Huron Heights debate shows that students are informed


 By Barb McKay


They may be senior elementary students, but the Huron Heights Public School debate team came across as a group of political veterans.



Chelsey Fuller played the role of Huron-Bruce NDP candidate Jan Johnstone at the HHPS debate. (Barb McKay photo)


Last Tuesday, Huron Heights held a candidates debate with students posing as the Huron-Bruce candidates and provincial representatives of the Liberal, PC, NDP and Green Party of Ontario parties. The event was as close to the real election debate as the students could have made it. The teams provided confident and compelling opening remarks and then took questions from student moderators.


The debate focused mainly on health care, education, taxes and the environment and the students demonstrated that they had done their research on the party platforms. But, they weren’t afraid to add in their own ideas and opinions, or throw pot shots at their opponents.


James Adams, as Tory leader Tim Hudak, said he would create one million new jobs in the skilled trade fields to take pressure off the welfare system.


“This is much better than sitting on your butt and being paid,” he said.


Adams said the PCs would help small businesses grow.


“We care about the people of Ontario, unlike the Greens who only care about the environment,” he charged.


Julia Hallam, as Huron-Bruce Liberal candidate Colleen Schenk, said the opposing parties have “radical schemes and reckless plans.” She said the Liberals plan to invest in new technology and environmental and economical initiatives, including water protection, farmland preservation and green space preservation. She also pledged to create more trail systems throughout the province.


The student Liberals accused the opposition of harming the public sector through the job cuts plan, but Adams said the plan would be carried out in phases and would not impact essential services. He said the party aimed to make a 10 per cent cut to the public sector work force, saving $2 billion, and invest in skilled trades.


“Did you not realize that there was an error with your math calculation?” asked Corbin Gilmour, who portrayed Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne. “You aren’t creating one million jobs.”


“You need four trained employees just to train one employee,” Kady Rice, as Huron-Bruce candidate Lisa Thompson, added. “How is that realistic? We need job training that is one on one.”


The focus turned to health care and the NDPs pledged more funding for mental health services. They also laid out a plan to preserve public health care.


“We have a practical plan for public health care, not private, because at the end of the day the people of Ontario deserve the best care,” said Chelsey Fuller, as Huron-Bruce NDP candidate Jan Johnstone.


Julia McGregor, as local Green Party candidate Adam Werstine, said the province needs to focus on illness prevention.


“A penny paid to prevent illness today is a dollar saved tomorrow,” she said.


The candidates debated briefly about energy and how to encourage residents to use energy more efficiently. The Tories took a shot at the Green Energy Act and wind turbines.


“We have Bruce Power, so they (turbines) are a waste of time,” said Rice (Thompson).


Huron Heights teacher Sylvia Leigh, who helped organize the debate, told the students that on June 9 they would have the opportunity to vote in a mock election. The school was provided with official Elections Ontario ballot boxes and polling stations.


“Will your vote count with the real Ontario election,” Leigh asked. “No, but your vote will count with the Student Vote.”


The votes from Huron Heights will be tallied and sent to Student Vote Ontario. Approximately one dozen schools from within the Bluewater District School Board will participate. Leigh said Student Vote Ontario will not release the results of the vote until after the provincial election because there is concern that the student votes could influence the real voting.