Provincial election roundtable
Among the candidates running for the Saskatchewan provincial election on Nov. 7 are a handful of students at the University of Regina. The Carillon caught up with second-year political science and French double major Alex Mortensen (NDP, Cypress Hills), first-year political science major Graham Reid (NDP, Kelvington-Wadena), political science major Aaron Ens (NDP, Swift Current) and third-year political science major Bart Soroka (Green Party, Regina Walsh Acres) for a roundtable discussion.
What are the most important issues going into this election?
Alex Mortensen: A very important issue going into this election is affordable living. This includes rising rent prices and rising tuition. I would like to work with the NDP to see costs reduced to make life easier for the people of Saskatchewan
Graham Reid: Everyone’s circumstances are different, so it’s hard to say what issues are most important for everyone, but I believe the most widespread issue across the province is affordability. Whether people are struggling to pay their rent, their tuition. or for their children to play organized sports, many people in Saskatchewan are struggling to afford necessary expenses. As a New Democrat, I believe our government should put people first so they can live comfortably without having to worry about bills or their next paycheque. Saskatchewan might be “moving forward”, but its people are being left behind.
Aaron Ens: This is a very crucial election for the residents of Saskatchewan. This election will decide the affordability of post-secondary education, the continued viability of our crown corporations, the future of our public health system, and the affordability of housing in the province. While we are living in a province that is doing well economically, most regular people in the province are not seeing the benefits of our economic prosperity.
Bart Soroka: Housing and education – as a whole, they affect every resident in Saskatchewan. Without proper housing and construction practices, we become unsustainable. Education is important because we are in a knowledge-based economy – if we want Saskatchewan to be competitive, we can’t simply focus on resource extraction. We have to understand that those are finite resources and educate – and retain – young people towards innovation, entrepreneurship, and knowledge of true social and financial value.
Is being younger than all other candidates work in your favour or against it?
Mortensen: I wouldn’t say one or the other. I am working with an exceptional team of experienced candidates and I’m having the opportunity to do an incredible amount of learning. At the same time, I think that being young allows me to bring energy, excitement, and a different perspective to the political scene.
Reid: Being 18-years-old is a definite asset as a candidate in terms of the perspective and energy I bring to politics. Too often are young people forgotten by out-of-touch politicians. That’s why I believe it’s vital to have candidates of all ages, races, genders, etc., so that our legislative assembly can reflect the diversity of the people whom they govern. I sometimes feel, however, as if people may not take me seriously because I am young, but for the most part they are very supportive.
Ens: Being a young candidate in this election has its benefits and its drawbacks. Young people are getting engaged in the political process and committing to taking part in shaping the future of this province. As a young candidate, I find that young people find it much easier to relate to younger candidates, and find them much easier to approach. Young people have the ambition and drive that is necessary to build the future that we want to see. The downside is a lack of experience; some people are apprehensive about supporting a young candidate because they don't have the experience. This is not the overwhelming feeling though; there are many who recognize that young candidates have yet to be jaded by the political process, and that voting for them is a vote for the possibility of new vision for the political process.
Soroka: Honestly, I think it works against overall. I mean, I haven’t had as much time as other candidates to form the same relationships and connections with other people. I also haven’t saved enough vacation time for me to take time off work, and can’t skip too many classes. However, it has helped me because I am running for a party that is still growing at an awesome rate – by getting in early, I can learn from some of the best minds in the province, and help sculpt policy from a
young person’s view. I don’t think I’d have anywhere close to the engagement I have with the Green’s if I was with the Sask Party or NDP.
If you had to pick between lower tuition and an increase in affordable daycare spaces, which one would you pick?
Mortensen: I would hope not to be in a situation where I would have to choose, as those are both very important issues that require attention. Our platform addresses both of those needs and I hope to see positive changes for both tuition and daycare spaces.
Reid: Both are important. However, if I had to choose one I would choose lower tuition, because it would make post-secondary education more affordable and thus available to more people. Also, for anyone paying tuition and for daycare, it would leave more money left over for daycare.
Ens: Both of these issues are very important to students. I don't believe that one of these issues is more important then the other. In order to make post-secondary education more affordable, there needs to be progress on both of these issues.
