Education a priority at Trinity-Spadina election debate

Student issues got their share of attention Monday night at federal election debate in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood.

Candidates vying to represent Trinity-Spadina in the House of Commons sat in front of a full house at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre to discuss the issues important to their constituents. In a riding that includes the University of Toronto, funding for post-secondary education came to the forefront as one major concern.

Most candidates agreed on the need for equal access to education and investing in youth, but disagreed over what their opposition has done to change things.

“Education is a right,” said NDP candidate and incumbent, Olivia Chow. “We need to reverse the cuts to education from the Liberal and Conservative governments.”

Liberal candidate, Christine Innes highlighted the accomplishments of her party in regards to education.

“Investments in universities were the highest in the G7 when the Liberals left,” she said.

Innes stressed the need for direct bursaries and scholarships, summer job and mentorship programs and affordable housing plans, a concern for University of Toronto student, Irina Kasianik.

“U of T is right downtown,” Kasianik said. “Housing is too expensive to rent here.”

Green Party candidate, Stephen LaFrenie wants to change this. He said the Greens would wipe out 50 per cent of student debt.

“We don’t believe students should be getting debt collection calls,” LaFrenie said.

A heated discussion also occurred over a debate organized by University of Toronto student union. The event, which was to be held on campus at Hart House, was cancelled because Chow could not attend. Conservative candidate, Christine McGirr criticized the NDP for not making it a priority.

“This is critical,” McGirr said. “These are our new, young constituents.”

Chow explained that the debate was scheduled during Rosh Hashanah and that she spoke with the student union, but could not work out an alternative date for the event.