Since 2004, students at the Granite Ridge Education Centre have been involved with the Student Vote Committee and while the majority of the audience weren’t old enough to vote during last Thursday’s all-candidates debate, the candidates themselves were taking the exercise seriously.
There was also a sizable contingency from the North Addington Education Centre in attendance.
Green Party candidate Anita Payne was the first to speak and in her opening statements linked what she called a “Lyme disease epidemic” to climate change.
After acknowledging that this event was happening on unceded Algonquin territory, Liberal candidate Amanda Pulker-Mok said her priorities were health care, both from an administration and a user-standpoint as well as expanded cell phone and broadband service.
After pointing out that he has represented this area in the Ontario Legislature since 2007, PC incumbent Randy Hillier said that he continues to campaign for rural residents.
NDP candidate Ramsey Hart said hello in Algonquin and noted that 40 per cent of the students here identify as indigenous. He encouraged students to “get involved.”
Libertarian candidate Steve Gebhardt noted that the party name comes from the word “liberty” and said he wants people to keep their paychecks, property rights and freedoms.
Independent candidate John McEwen acknowledged that he is a single-issue candidate seeking to alert people to the dangers of radon gas.
Questions from the audience were prepared in advance and ranged from such topics as “how would your party assist rural families,” to “what is your policy on healthcare, particularly for older and younger people,” to “how will you make post-secondary education more affordable” to “how are you going to improve mental health care.”
GREC students plan to hold a student election before the actual election and The Frontenac News plans to publish those results when they become available.