Candidates face off at Arnprior District High School
Ryan Paulsen / Daily Observer Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke federal candidates Dan McCarthy (NDP), Jeff Lehoux (Liberal), Stefan Klietsch (Green) and Hector Clouthier (Independent) listen as Oliver Jacob, Arnprior District High School student council minister of character development, reads the next question during an all-candidates meeting in Arnprior, Ont. on Wednesday October 7, 2015.
They may not be able to vote yet, but students at Arnprior District High School got an up-close and personal look at four of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke's federal candidates in the 2015 federal election on Wednesday morning, Oct. 7.
Hector Clouthier (independent), Stefan Klietsch (Green), Jeff Lehoux (Liberal) and Dan McCarthy (NDP) answered questions on tuition, healthcare, seniors and the economy in a mostly orderly exchange moderated by ADHS student council minister for character development Oliver Jacob.
“We wanted to give students the chance to really see what politicians are saying,” said Jacob as students began filing into the gym ahead of the debates' start, pointing out that turnout for the 2011 election's Student Vote exercise was historically low.
“Only 38.8 per cent of eligible students actually cast a ballot,” says Jacob.
Each candidate was given an allotment of time to respond to each question, and also had a “wild card” marker, which they could trade in to get an extra response outside of the normal speaking order. The only two candidates who ended up using their wild cards by the end of the debate were Lehoux and Clouthier, who traded barbs on the efficacy of an independent candidate. Lehoux asserted that without party support, an independent MP is virtually voiceless in the House of Commons, while Clouthier countered that without having to wait for party leadership approval, an Independent MP could introduce promote a private member's bill with no interference from higher-ups, giving a more locally focused voice to the Parliamentary process.
For at least one group of students attending the event, having federal candidates on hand to explain their platforms and the process was an enlightening experience.
“I thought it was really good,” said one Grade 10 student after gathering for a group photo with Clouthier. “I'm not usually into politics, but this got me interested.”
The next all-candidates debate is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Cobden Agricultural Hall in Cobden.