By Karolyn Coorsh
Presidential candidate Dave MacLean faced heavy criticism at last week’s RyeSAC debate for supporting an anti-abortionist group’s right to exist.
Rebbeca Rose, a volunteer at the Women’s Centre, asked MacLean why he had shown support for the Ryerson Choose Life Association, a group she described as promoting hatred against women.
Faced with hostile jeers, MacLean responded that he had supported the group not because he agreed with its views but because of his belief in free speech.
“I believe that if they truly believe in what they say, they have a right to do that at Ryerson,” he said. “They asked me to sign, and I did, just like I would for anyone trying to start a group.”
MacLean was also attacked for abstaining on a vote last fall to oppose the war in Iraq.
“I’m against the way, am totally opposed to the war,” he responded. “I abstained on the vote because people had come to me with the belief that student council shouldn’t be taking direct action on outside issues.”
Former RyeSAC president Odelia Bay, who openly supported the other presidential candidate, Ken Marciniec, at the debate, accused MacLean of not taking a stand on any important issues.
“For every issue on this campus there will be at least two sides,” she said.
When he wasn’t defending himself, MacLean delivered some shots of his own.
He accused Marciniec of wanting to keep RyeSAC the same way it has always been.
“Ken’s ideas are great ideas but they’re not new ideas,” said MacLean. “They’re the ideas we’ve been doing now for 20 years.”
But for most of the debate, MacLean was on the defensive.
He even faced criticism for votes he hadn’t made.
“You have a tendency of abstaining on votes of substinance,” said Milton Chan, a fourth-year ITM student.
“You should be thanking me for abstaining on those votes,” said MacLean. “We were not given proper notice to know what we were voting on.”
In the race for vice-president education, Aradhana Choudhuri said, if elected, she would work on the issue of communication in RyeSAC.
“I’m all for encouraging free debate,” she said, “and my door will never be closed.”
Carlos Flores, running for the same position, said he didn’t think there was any miscommunication in RyeSAC this year.
“No stifling of debate occurred to my knowledge,” he said.
Chief Returning Officer Nicholas Gauthier admitted afterwards that the debate was “pretty rocky,” and noted the “general disrespect for all candidates.”
By the end of the debate, many students were still waiting to ask questions to the candidates. Another debate will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday in the Credit Union Lounge on the first floor of Jorgenson Hall.
Gauthier said that he was caught off-guard at the first debate and said he would be able to do more “crowd control” next time.
MacLean said he hopes the next debate will be more balanced.
“It was by far the worst experience of my life,” he said. “I could see the line-up for questions and I knew I was going to be bombarded. They jumped all over me and they benefitted in doing that because it was in front of the student press. It was awful.”