Byelection hopefuls forgetting students

In the past few weeks, many of us have been watching helplessly as the integrity of Toronto politics crumbles before our eyes.

The surreal drama surrounding Mayor Rob Ford has conquered our newsprint and our airwaves, going viral on social media feeds during a crucial time for candidates of the Toronto Centre byelection, slated for Nov. 25. The headline-grabbing chaos has become a distraction for voters, who have rather been wooed by late night spoofs of our dear mayor than by election debates at the University of Toronto.

Although it won’t be easy to trudge through the minefield of municipal distractions, it is time to tune them out and tune in to the important issues right in front of us. The Ryersonian reached out to the Toronto Centre candidates to talk about what they’re doing to capture students’ attention and votes.

Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland preached to the choir. She spoke to The Ryersonian about Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) as a model to encourage more entrepreneurship for our generation’s job market. She also talked vaguely about re-examining the student loan system that is crippling recent graduates drowning in debt.

NDP candidate Linda McQuaig described education as an important public good. Her education platform focuses on making tuition more affordable, a familiar campaign closest to the Ryerson Students’ Union’s heart.

Green party candidate John Deverell said he is still unclear about education reforms and would rather talk about the importance of climate change and how it concerns everyone.Deverell presents the carbon tax to address this issue, while also providing a Canada income supplement that can help subsidize our tuition fees.

But the conversation is missing a major player: Conservative party candidate Geoff Pollock was unfortunately too busy to speak with The Ryersonian, after repeated interview requests over the past couple of weeks.

Bypassing campus media cuts their party off from a substantial voting power in the Toronto Centre riding — an historically apathetic mass that has been enthralled by the Ford scandal.

According to Statistics Canada, more than 30 per cent of Toronto Centre’s population is between the ages of 18 and 35. The potential youth vote is clearly very important to this race, so where is the Conservative Party? If candidates really care about our demographic, they should be fighting for it.

A few clicks through Pollock’s website shows that it hasn’t been updated in the past month. His party’s platform is also nowhere to be found on the website. His Facebook activity is lacking except for when he changed his profile picture to a red poppy on Remembrance Day. His Twitter seems active, but it’s littered with retweets galore.

This weak link with students isn’t just going to hurt the Tories. It’ll also hurt the students who are looking for right-leaning representation and aren’t getting it from their typically leftist student unions.

Lately, we’ve been immersed in government scandal after government scandal, from the Senate to city hall. The Toronto Centre candidates need to be aware that we crave to be engaged in important politics again. It’s their responsibility to prove to the public their values are worth investing in.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on November 20, 2013.

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