North Okanagan-Shuswap Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz answers a question from the floor during an all-candidates forum Wednesday night at Armstrong’s Centennial Theatre.

ELECTION 2015: Tuition debated

North Okanagan-Shuswap all-candidates forum held Wednesday at Armstrong’s Centennial Theatre.

He waited patiently for nine much older people to ask their questions, and stood through the answers from the politicians.

Finally, after 45 minutes, it was Jared Brown’s turn to approach the microphone at a North Okanagan-Shuswap all-candidates forum Wednesday at Armstrong’s Centennial Theatre.

The Grade 9 Pleasant Valley Secondary School student, by far, the youngest member of the capacity crowd who drew a huge laugh when  he cracked he may study politics, asked if the federal parties had any plans to make college or university more affordable for the middle class or below.

“Our government has encouraged colleges and universities to invest in their future through programs,” said Conservative candidate Mel Arnold,  though he admitted he couldn’t state any direct programs as he hadn’t studied the topic close enough to provide details (and he did vow to get Brown an answer to his question).

“We are doing our best to keep colleges growing and strong and keep the interest there for young people like you.”

Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz said one way students can fund their education is with good summer jobs, which, she said, her party will provide.

“We have a commitment to provide another 35,000 summer jobs for students, incentives for employers to hire these students and for more skills training and co-op programs for students to get them in the work force,” she said.

Green Party candidate Chris George, a university student, said his party looked around the world for better ideas for students.

“It’s been proven in other countries that rolling post-secondary into your public education system increases economic productivity, prosperity, equality and the competitiveness of the economies,” said George. “The Greens have a plan to eliminate some of that federal debt (for students) through a long term program.”

Said Jacqui Gingras, NDP candidate: “We need to make sure we reduce your tuition so that you aren’t carrying more responsibility than you’re able to address, make sure you have good transportation and housing that you can afford.”

A resident from Armstrong is looking at forming a committee to help bring a Syrian refugee family to the community. The candidates were asked if they were personally involved in a group considering refugee sponsorship.

Derkaz, Gingras and George said no, while Arnold said he was indirectly involved through Rotary, and that the Conservative government is seventh in the world in providing aid toward refugee programs.

“As a businessman I’m proud to belong to an organization like Rotary,” he said.

“That’s where I  find those kind of people that really care, business people contributing locally and internationally, and that do good work on the ground to help, hopefully, make life better for those people in those countries so they don’t have to become refugees and leave their countries…”

Gingras said the question has given her pause for thought.

“Yes, people are becoming involved as private citizens, and, yes, we need a government that upholds our international obligations,” she said.

“The NDP has a plan to welcome Syrian refugees, 10,000 by the end of the year and 9,000 every year until 2018, and that plan is based on UN (United Nations) recommendations.”

Being a full-time university student, George said his financial support for things like refugees is “kind of in my future.”

“My volunteer efforts are focused here (election) and on my community garden in Sorrento,” said George.

“If an organization came forward in my community, I would look at lending my time and effort to it.”

Like George, Derkaz said she is fully engaged in “trying to win this election to be your MP.” But she would not rule out the possibility of getting involved.

“The Liberal platform includes immediately bringing in 25,000 refugees to Canada,” said Derkaz.

“If there were a group – and I see some of my Rotary club members here – that felt compassion to engage in sponsorship, I’d certainly be a part of that.”

The forum was hosted by the Armstrong-Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce.


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