KAMLOOPS - Students at Sahali Secondary put local candidates through vigorous questions during a mock debate, and then they chose a winner during a student vote.
Three federal candidates — Green Matt Greenwood, New Democrat Bill Sundhu and Liberal Steve Powrie — attended the event and answered questions proposed by Grade 11 and 12 students yesterday, Sept. 28, in a hands-on civics lesson.
“We want to get rid of voter apathy,” Mike Kappes, Sahali Social Studies teacher and event organizer says. “We want (students) more informed and more engaged.”
Grade 12 student Alonso Garnier moderated the event. He asked three questions of candidates and allowed each candidate an opportunity to prepare three-minute answers. Conservative candidate Cathy McLeod was unable to attend but submitted answers read by teachers. Three additional, unrehearsed questions were asked where candidates were given only one minute to respond.
While the forum was meant for secondary students, the student’s did not ask easy questions, nor did the candidates temper their answers. The candidates were asked about foreign policy, the economy and the environment as well as post-secondary education.
Moderator Garnier says while he is interested in politics and social issues, he feels he learned more after the debate.
“They did really well. They have really clarified their platforms,” he says of the candidates’ performance.
Powrie, a former Grade 7 teacher, believes this generation of young people has been the most involved in social issues and grassroots moments. It would be a mistake to discount them.
“They are so close to voting age, politicians need to engage them.”
Kappes told his students if any of the issues discussed today were unfamiliar to them, it was their obligation learn more. Being a good citizen, is being an informed citizen.
The New Democrat Party won by a landslide in the studetn vote, claiming 73 of 132 votes cast. The Liberal Party came in second with 29 votes, followed by the Green Party at 24, and the Conservative Party tying with 'spoiled' votes at three apiece.
The candidates will square off next at Thompson Rivers University Oct. 6, in an event hosted by the university's student union.
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