduate. He is the MPP candidate for the Green Party of Ontario.

Dartsch identified the most important issue in southwestern Ontario as transportation and gridlock.

“I was wondering: who is going to fix this problem?” Dartsch said. “That’s one of the things that drew me into politics in the first place.”

The Green Party believes expansion of GO service to communities such as Ancaster, Dundas, and Waterdown, as well as light-rail transit in Hamilton, will help solve the gridlock program.

“There’s all this crazy talk of highway 401 having to be expanded to 10 or 16 lanes out to Kitchener,” he said. “But if you have extended GO service…that’s where your solution to gridlock is.”

In terms of education, the Green Party of Ontario’s biggest proposed change is the merging of the Catholic and public school boards. Having two school boards duplicates services such as bussing and wastes an estimate of $1.2 to $1.6 billion each year.

Along with merging the school boards, the party aims to support youth through the creation of a Social Innovation Fund. The fund would give grants, loans and mentorship to young entrepreneurs in order to offset the high youth unemployment rate.

“As someone who is still paying off his own student loans, I am very aware of the affordability issues facing students, and that has to be addressed, not just by making student loans more available and making people go deeper into debt,” Dartsch said.

Another strategy to create jobs is to double the health tax exemption for employers with payrolls of less than $5 million. “Cutting small business pay roll taxes, as far as I’m aware, is very helpful to someone considering hiring because it lowers the cost for that,” Dartsch said.

Many have been skeptical of the Green Party, but Dartsch thinks Canada is ready for Green Party leadership. “We’ve had a century or more of experience with the Liberals and the Conservatives, we’ve even had a NDP government for a few years,” Dartsch said. “I think looking at the Green Party platform, it is a fresh look at a lot of old problems and fresh solutions to problems that exist today that didn’t exist before.”

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Make sure to visit the polls on the 12th and decide who is going to represent the riding you live in.

On May 28 in the MUSC Atrium, the McMaster Students Union hosted an all-candidates debate with four candidates in the Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale riding for the upcoming June 12 provincial election.

The participants were Raymond Dartsch of the Green Party, Alex Johnstone of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Ted McMeekin of the Liberal Party, and Donna Skelly of the Progressive Conservatives (PC). Libertarian Party candidate Glenn Langton and Freedom Party of Ontario candidate Barry Spruce were absent.

It was an engaging and well-attended debate. The candidates had the opportunity to offer their perspectives on important issues within the riding before focusing on post-secondary education (PSE).

 

Opening Statements set the tone for the debate

Raymond Dartsch began by sharing his hopes for the GP’s success in this election. “It’s not a far-fetched idea that a candidate of the Green Party gets elected,” he said.

Donna Skelly, as might be expected from a former TV journalist, was always smiling and unmistakeably confident, but addressed the student audience too formally.

Johnstone, a former school-board trustee, began by highlighting her community experiences at McMaster and Hamilton. She was evidently the most nervous of the four, but recovered steadily.

Both Skelly and Johnstone made remarks about the state of provincial employment and debt rates under Liberal leadership.

Ted McMeekin combined personal anecdotes and past achievements as the incumbent MPP. McMeekin appeared as the most comfortable of the candidates, aiming to relate with the audience on their shared love of McMaster and the MSU.

 

McMeekin and Skelly: head to head on almost everything

In most of her answers, Skelly attacked Liberal governance, and on numerous occasions directed her accusations at McMeekin. Skelly spoke many times about the Liberal’s “blunders,” “corruption,” and “mismanagement.”

McMeekin concluded some of his own responses by rebutting PC platform points that Skelly hadn’t brought up.

While Skelly emphasized PC’s fiscal discipline, in particular in terms of cutting public sector jobs, McMeekin criticized the Tory plan as standing on “the backs of those who need us most.” Skelly stated that we have to “bite the bullet” with regards social cuts, while McMeekin countered that Ontario can only rebuild through investment, not cuts.

McMeekin responded well to criticism. A veteran to the area’s politics, he handled attacks against him and the Ontario Liberals calmly and maturely.

His responses to questions pertaining to PSE and to the criticisms of Skelly and Johnstone included a fine level of detail and knowledge of McMaster, its funding, and current projects. There is no doubt that McMeekin is well-informed on these issues given his incumbency.

McMeekin laughed off a number of Skelly’s attacks, though he did respond to Skelly’s accusations about the public investigation of officials in the Premier’s office. He told the audience, rather passionately, that he thinks if someone in Queen’s Park has done something wrong, the “bastard ought to pay for it.”

McMeekin conceded that Skelly’s attacks about the Gas Plant closure were fair, but that this didn’t pose a big problem for his overall performance in the debate.

The majority of Skelly’s statements were about issues unrelated to PSE. Skelly’s strategy might have worked for a different audience, but her repetitive attacks did not appear to have any effect on university students who wanted to hear about tuition and employment.

As much as Skelly liked to attack the Liberals’ platform, she failed to respond to McMeekin’s criticism of the Progressive Conservatives’ plan to tie marks to OSAP funding, Dartsch’s remarks about her support for the Niagara-GTA highway back in 2011, and Johnstone’s claim that the PC platform makes education inaccessible.

 

Johnstone garners audience support 

Johnstone’s energy and natural tone, along with her emphasis on accessible education, garnered her support from the audience throughout the debate. The majority of the audience’s applause went to her.

She criticized both McMeekin and Skelly on their respective party platforms, while agreeing with Skelly on the Liberals’ fiscal irresponsibility and with McMeekin on the PC’s attack on social services.

She jumped into some of the more heated points of the debate, but overall came across as a constructive critic instead of a relentless attacker. Johnstone focused far less on attacking the Liberal government and more on bringing forth NDP’s tuition plans.

She did not miss a chance to remind the audience to vote for the NDP this election.

 

Dartsch emphasizes the importance of fresh ideas 

Although Dartsch didn’t have a strong presence and seemed tired during the debate, he captured the audience’s attention with his honesty and refreshing approach to the election. He did not push for himself or his party, but for open debate and new ideas.

However, Dartsch was stumped by some questions, noting that he’s been too busy being a working parent with five kids to keep up with post-secondary news – a comment that might have left a bad taste in the mouths of some of the most involved students on campus. Dartsch went back and forth between making impressive, well thought-out points,  and repeating previous statements and admitting to a lack of knowledge on some topics.

Final Remarks

There was no clear “winner” in Wednesday’s debate. Overall, Johnstone and McMeekin out-performed both Skelly and Dartsch.

Skelly’s performance appealed to strong PC supporters, yet failed to engage undecided members of the audience due to her forced delivery, which at times sounded patronizing and too rehearsed.

Dartsch missed the opportunity to make a strong impression on McMaster students.

Johnstone and McMeekin gave the most natural and relatable answers. Both were friendly, and unlike their opponents they appeared to understand the purpose of the debate, and used this to their advantage.

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