Available for students to attend both in person and virtually, the forum consisted of two one-hour sessions. Moderated by Christian Fotang, Vice-President (external) of the Students’ Union, the forum was made up of candidates from the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Liberal Party. Members of the University of Alberta campus community and the public were invited to hear about each candidate’s platform.
The contestants were first interviewed by Fotang, who then gave contestants the opportunity to answer questions from audience members in person and those who were in virtual attendance for the livestream.
Student debt, support for international students and research funding were included in the topics discussed at the forum.
Affordability of post-secondary education
Fotang began the forum’s question period by asking how federal candidates would approach student debt owed by Alberta students and recent graduates.
Kelly Green, the Green Party candidate, has expressed support for the cancellation of student debt and free tuition for post-secondary institutions.
“How would we approach student debt? Green asked. “We would just write off student debt. No more student debt and no more tuition fees. It makes no sense.”
Green claimed that if the federal government is able to provide up to $ 750 billion to large businesses, they have the capacity to provide free post-secondary education.
Heather McPherson, the NDP candidate seeking re-election as MP for Edmonton Strathcona, spoke of her previous efforts to promote affordable post-secondary education. She mentioned the tabling of Bill C-312, which seeks to ensure that a certain portion of the money sent to provincial governments by the federal government is devoted specifically to post-secondary institutions.
When considering future plans, McPherson expressed support for debt cancellation and the possibility of free post-secondary tuition.
“We have a great plan for dealing with student debt, and we know that students graduate with an average debt of $ 20,000, which makes it almost impossible for people to start a business, raise a family, to buy a house, ”McPherson said. . “… The proposal we have is to forgive, in the short term, up to $ 20,000 in student loan debt for each student… [while] towards free courses.
Liberal Party of Canada candidate Hibo Mohamed criticized Green and McPherson’s responses. Specifically, Mohamed claimed that the Liberal Party of Canada was the only party to publish an encrypted platform.
“Forgiving all student loans, or loans up to $ 20,000 sounds really good, but the reality is that none of these platforms have been costed, so we don’t know how much it will cost,” Mohamed said.
Neither the NDP nor the Green Party released their full platform. The Conservative Party released its encrypted platform on the same day as the forum.
On the issue of student loans, Mohamed also commented that she was in favor of an approach that offers targeted support to low-income students.
“I don’t want money in the hands of millionaires and billionaires because there is [are] a lot of people who can afford to go to school and take out student loans… I don’t want them to have the money; it’s not fair, ”she said. “I support an approach that helps low and middle income students.
According to Mohamed, this would include grants for low- and middle-income students, as well as the complete elimination of interest on federal student loans.
Tunde Obasan, federal candidate for Edmonton Strathcona of the Conservative Party, focused on job security for students.
“We are focusing more on how to ensure [you] get a job that matches your status and a job you’re qualified for so your life can start moving forward, ”Obasan said. “So you don’t have to wait six months to two years after you graduate without a job.”
“The Conservative government will focus on creating jobs to ensure that students who leave university can get to work, that they can start earning an income and start living. “
Support for international students and immigrants
An audience member asked the federal applicants how they plan to support the inbound expansion of international students, particularly given their “inability to participate in work-integrated learning opportunities due to their work visas?” “
Green revealed that he did not have extensive knowledge on the subject, but expressed support for international students.
“With my apologies, I am not familiar with this policy or this program,” Green said. “However, I 100% support the students with free lessons and I support the institution in which we are learning.”
McPherson mentioned his experience helping students throughout the immigration process as an MP.
“We’ve been working with students for two years because, of course, we have the ability as an MP with a constituency office to help students through the immigration process,” she said. “… In addition to helping people individually, we wrote to the minister asking him to take into account the restrictions in place for international students and urge them to make some of these changes. [to restrictions]. “
Mohamed shared his personal appreciation and experience of immigration.
“I think immigration is important because my family and I have been able to build better lives for ourselves,” Mohamed explained. “I believe that all immigrants, including international students, bring a different culture and way of seeing the world, and we all benefit. “
“The Liberal Party will make it easier for immigrants, including international students, we will expand this program and make it easier for students while they are still in school and integrate the process to stay here, become residents.” permanent and become new Canadians. “
Obasan expressed his support for international students, highlighting their contributions to Canadian culture and economy.
“We have managed to reach the majority of [international students] and solve some problems, such as how to bring MPs to power to solve problems, ”Obasan said. “[International students] are part of the Canadian community, they are a major contributor to the economy and they need everyone’s support.
Funding of university research
An audience member, after witnessing cuts to research in the faculty of agricultural, life and environmental sciences, questioned the federal policies in place for the funding of university research.
All candidates have expressed disapproval of the financial cuts facing the U of A
Obasan mentioned being “in favor of anything that is research-based” because that is “where the solutions [to problems] comes from.”
Mohamed spoke of her experience as a state university graduate, saying financial cuts have progressed negatively since she was a university student.
“I totally agree that there were a lot of cuts, it’s something I experienced when I was here [as a University of Alberta student]”Mohamed explained.” It is even worse, and it is absolutely unacceptable. “
McPherson mentioned the university’s drop in rankings and reaffirmed his work by introducing Bill C-312 in favor of post-secondary institutions.
“This university was in the top 100 universities,” McPherson said. What I have done to push back is to introduce a bill that would take away transfer payments and ensure that the funds that are dedicated to post-secondary education are in place.
Green described himself as “100% supportive” for “students, researchers, teachers, support staff, the institutions where we all work and learn”. As an environmentalist, Green also expressed gratitude to researchers who “are able to give us hard data on the problems” and provide us “with the solutions to deal with these problems.”