A student at Sir John A. Macdonald High School in Upper Tantallon is taking the Liberal candidate in her riding to task for appearing disinterested during a forum with students and later insinuating it was a waste of time.

Phoebe Lamb

Phoebe Lamb, a student at Sir John A. Macdonald High School in Upper Tantallon, said she was disappointed that Liberal candidate Tim Harris seemed disinterested during a debate at her high school. (Courtesy: Phoebe Lamb)

Phoebe Lamb helped organize a debate last week between the three candidates in the electoral district of Chester-St. Margaret's: Liberal candidate Tim Harris, Progressive Conservative candidate Janet Irwin and New Democrat candidate Denise Peterson-Rafuse.

The students prepared questions on a wide range of topics including fracking, student tuition and the environment. Lamb said she and her fellow students noticed during the debate that Harris seemed less than enthusiastic.

"We noticed that he seemed a little bit disinterested in us. He was taking photographs with his iPhone and none of us had filled out any sort of waiver that would say that we wanted to be recorded," she said.

"We were just noticing that he didn't really care. He didn't seem pleased to be there, he wasn't trying to engage us."

At the end of the debate, the students were asked how many of them could vote. Three people raised their hands.

Lamb said her philosophy teacher, Mike Oddy, had organized the debate and he went up to the candidates after the forum was over to thank them, wish them luck and extend an invitation to come back to the school after the election.

"When he went up to Tim Harris to say this, Tim Harris said to him, 'I wasted my time for a couple of friggin' votes? I could've been out knocking on doors,'" Lamb said.

"I don't have the power not to vote for Tim Harris because I'm only 16 but I want to go home and tell my parents and I want to tell as many other people who do have the power not to vote for him."

'It was not appropriate'

Harris, meanwhile, said he respects students and wants them to be engaged — and that his comment wasn't intended to disappoint anyone.

"I had said to Mr. Oddy, 'A lot of effort for only three votes,'" Harris told Stephanie Domet on CBC's Mainstreet.

"I own the statement. It was not appropriate and it was certainly not meant in any way to disillusion budding politicians from that student body."

Tim Harris

Tim Harris is the Liberal candidate for Chester-St. Margaret's. (Nova Scotia Liberal Party)

Harris said he made the comment because he spent hours ahead of the forum crafting responses that were reflective of his party's platform.

"I was up late the night before making sure that I had my answers correct or at least that they were satisfactory to me. There's a lot of platform material that we have to review the day before for these forums," he said Monday afternoon.

"There is a process and hours and hours of work go into these forums. We don't take them lightly."

Lamb said while Irwin and Peterson-Rafuse stayed after the event to speak to students, Harris left the building without speaking to any of the future voters.

"I think that young people need to get involved in politics and have an understanding because these people are representing us and there's a lot of talk about student apathy and people not caring about politics," she said.

"I understand that it's a difficult job and that you want to get out there as much as possible and talk to people but he was at our school for 75 minutes."