Manitoba Votes 2003

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Young candidates give campaign their all
Lindsey Wiebe, Young Voter | May 27

I like to think that I support youth activism and political involvement. After all, I’m a student, and with political awareness painfully low among the student population, I should be doing my best to support those who take the time to get involved. Still, it’s one thing to support activism, and entirely another to vote for a candidate who's a student.

A host of young candidates is running in the 2003 election. All skepticism aside, I thought that in light of my political indecision, it might be a good idea to ask the students themselves how their respective parties would deal with student issues. No rhetoric, just honesty.

The youngest of the hopefuls this election is PC candidate and high school student Garreth McDonald, running in Kildonan. Though McDonald is new to campaigning, he does have six years of political experience – not bad for an 18-year-old.

• 'Will to run' is greater in young candidate •

“I’ve been a member forever,” says McDonald. “My Dad’s a member of the party. He signed me up and I paid my ten dollars when I was 12.” By the age of 13, McDonald says, he was assisting on various election campaigns. I think of my 13-year-old interests (boys, clothing, boys) and keep quiet.

Like any good candidate, McDonald has done his research – he can rattle off statistics on hallway medicine and PC policy without hesitation. Even his take on student election issues is apropos, though whether it comes from experience is questionable.

“I think that when a student comes out of university, they’re going to go to the place where they’re going to get the lowest taxes and the most money, which usually is one and the same,” McDonald says. “I think taxes are a huge issue.”

McDonald is confident that his youth will work to his advantage. “I think my will to run is greater,” he says. “I am a student, I know what students want. I bring new blood to politics.”

• Access to education an important issue •

21-year-old Liberal candidate Kris Ade, running in Riel, also hopes to bring a new outlook to the provincial government. A Canadian history and politics major at the University of Winnipeg, Ade became involved with the Young Liberals at the age of 19.

Ade didn’t have to approach the Liberal party to run in the 2003 election – they came to him. “The Liberal party believes that I’m a serious candidate,” Ade says. “I’m as competent and committed as anyone else running.“

Like McDonald, Ade’s take on student issues in the election isn’t very different from that of his party. Still, his answer does have a ring of truth.

“The number one issue is access to affordable and quality education, particularly post-secondary education,” Ade says. “Coming from the University of Winnipeg, where I witnessed firsthand the results of an increasing lack of funding to the institution itself, I know that it’s a big issue.”

For 22-year-old Lonnie Patterson, campaigning is a different story altogether. The recent Brandon University graduate has taken on the formidable task of running for the NDP in the Turtle Mountain constituency, an area comprised largely of rural countryside and small communities.

Patterson’s explanation for the problems facing students comes from her own experience.

“Of course as students, you face the challenge of paying tuition,” Patterson says, “and as a rural student, the challenge of paying rent, because you have to move into either Brandon or Winnipeg, when you’re looking at Manitoba.”

• Young candidates dedicated to campaign •

As both a U of W attendee and a rural student, I can’t argue with either Patterson or Ade’s explanations. While the assessments aren’t exactly new, it’s reassuring to know that some candidates have my best interests at heart – in large part because my interests are their interests, too.

Though I wasn’t able to break through the political jargon entirely, I do feel that I came away with a sense of how seriously these candidates regard the election. I also found some of the honesty I was looking for. Kris Ade, for example, was the only candidate of any age who acknowledged that the interest level among voters has been relatively low this election.

More than idealistic newcomers, young political candidates are dedicated to their campaigns. Lonnie Patterson has driven over 800 km in a two-day stretch on her long and winding campaign trail. Garreth McDonald is balancing campaigning, a part-time job and the demands of high school. It’s a tough task for a beginner, and personally, I’m more comfortable answering one door than knocking on 100.

It’s up to the province to decide on June 3 if what young candidates lack in political experience can be made up for with hard work and enthusiasm. Either way, take note, Manitoba. While we might be skeptical about voting for them now, there’s a good chance we’ll be casting our ballots in their direction in the future.

Lindsey Wiebe is a student in the joint Creative Communications program offered by Red River College and the University of Winnipeg. She plans to pursue a career in the field of journalism.


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