With election signs popping up like mushrooms, and the date of the federal election now only a few weeks away, students at the University of the Fraser Valley are awakening their political curiosity.
Two student groups have organized all-candidate debates: one will be held in Abbotsford on Monday, April 18 and the second takes place on the Chilliwack campus on Tuesday, April 19. The events are open to UFV students, staff, faculty, and the general public.
“We are really hoping to increase the youth vote in this region and would really like to see more young people come out and vote,” explains third-year Political Science student Katie Schilt. She is treasurer for the newly formed UFV Political Science Student Association, and stresses it is important for young people to know their candidates, the federal issues, and to get out and vote.
“I can’t emphasize enough the importance of political engagement — at any age,” she adds. “But statistics show that very few young people exercise their right to vote and that must change.”
She encourages people to attend the debates and listen to the local candidates. It’s the best way to learn about the candidates and to hear their individual voices as opposed to just the party platform. The Abbotsford debate is for candidates in the Abbotsford riding and will include incumbent Ed Fast (Conservative), Madeline Hardin (Liberal), David Murray (NDP), and Daniel Bryce (Green). The event takes place Monday, April 18, at 7 p.m. in Building B on the Abbotsford campus in the lecture theatre, room B101. It runs from 7 to 9 p.m. and refreshments will follow.
The Chilliwack debate is being organized by the Student Life Association and events assistant Desmond Devnich agrees that the youth vote generally has not been well represented on election day. He hopes people will be encouraged to come to the campus to hear the speakers.
“The debate is an excellent opportunity for students and the Chilliwack community to meet their candidates before the election and find answer to their questions,” he says. “It is vital to the sustainability of Canadian democracy that our politicians listen to our students’ voices and encourage young adults to discover what they believe in and to vote.”
The Chilliwack event is for candidates in the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding and Devnich has invited all candidates including Mark Strahl (Conservative), Diane Janzen (Liberal), Gwen O’Mahony (NDP), Jamie Hoskins (Green), Dorothy Jean O’Donnell (Marxist-Leninist), and Clive Edwards (Western Bloc).
Devnich says there will not be an open mike available at the Chilliwack event, and he encourages people to submit their questions ahead of time. Questions should be submitted by Fri, April 15 to firstname.lastname@example.org, by Twitter @UFVstudentlife or by phone at local 2509. On debate day, there will be an index card provided to each attendee for questions to be written on and passed to the moderator.
Following the two-hour debate, UFV Student Life invites all candidates to mingle with their constituents while refreshments are served. The Chilliwack event takes place in the theatre on the Chilliwack campus and begins at 7 p.m. For more information, people can contact Devnich at email@example.com .