Winnipeg Centre candidates quizzed at U of W debate

Students and voters packed an auditorium at the University of Winnipeg Monday night for a debate between Winnipeg Centre candidates.

Candidates discuss unpaid internships, fossil fuels, post-secondary funding for First Nations

Winnipeg Centre candidates, from left: Pat Martin (NDP), Darrell Rankin (Communist Party), Robert-Falcon Ouellette (Liberal Party) and Don Woodstock (Green Party) take part in a debate at the University of Winnipeg on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. (CBC)

Students and voters packed an auditorium at the University of Winnipeg Monday night for a debate between Winnipeg Centre candidates.

Each party's representative in the area was in attendance, except for the Conservatives' Allie Szarkiewicz and Christian Heritage Party's Scott Miller. 

Topics ranged from job creation and funding commitments for post-secondary schools, to party positions on anti-terror legislation in Bill C-51 and how best to consult with First Nation communities on resource development on treaty land.

Green Party candidate Don Woodstock's introductory remarks included a jab at his fellow-running mates, as well as a promise to abolish post-secondary tuition fees.

"I have the pleasure of saying and repeating myself that I'm the only one who lives here and works in this riding," Woodstock said, adding the party plans to create more jobs and provide a guaranteed, livable income to all Canadians.

I think the format didn't really allow for a dialogue.- Alex Paterson

Pat Martin, the incumbent MP for the riding, said he looks forward to dealing with crises like student debt, securing adequate funding for students to go to school and eliminating unpaid internships.

He also spoke to the fossil fuel divestment debate, which has been going on at university campuses like the U of W.

"Our party is going to stop all subsidies to big oil [and gas]," Martin said, adding his party plans to raise corporate tax rates and lower small business taxes to encourage entrepreneurship.

Darrell Rankin, the Communist Party candidate for Winnipeg Centre, touched on the topic of research funding.

"About half of our research is spent on the military and building F35s," said Rankin. "There's an enormous amount of [wasted] money on things that we don't need, and science and knowledge are things that we do need."

Rankin added that his party would institute a $20-an-hour minimum wage and "build up a more active trade union movement that will fight for higher wages."

You can tell by a tone of voice what's true and what's not.- Lionel Daniels

Liberal Party candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette said his party pledges to invest $2.6 billion in education programming for First Nations and work to eliminate poverty in Canada.

"I've always said that education is a treaty right ... for me that means good quality education that all Canadians should have access to," Ouellete said, adding an additional $50 million would go to post-secondary student support programs, "which often universities use in order to support First Nations students."

Alex Paterson, a student at the U of W, said he attended the debate to help him decide who to vote for. 

When the debate was over, he said he was frustrated with the lack of audience participation and dialogue between candidates. He was hoping candidates would get into specifics and actually debate their different policies, he said.

"I think the format didn't really allow for a dialogue. Everyone was so worried that Pat Martin was going to do another 'Martinism' that there was no room for actually being, like, 'This is why my policy is better than yours and let's talk about it," he said.

Lionel Daniels came out to hear the platforms of each candidate, but was frustrated he wasn't able to ask the questions he had prepared. The format of the debate had the candidates answer questions submitted by U of W students a week ago.

"I find most people to be Facebook-shallow when it comes to politics. You need to be at little events like this to actually see your politicians engaged, see their facial expressions, how they react and their strong words. You can tell by a tone of voice what's true and what's not," he said.

With files from Erin Brohman


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