PARVANEH PESSIAN / METROLAND
Students watch Whitby-Oshawa candidates debate the issues for the first time together
Sep 24, 2008 - 10:30 AM
By Parvaneh Pessian
WHITBY -- An all-candidates debate at Sinclair Secondary School in Whitby proved to be an informative experience for senior students, evoking various reactions and even shifting the political stance of some.
The four candidates in the Whitby-Oshawa riding took to the stage in front of about 150 students Tuesday morning, debating together for the first time since the writ was dropped earlier this month.
"The students actually get to see the election process happening right before their eyes and I think it really brings politics into their world," said Kim Lang, who's taught the subject at the school for 14 years. "It lets them realize that they have a voice and a place in the political process."
The event was organized by students in the Grade 12 politics class and was open for senior students from other classes to watch. Students researched issues for weeks to develop questions and then as a class selected which topics to approach the candidates with.
The students touched on topics such as tuition, crime rates, the environment and the fate of General Motors workers. A panel of four students -- one representing each party -- asked the candidates questions and then it was opened up to the floor.
Many attending the event, like student Vlad Dobrescu, said the quality of responses during the debate helped sway them toward a particular party.
"I think it was interesting to see who attacked the others more and who talked about their actual policies," he said, adding that he was drawn to the NDPs and Greens because he found Liberal candidate Brent Fullard was mostly just targeting Conservative Jim Flaherty.
English teacher Jennifer Jenkins disagreed, saying she was impressed by Mr. Fullard's handle on the issues and thought his debating style stood out.
Student and debate MC Parker MacKay said it was an informative political experience for everyone there, especially since Mr. Flaherty is also Canada's federal finance minister.
"I think that it's beneficial for the students and it's really exciting for me because I take the time to research politics," he said.
The school hosts the event every year there is a provincial or federal election and all attending students are either eligible to vote or will be next year. After the two-hour debate, the students had a chance to meet the candidates face-to-face.
"The questions were good and they covered a broad range of subjects, which made it more interesting," Mr. Flaherty said, while shaking hands with people exiting the theatre. "My experience in the high schools in a lot of elections has been that the students are very interested and ask very direct questions."
Mr. Fullard also said he was happy to see the students demonstrate a high level of political knowledge and keenness.
"Without people's involvement, you're not going to have a good government and the more of these events that happen, the better."
Green candidate Doug Anderson said more schools hosting debates will help candidates reach out to youth.
"They're the future," he said, looking off at the students hovering over tables with brochures from each party. "I hope that their interest carries on and that they do vote."
NDP candidate David Purdy said in addition to the forums, he believes political science as a mandatory credit in high schools would add to students' interest.
"Most kids are so excited about turning 19 so they can go out and have a legal drink. Imagine what it would be like if more of them were excited about turning 18 so they can go out to vote."
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
PARVANEH PESSIAN / METROLAND
Posted by Fillibluster at 2:53 PM