Mauril Bélanger—Liberal Party
Born in Mattawa, Mauril Bélanger studied at the University of Ottawa, where he served as president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) in back-to-back terms in the late 1970s. “For two years I didn’t study much but I learned a hell of a lot,” he said.
He credits his time with the student union, as well as his mentor the late Jean-Luc Pépin, with teaching him important skills he has put to use in Parliament. “He told me, ‘Mauril if you ever become an MP, you have to learn to deal with all parliamentarians no matter their colour,” said Bélanger. “And that’s my behaviour in the house, I’ve never engaged with the hurling of insults, and that was a lesson I picked up from the university.”
The Liberals infrastructure plans are a key focus of their platform, with the party pledging to run “three modest deficits” before balancing the books in 2019. They plan to invest $125 billion in infrastructure projects over the next ten years.
“Right now the unemployment rate of the 18-24s is almost three times that of the average population of those older than 25,” said Bélanger. “We need to address that, and we will.”
They plan to create 40,000 jobs for young people, 5,000 of which would be “green jobs”, including jobs with Parks Canada. They are also promising to create 120,000 jobs using $300-million, some of which “will be for co-op students.”
Affordable housing is another one of Bélanger’s key platform points. “We’ve committed to as a party a $20-billion expenditure into social infrastructure,” he said, “we’ve also committed to reducing… the GST for developers that will be building rental units.”
The U of O is looking for development opportunities, but faces opposition from those who want to preserve Sandy Hill. Bélanger says he wants to facilitate university developments at Lees campus and St. Paul’s university.
The Liberals plan to raise the minimum income required before students have to pay back their loans to $25,000.
They’re also promising to increase the Canada grant figures from $,2000 to $3,000 for full-time students and $1,200 to $1,800 for part-time students, said Bélanger.
“The one thing I do, I always encourage students 18-24 to vote, no matter who they’re voting for, I think its primordial that they do.”
Nira Dookeran—Green Party
Nira Dookeran was born in St. Boniface, Manitoba, and studied philosophy at the University of Winnipeg and the University of Toronto.
Dookeran works as a high school teacher of English as a Second Language and, although she has worked with several campaigns in the past, this is her first time running for office.
Dookeran says she is open to working with other parties. “We don’t have the time for all of this hyper partisan cloak and dagger stuff that’s going on, we need to work together.”
A lot of Dookeran’s policies focus on students and young people, and she is eager to work with this demographic.
“I’m a teacher because I like young people,” she said. “I’m the oldest in my family of five but people often say that I act like the youngest.”
“Young people have hope, they aren’t stuck in old ways of thinking,” she continued. “The future belongs to people who can think outside of the boxes that a lot of our leaders are stuck in.”
But it’s not just students, she wants to get the local Aboriginal population involved as well. “We have the largest population of Aboriginal Canadians in the city… and we have a lot to learn from Aboriginal people.”
“I don’t see the political landscape changing if those two groups don’t come out and vote,” she said.
Dookeran also said she and the Green Party have a plan to make things easier for students.
“We don’t believe that students should come out of university completely burdened by student debt,” she said. “Our plan is to abolish tuition fees, and we propose to do that within the next five years.”
“Immediately what we would do is abolish student debt over $10,000, and extend the time that students have now to pay back a loan interest-free from 1-2 years,” she continued.
Dookeran believes that times have changed.
“You guys aren’t living in the same kind of no ceiling economy… it’s a different landscape,” she said. “I’m hearing that Canadian citizens are going to Germany and Norway, because they can study free there, we’re going to lose a lot of students.”
“If we believe in a different future we should be putting our money where our mouth is.”
Emilie Taman—New Democratic Party (NDP)
Emilie Taman studied political science at McGill and Dalhousie before becoming a federal prosecutor with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
She started making news early in the campaign, when a Public Service Commission ruled that she couldn’t take leave from her job as a prosecutor to run for office. She defied the order and left her job to seek the NDP nomination.
Taman said she is prepared to respond to the needs of students in the riding.
Debt is just one aspect of student life Taman wants to improve. “We’re very alive to the growing student debt crisis,” she said. “Right now students are graduating with, basically, a mortgage and no house.”
“Over the course of the next seven years we’re going to phase out all interest completely on student loans,” she continued.
“We’re also going to invest in grants and other federal subsidies for education,” she said. “We’re going to have 74,000 new federal grants available to students, which should take some of the pressure off the cost of education.”
Taman also wants to focus on curbing youth unemployment.
“We want to look at providing quality, stable, long term jobs for young people,” she said. “Especially for people with university degrees, we want to make sure that they can get the jobs out of school that actually move them towards their career.”
“We’re going to invest significant money in internships, so that we can move away from a model where young people work in unpaid internships.” “We want to make sure there are subsidies available, particularly in the non-profit sector”
Taman also touts her party’s youth mental health strategy. The Canadian Mental Health Association states that 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by mental illness, and suicide is the second most common cause of death among people aged 15-24.
“We want to see resources put into centres of excellence for youth mental health, looking at reducing wait times and making sure that young people can have mental health interventions that they need.”
Another issue Taman wants to tackle is childcare costs.
“The $15a-day daycare we’re going to bring in is really going to change the way people start their family lives,” she said.
The NDP has also promised to increase funding for municipal infrastructure in cities by $1.5 billion by the end of their first term in government.
David Piccini—Conservative Party
David Piccini was born in Port Hope, Ontario and went on to study political science at the University of Ottawa. He still coaches the U of O men’s soccer team.
Apart from studying politics, Piccini says he came to the nation’s capital to be “in the heart of the decision making process.”
Piccini wants to get students involved in this election.
It’s not just the rhetoric of talking about them,” he said. “It’s about actually rolling up your sleeves and engaging students.”
“The issues affecting students that I’m hearing are the same issues, by and large, that are affecting Canadians, namely the economy,” said Piccini. “students want to make sure they have jobs when they graduate.”
“We’ve secured a number of programs that support small businesses in hiring students through tax credits and loans to businesses,” he said.
Ultimately with the economy, we need to make sure jobs are there,” he continued. “We have the best job creation rate in the G7.”
Since there are different ways and different time periods over which to evaluate this claim, this claim has been debated. But it is true that Canada has the best job creation rate when measured from the beginning of the recession in 2008.
Piccini also states that his party has been “leading the OECD” in investments in colleges and universities.
Piccini believes that security is an important issue.
“Our government has a strong record when it comes to crime prevention,” he says. “Our youth prevention fund for example.” The fund receives $7.5 million per year to provide money to organizations that intervene directly with at risk youth.
“We have a marginally increasing crime rate in Ottawa-Vanier while the citywide average goes down,” he said. “Young women predominantly do not feel safe walking in certain areas.”
Traffic safety is another issue Piccini wants to tackle. “The truck congestion is a problem,” he said. “That corner at King Edward and Rideau, it’s dangerous for students and residents.”
Piccini also wants to reach out to people who are less involved in the political process.
“We’re out there reaching out to people who are not politically engaged,” he said. “That’s what we need in Ottawa-Vanier.”
“We have one of the most diverse socioeconomic ridings in the country, and it requires someone with an active and engaged nature.”