By Eric Lam
Ryerson University unexpectedly invited four candidates from non-major parties to a debate it is co-hosting with the RSU, despite the student union’s previous plans to leave those parties out.
“I can’t speak for the RSU, but we’ve invited all these candidates,” said Ryerson spokesperson Bruce Piercey on Tuesday. RSU vice-president education Nora Loreto had earlier said only candidates from four major parties — Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green — would be invited to participate in the debate.
“There are always many candidates, but the reality is there are five major parties in Canada, four outside Quebec,” Loreto said. “Also, since most students don’t live here, it wouldn’t be fair to listen to five candidates of parties who don’t run in other ridings,” she said.
That plan had not impressed Communist Party candidate Johan Boyden, who said his party’s platform has as much to offer students as any other. “The Communist party supports the elimination of tuition … and the corporate involvement on campus,” Boyden said.
“That’s in the interest of the CFS (Canadian Federation of Students) and of the students.” Through its Killer Coke and Wall of Debt campaigns, the RSU is an active proponent of lower tuition fees and anti-corporatization. When Boyden called Loreto on Monday to inquire why he wasn’t invited, he was met with strong opposition.
“I would say that was one of the nastiest conversations I’ve had,” he said. Liz White, party leader and the only candidate of the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party, was also angry until she received her invitation from the university on Tuesday.
“Limiting discussion based on a party’s size or ‘mainstreamness’ doesn’t make sense, coming from kids (RSU) that are from a supposed higher education system,” she said. Boyden agrees. “Getting excluded from a debate is like a slap in the face. It’s not fair to only allow the big dogs in,” he said. On Tuesday, Loreto said the additional invitations weren’t sent out because of a “cross-communication” with the university.
While many Ryerson students don’t live in the riding, Loreto says they have a stake in the themes that will be discussed. “The issues are national,” she said. “I encourage everyone to come, even if they (don’t vote in) Toronto-Centre.
“You could just ask (Minister of National Defense and Liberal candidate) Bill Graham, ‘why’d Paul Martin do (these things)?'” That’s if Graham shows up — but at least one Liberal representative will be present. Conservative Lewis Redford, New Democrat Michael Shapcott and Green Party candidate Chris Tindal have also confirmed their attendance.
Aside from Boyden and White, two other candidates are officially running in Ryerson’s riding of Toronto-Centre: Marxist-Leninist Party candidate Philip Fernandez and Michel Prairie, an independent were also invited to the debate, Piercey said.
While the mediator has not yet been chosen by the RSU, Loreto said the debate will include unscreened questions from the audience, adding that they won’t be limited to local issues.
The all-candidates debate will be held Jan. 16 in POD 144, across from the Hub, at 2 p.m.