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Guelph riding hopefuls engage youth at first all-candidates event

Three of the four main parties were represented at Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School to answer questions from students
20220505 BM town hall debate (2)
Students at Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School gathered to listen to three of the candidates running in the provincial election for the Guelph riding

Health care, housing and education dominated the first official debate for candidates running for the Guelph riding in next month's provincial election.

Raechelle Devereaux (Liberal), James Parr (NDP) and Mike Schreiner (Green Party) were asked student-generated questions by senior law students at Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School Thursday afternoon.

Ontario PC candidate Peter McSherry was not able to attend, due to unforeseen circumstances.

It was more of a question and answer period than a full-scale debate of the issues.

However, each was given a chance to respond to any comments made after the one-hour event.

"I've always found students have a huge influence on the way their parents vote," Schreiner told GuelphToday afterward.

"They bring home their opinions, and I've even had some adults come to me and say 'I wasn't sure who to vote for, but my son or daughter said to vote for this person.'"

"All our parties have their platforms out now," added Parr. "But hearing it directly from us gives them that human aspect to make them more involved in politics and help us get our ideas out."

"It was really important to talk about (party policy, the role of an MPP and more) with young people because we've never been more disengaged in politics than we are right now as an entire society," said Devereaux.

All three seemed to agree with many of the issues presented: strengthening health care and mental health supports and addressing the increasing cost of housing.

Each also delved into the threat climate change presents

Education was top of mind as well, with the three wanting to scrap mandatory online learning and supporting financial literacy, including the introduction of a mandatory standalone financial literacy course in school.

Students and staff from both Bishop Macdonell and St. James Catholic High School attended, while other secondary schools in the city watched virtually.

"By learning about who can represent you, what they stand for and what you would like to see in your government, it can help you find representation in your government," said Mariana Lall, a Grade 11 Bishop Macdonell student.

"It can help you stand with a government you see yourself in."

She was one of about 15-20 students that helped to put Thursday's event together, with many arriving as early as 6:45 a.m. to set things up.

"We are really big on civics education, and democracy in action, and wanting students to participate. Responsible citizenship is at the heart of Canadian and world studies," said Peter Martin, a teacher and department head for Canadian and world studies at Bishop Macdonell.

"There's no better way than to have students participate in an activity that actually engages them with the people who want to lead. This is a demonstration of that."

Martin said the event was cordial, something that could change as election day draws closer, but he felt it was good for students to bring issues important to them to the forefront.

"They're the next generation of voters, and just by putting it in their hands gives them more ownership of it," he added.

"We have students at our school right now who are eligible to vote in this election. So it's equally important they were streaming live across the school, so those messages could be received.

"Hopefully something that these candidates said really struck something with those other students."