By Jim Elliot and Wade Tomko
We asked candidates in the Kamloops–Thompson–Cariboo to respond to questions of interest to students, including questions on post-secondary education, employment, the environment, electoral reform and marijuana. Candidates were interviewed in person and did not see questions on these subjects beforehand, although they were given a general idea about the subjects they would be asked to speak about.
Powrie stated that his party is considering forgoing interest on student loans.
“To me it doesn’t make a lot of sense, charging interest on investment in our future,” he said.
Another possibility is tying the payment schedule of the loan to the income you make after graduation. The Liberals will also be looking at increasing the number of grant and bursary programs as well.
If that is done, the Liberals will begin income testing bursaries and grants, allowing lower-income students to benefit more, while keeping higher-income students from misusing resources.
The Liberal party is committed to creating a national infrastructure program that will revitalize the economy. A third of this program will be dedicated to green technology, an industry Powrie said is worth trillions of dollars in North America.
They will also be focusing on the creation of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and business jobs, having said they would give employers 25 per cent off the cost of co-op programs.
Powrie has also said that the Liberals will put $1.3 billion into the economy over three years to create 40,000 new jobs for young people each year.
Industry and environment
“This green tech thing is huge. It’s a benefit for both economy and environment. That’s been the missing link, it’s been either or,” Powrie said.
He wants to be able to give incentives for businesses thinking about transferring to green tech, citing that companies go where they can make the most money. He hopes that multi-billion dollar corporations, with the right incentives, will see the benefits of green energy.
Powrie also promised that “within 90 days of the Paris summit, were going to have a climate change framework that will be done in coordination and collaboration with the provinces and territories.”
Powrie admitted that many of the decisions on how many internationals are accepted lies with the university.
“It’s not unreasonable to expect that they would pay more, proportionately, but it’s got to be fair. The current system is unfair,” he said. Although he wanted the system to be heavily reviewed, he would like to educate himself further on the issue first.
Though in support of some form of proportional representation, Powrie said that Liberals are committed to setting up an electoral review commission after the election is over.
“If we want to re-engage people again to say my vote matters we need a new voting system to bring people back again,” he said. He hopes doing this will considerably reform government as well.
The Liberals will also have future voters register in high school so they have a greater incentive to vote later on. Trudeau will also be setting up a youth advisory council, comprised of young Canadians from every province.
Legality of marijuana
“This is about what our campaign against marijuana has done for us,” Powrie said. He believes that the war on drugs has been a complete failure, costing taxpayers billions over the years.
Citing that marijuana’s legalization would give B.C. an additional $2 billion in tax revenue, Powrie said that legalization will allow Canada to control crime while collecting tax that can go back into the health system to help chronic drug users.
“People use ridiculous arguments like ‘what’s next, cocaine?’ This isn’t about cocaine, this is about pot and where we are putting our priorities,” Powrie said.
McLeod said that her party had expanded the eligibility for low-and middle-income students to access Canada Student Grants and doubled student income exemption, allowing full-time students to earn more money in their part-time and summer jobs. McLeod also said to watch for commitments from the Conservative party that might benefit students in the final weeks of the campaign.
“I’m not privy to all of the platforms, but I do know that there is an indication that there might be something coming out in terms of students,” McLeod said.
“Number one is we need an environment that creates jobs,” McLeod said.
She condemned the NDP’s promise to raise the corporate tax rate, stating that the increase would cause job-creating companies to leave the country. McLeod pointed to the $70 million the government has invested in the creation of paid internships and the $49 million earmarked for young entrepreneurs as steps already taken to help young people enter the workforce.
McLeod said that her strategy for making it easier for international students to study in Canada relies on creating opportunities for them to work while they are here and providing an immigration and visa system that makes studying in Canada as simple as possible. McLeod said that as an MP, she has been in regular contact with the university when they have challenges with processing some of the students’ visas.
“TRU is actually ahead of the game: they’ve been able to do a number of things without some of the support that is available,” McLeod said.
Industry and environment
When asked how her party planned to balance resource development with environmental sustainability, McLeod said that “any project that is happening goes through a comprehensive environmental assessment process.”
“Projects move forward only if they are safe for the environment and safe for people,” she said.
McLeod cited the proposed Prosperity mine, northwest of Kamloops, as a project that “raised concerns during the assessment process” and so did not move forward. “Resources are important, but having an adequate and appropriate system for analyzing projects and then making that decision is necessary.”
Legality of marijuana
“Our party’s position has been fairly consistent on this issue. We do not believe it should be legalized,” McLeod said. As a nurse, McLeod said she regularly follows the research on the effects of marijuana use and is “becoming more concerned in terms of long-term” as more research comes out. In response to calls from high-ranking police officers to make simple marijuana possession a mere ticketable offence, McLeod said she would personally support it.
McLeod said she does not believe that there is much of an appetite for electoral reform in this country. She cited failed referendums on the subject in B.C., Ontario and P.E.I.
“We need to spend some energy focused on the Senate as opposed to other types of reform,” McLeod said. She said that abolishing the Senate was an unrealistic goal due to a recent Supreme Court decision which ruled that seven provinces as well as the House of Commons and even the Senate itself would need to reach a consensus for that to happen.
“It’s a dialogue that is going to happen now that we have a Supreme Court decision to frame the discussion,” she said.
