Kildonan’s provincial election candidates took part in a debate Wednesday for an audience who can’t vote — yet.
Dave Chomiak (NDP), Nic Curry (PC), Navdeep Khangura (Liberal), Gary Marshall (Manitoba Party) and Steven Stairs (Green party) took turns fielding questions from high school students at West Kildonan Collegiate.
'One of our main goals as a collective unit is to familiarize our generation with the voting process. I know some people might shy away from something they don't fully understand, so we kind of banded together and made sure it was a comprehensible concept that everybody can grasp' — student committee member Brooke Bell
"Since Grade 12 students are turning 18 soon, they should be able to go and vote because so many people in other countries don’t have that privilege," said Kennedy Huckerby, a student-voting committee member. "I believe that getting this together really opens (students’) eyes."
The debate was part of Student Vote Manitoba, which sets up a parallel election for students under the voting age. West Kildonan Collegiate is one of 287 schools taking part in the program.
"One of our main goals as a collective unit is to familiarize our generation with the voting process," said student-voting committee member Brooke Bell. "I know some people might shy away from something they don’t fully understand, so we kind of banded together and made sure it was a comprehensible concept that everybody can grasp."
The energetic crowd of students didn’t go easy on the candidates, with questions regarding the environment, education, housing, doctor-assisted suicide and Manitoba’s controversial anti-bullying legislation.
"I thought (the questions) were very insightful. Some things I wasn’t really expecting came up, but it’s good to talk about those bigger issues," Brooke said.
Social studies and English teacher Orah Moss said the debate was important leading into the mock election, so students had information on the candidates.
"It really shows the adults in the room that kids do care, and if you want to get kids voting, you need to get them involved in the process before they’re 18," Moss said.
West Kildonan principal Howard Kowalchuk said it’s important for students to hear about the issues happening in their community and learn about the democratic process.
"It makes you proud as a principal and a community member," Kowalchuk said.
"They want to hear about issues that sometimes aren’t getting to younger kids. Most of our students won’t be voting… but it sets them up thinking about bigger issues in their community."