High school students from Ballenas Secondary got a chance to engage with the federal election this year — all five candidates for the Courtenay-Alberni riding attended an all candidates meeting at the high school on Tuesday, Oct. 15 and answered questions from the audience.
The auditorium was jam-packed, with students sitting on the stairs and on the floor. Topics discussed ranged from the environment, housing affordability and gun control. Political Studies teacher Olivia Hill moderated the event, which precedes a school-wide student vote.
Students will vote for a candidate, their ballots will be counted and results announced on Monday night.
Each student question was answered by all candidates, with each getting a minute to respond.
Ninth grader Haley asked what each party would do to implement policy around child care.
Liberal candidate Jonah Gowans responded first.
He said his party plans to establish 250,000 more childcare spaces, and pointed to the Canada Child Benefit as a current example of the Liberal’s dedication to young people.
Barbara Biley from the Marxist-Leninist party followed and said childcare is a social responsibility and it should be free for everyone.
Byron Horner of the Conservative party pointed to cutting taxes, specifically ones on paternal and maternal leave, as a way to support parents and children.
The NDP’s Gord Johns said his party stresses early childhood education and will commit to putting in 500,000 more childcare spaces across the country.
The Green’s Sean Wood said that child care needs to be affordable from the start, rather than subsidized with a tax credit.
LGBTQ+ rights were also touched upon. Emma from the gender and sexuality alliance at Ballenas asked how each party will support LGBTQ+ people, and what their party has already done.
Johns started the responses, and said the NDP would ban conversion therapy.
“That’s something we will absolutely do,” he said.
Johns also mentioned banning the blood ban and altering the employee equity act to include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
The Green Party’s Wood followed, and said “On the LGBTQ diversity subject, a lot of it has to do with bullying and inclusivity.”
Biley said the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada will defend the rights of all people and that “my experience has been that it’s institutions that are most problematic in terms of discrimination and not individuals.”
Gowans answered next and said the Liberals will also end conversion therapy and called it “a disgusting practice.” He also said they would end the blood ban, and that he was “rather upset they didn’t do it in their first four years.”
Horner also said his party would ban conversion therapy and said “I believe everyone should be able to express themselves for who they are.”
The event ended with closing remarks — all candidates emphasizing the importance of students becoming involved in politics early on and that there’s ways to do so even when you can’t vote.