By Fabian Mayer, September 30 2015 —
Calgary Confederation candidates clashed in a debate at the University of Calgary this Wednesday. The hour-long forum was hosted by the Students’ Union in MacHall.
Conservative candidate Len Webber, Liberal candidate Matt Grant, NDP candidate Kirk Heuser and Green Party candidate Natalie Odd participated in the forum attended by roughly 100 students and community members.
SU vice-president external Romy Garrido moderated the debate. Questions ranged from aboriginal education to student debt and youth unemployment.
In an early exchange, Webber spoke about the importance of balanced budgets and critiqued the other parties’ spending plans. Grant fired back by attacking the Conservatives’ fiscal record.
“Len [Webber] talks about balanced budgets but the last six years he was in government he ran deficits,“ Grant said.
Liberal and Conservative party supporters brandishing signs took up most of the seats. A recent Calgary Confederation poll showed the Liberals and Conservatives in a tight race at 37 per cent and 38 per cent respectively.
Grant admitted the Liberals have backed down on the issue of student debt in the past. Meanwhile, Odd laid out the Green Party’s plan to eliminate tuition by 2020.
Webber highlighted his experience with the Progressive Conservatives in provincial politics, saying he would be able to “land in Ottawa with both feet running.”
The second half of the forum featured questions submitted by audience members.
The first question concerned pipelines. Webber stressed the importance of getting Alberta’s raw bitumen to market while Grant claimed the pipeline approval process has been undermined.
Heuser took the most combative stance, saying Stephen Harper is the reason the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines aren’t moving ahead.
He also criticized Harper on the issue of the long form census, which elicited boos from Conservative supporters. Heuser quickly shot back in one of the most heated moments of the debate.
“You’re booing the only person on stage who’s hopefully going to be in a position with a government to ensure your right to boo at forums like this” Heuser said referencing the Conservative and Liberal support of the controversial Bill C-51.
The final audience question asked what each party would do to combat ISIS. Webber spoke about the government’s airstrikes as the best way to get to the root of the problem, while the other three candidates criticized bombing as the wrong approach.
The event was organized as part of the SU’s Get Out The Vote campaign, which encourages students to vote on election day. According to Garrido, they have collected just under 6,000 student pledges to date.