“New Democrats are committed to a post-secondary education act making university and post-secondary education affordable and accessible for all Canadians regardless of background,” Sundhu said.
Of the programs announced, the NDP has said they are committed to using $200 million to create 40,000 new job placements over the next four years. In addition to this, if elected they will create and contribute to municipal infrastructure apprenticeship programs.
Sundhu also said that his party plans to cancel the Conservatives TFSA increase to $11,000.
“If we do that and we close tax loopholes, a portion of the money we generate will be dedicated to alleviating the debt load and making university education more affordable,” Sundhu said.
The NDP has said that if elected they will reduce taxes on small businesses by 20 percent over two years, citing that these small “mom-and-pop” businesses make up for 80 percent of Canada’s employment.
Sundhu also said that the NDP will increase the minimum wage for federal government workers to $15 per hour with the hopes that it will create a country-wide discussion on living wages. They will also be focussing on a federal infrastructure program that will work to fix deteriorating roads and bridges while give young people opportunities.
Industry and environment
“It’s good economics to address climate change,” Sundhu said. “As we do that we will be creating clean energy which will also create new employment.”
Currently the NDP is looking at solar, wind and biomass energy, but has not said which specific direction they would like to see Canada’s green sector move. Sundhu also stated that if elected the NDP would do more to invest in research than the current government.
When questioned on what direct action they would take, he said, “Our program is cap-and-trade, the bottom line is we’ve got to start reducing greenhouse gasses.”
Sundhu believes that universities have had to enrol more international students in recent years in order to fight government cutbacks, though he welcomes their addition to Canada economically and culturally.
“I’m not saying foreign students shouldn’t pay more, but I’m troubled by the fact that some of these students come from very poor countries,” he said. Sundhu wants to see the system reviewed.
Committed to mixed-member proportional representation, Sundhu stated that if the NDP form the government, this will be the last first-past-the-post election.
“When governments move to mixed-member proportional representation, the voter participation rate goes way up,” he said.
Under MMPR, governments will find it harder to obtain a majority. This will allow for more consensus and cooperation.
Sundhu also added that we must do more to inform Canadians about the electoral process and democracy, saying the NDP would give Elections Canada back some of the power it has lost.
Legality of marijuana
The NDP has said that they are committed to a policy of decriminalization in regards to marijuana.
“You should not be burdened by the stigma of a criminal record for the simple possession of marijuana. In my experience, as a lawyer and a judge, the war on drugs has been a complete failure,” Sundhu said.
He is open to consulting experts on the advancement of the issue. Sundhu doesn’t want to see it sold like soda pop and thinks it should be regulated like tobacco. But before that discussion can begin, Sundhu wants the criminality to be taken out of it completely.
Greenwood prefaced the interview by stating that he was not going to win the election, but still touted the strengths of the Green Party’s platform.
“I think that the Green party’s platform on education tuition, student debt and youth unemployment is second to none.”
The Green platform includes immediately making student debt interest-free with an eventual move towards a tuition-free model.
“We have to believe that universities aren’t necessarily out there just to rake in as much tuition as possible just for their own sake, but you have to think that they’re probably also having some interest in actually educating people,” Greenwood said.
When asked how he planned to get Canadian university graduates into jobs relevant to their field of study, Greenwood called Canada “one of the most over-educated countries in terms of the per capita university degree rate in the developed world.”
He added that employers are looking for work experience on top of a university degree: a situation that he called “a ridiculous catch-22.” Greenwood’s solution to this is a government-sponsored skills training and apprenticeship program he called “a green jobs service corps.” Greenwood said that the service corps, for people just out of university in need of real-world experience, would travel the country helping communities adapt to climate change.
“In terms of the overall immigration model, I know the Green Party wants Canada to move away from temporary foreign workers and more towards immigration about citizenship,” he said. “We could be bringing in foreign students that could get a foothold in Canada and then stay here.”
Industry and environment
“You really can’t have a strong economy on a shattered environment, and it’s really hard to make people care about the environment when the economy is cratered and everyone is homeless and starving.”
Greenwood went on to criticize the short-term focus of the other parties’ environmental plans.
“The track we’ve been on is not a particularly healthy one, and it doesn’t look like it will be getting any healthier in the near future unless there is a serious change of government.”
Greenwood maintained that his party’s every move would be based on a “triple bottom line” that would look at the economic, environmental and social result of every policy.
Legality of marijuana
Greenwood stated that the Green Party has always been in favour of nationwide legalization of marijuana. “It is one of B.C.’s biggest industries, like it or not, and currently that industry is entirely in the hands of organized crime…why on earth would we continue to give them this giant source of income?” Greenwood said. Greenwood criticized the Conservative position that keeping marijuana illegal helped to keep it out of the hands of children, stating that it is much easier for young people to buy marijuana than alcohol or tobacco. “We need to legalize, tax and regulate it accordingly and get on with letting people make their own decisions,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood said his party would push for proportional representation in parliament rather than the current first past the post system. “This election, even if people do like my answers the best, it doesn’t really matter because it is only the Liberals or the NDP that have the slightest chance of beating the Conservatives. That’s pretty discouraging,” Greenwood said. He went on to criticize Trudeau’s lack of commitment to proportional representation, citing a ranked ballot system which would likely return a result similar to the current system as a possibility for Liberal-led electoral reform.