Soroka: I think I’d have to go for lower tuition. It’s a hard choice, but I think by decreasing the cost of tuition, parents would be able to afford day care spaces – they’d have some cash freed up that otherwise they’d be spending on classes. So, we get a moderate effect for parents, in addition to an awesome effect for all students.
Why should university students care about this election?
Mortensen: University students should care about this election because it’s their opportunity to stand up for change in Saskatchewan. The outcome of the election will affect the lives of everyone who lives in the province, students included. I think it is very important for young people to vote, so that governments will hear our voices and listen to our opinions about what is important to us
Reid: I’ve heard students say that they don’t follow politics because ‘it doesn’t affect them’. The reality is the decisions governments make affect all of us – it is crucial that our voices are heard. Just because we are young, doesn’t mean policies won’t impact our life. Post-secondary students specifically should pay attention to this election because of increasing rates of tuition and housing. Our generation will be impacted by this provincial election, so pay attention, ask questions, and make an informed decision.
Ens: A. This election, as all elections, is a time to look towards the future. This will sooner than later be our future, and it is incredibly important to take control of our future. Politicians need to be looking at long-term sustainability. If we are to plan for our future we need to be looking towards long-term growth.
Soroka: Simply put, you’re paying the MLAs salaries. My favourite analogy would have to be “Do corporations put people on salary without thinking about if the employee will be the ideal person for the job?” Obviously no, and in politics, every single voter is a CEO. By not being engaged, you’re giving every other person in the constituency more say with your money than you have – and we students have precious few dollars as it is.
How do you think people can get through all the “dirty politics” and learn about the real issues and what a candidate really stands for?
Mortensen: I think there are a variety of ways to do this. A simple start would be to do a little research about the party online, but I would definitely suggest talking with your candidate. There are many opportunities to do this while candidates are in the community, trying to reach out to people. If you’re interested in meeting some NDP candidates or learning more, I welcome you to contact me at email@example.com or to attend one of the UR NDP Club events. Leading up to the election, we’re hosting a pizza night on Oct. 25 at 5:30 p.m. in the multipurpose room, and we will be tabling in the Riddell on Oct. 17-21, with a candidate visiting each day.
Reid: The best way is to ignore any negative attack ads and talk to your candidate. Any candidate would be more than happy to talk to you on the phone, via email, or in person. Talk to them about issues you have (whether or not the parties are discussing them), ask questions, and find out what they stand for. If you’re going to vote for someone, you should get to know them or at least become familiar with what they believe.
Ens: In order to cut through all the spin, it is important to talk to the candidates directly. Listen to their responses and then do some of your own research. Don't just take every paid advertisement at face value; it is important to look into issues and platform on your own and come to your own assessment of what are the best policies.
Soroka: Talk to the candidate. It’s as simple as an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) a twitter mention (@BartSoroka), a Facebook message (Barton Soroka). By talking to and engaging with the candidate, you’ll be able to find out his real beliefs – I hope. Being disingenuous during a campaign strikes me as incredibly short sighted, but I can only speak for myself.
What politician do you look up to? Why?
Mortensen: The politician I look up to the most is Jack Layton. He worked so hard for what he believed in and he was able to change the face of Canadian politics, helping many people engage in politics who were previously uninterested. I find Jack Layton to be an incredibly inspiring person and I often read his letter for motivation.
Reid: I look up to Tommy Douglas, because he stood up for what he believed in even though there was a lot of resistance against him. He knew that if he tried to make the world a better place and worked hard he could accomplish great things. I respect his fighting spirit. I also greatly admire Regina-Rosemont MLA Trent Wotherspoon, because he works extremely hard and gets to know the people in his riding, whether they vote for him or not. He is very positive and really believes in the work he’s doing.
Ens: The politicians that I look up to are Jack Layton and Tommy Douglas. I look up to Jack Layton, for his tenacity as an underdog,and his unwavering support for those who haven’t traditionally had a voice – Tommy Douglas for his commitment to making the world a fairer place, and initiating the public health care system that is now under attack.
Soroka: Pierre Trudeau was always a hero of mine for his ideas that Canada does not have a single unitary culture, but rather a plurality of cultures. In addition, the patriation of the Constitution is – I think – one of the most important days of Canadian history. Of course, Trudeau’s vilification in the West has always kept me on my toes about never looking up to all aspects of any one person or party – total agreement strikes me as an absence of thought.