Halifax federal election candidates debate student issues

Highlights from last night's leaders debate for the riding of Halifax.

Halifax candidates debate some important issues in lead up to federal election

Candidates for the riding of Halifax squared off Monday night in a debate hosted by the Dalhousie Student Union. (Jennifer Henderson/CBC)

About 400 university students turned out for an all-candidates debate on the Dalhousie University campus in Halifax on Monday night.

All five candidates fielded questions during the debate, which was hosted by the Dalhousie Student Union. Here are the highlights:


  • Allan Bezanson, Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada
  • Irvine Carvery, Conservative Party
  • Andy Fillmore, Liberal Party
  • Megan Leslie, NDP
  • Thomas Trappenberg, Green Party 

First topic: Student debt crisis

The average Nova Scotia university graduate owes about $35,000. How would political parties reduce student debt? 

  • Bezanson: Marxist-Leninist Party supports free tuition — "Make the rich pay."
  • Carvery: In 2012, the Conservatives reduced interest payments on student debt. Conservatives have created good paying jobs for graduates.
  • Fillmore: Liberals will make post-secondary education announcement this week. The Liberals will spend $40 million for paid student co-op education placements with companies.
  • Leslie: NDP will pass Post-Secondary Education Act to transfer dedicated funds to provinces to be used to help reduce tuition.
  • Trappenberg: Greens would pay post-secondary tuition for students by ending subsidies to energy companies.

Second topic: Gender issues

What would politicians do to boost the participation rate of women in the paid workforce? The current rate is 57 per cent for women aged 25 to 64, compared to 76 per cent for men in the same age bracket.

  • Carvery: Conservatives would invest in education (no amount stated) to reduce poverty for African-Nova Scotian women who make up seven per cent of low-income recipients. (African Nova Scotians account for 3.6 per cent of the province's population).
  • Fillmore: Liberals would implement a new child tax benefit that would provide $533 per child, per month, tax-free to lower and middle income families. He dismisses NDP daycare policy as "unworkable" because it requires provinces to contribute 40 per cent of the cost, and he says Nova Scotia can't afford it.
  • Leslie: The NDP's $15-a-day daycare program (modelled on Quebec's) would make it affordable for women who choose to work outside the home. She says the Liberals promised a national daycare policy in the past but never delivered on it. The NDP would pass bill to give unpaid interns, mostly female, the same rights as other workers.

Third topic: Scientific research

What would your party do to ensure all levels of scientific research, pure as well as commercial, receive adequate federal funding?

  • Bezanson: The Marxist-Leninist Party would restore cutbacks made to "federal" science such as Department of Fisheries offices and environmental protection agencies.
  • Carvery: Conservatives remain committed to supporting research at institutions such as Dalhousie and at hospitals.
  • Fillmore: Liberals will appoint a Chief Science Officer and ensure scientists get their "voice" back. Liberals will invest "tens of millions of dollars each year" in research programs, including the defunded National Research Council and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, as well as a green economy.
  • Trappenberg: Conservatives have withdrawn all funding for basic research and demoralized scientists by not listening to their advice, he says. The Green Party would "trust" scientists and restore funding. Trappenberg works in computational neuroscience and machine learning at Dalhousie University.
  • Leslie: NDP would stop cutting scientific research as, she says, the Conservatives have and continue to do. The NDP would "review" whether all research must have a "commercial" purpose in order to qualify for taxpayer support.


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