By Rob South
Going back to his days as a University of Calgary student, Calgary West MP Rob Anders is used to being the centre of attention at Speaker’s Corner, and last Thursday’s candidates forum was no different. Anders was both the best supported and most jeered candidate at the forum as he defended Canadian Alliance policies and his personal decision to stop some Summer Career Placement Grants in Calgary West last summer.
"In front of all these students I give you the opportunity to apologize [for stopping SCP grants]," said second-year political science student Mark Power in one of the many moments when Anders was asked to defend his record on SCP grants.
"Do you think that Canada Safeway ought to receive subsidies from you?" Anders asked the crowd.
Other candidates also weighed in on the SCP issue, all of them expressing support for the SCP program.
"Until you change the law, you cannot deny people the right to access grants and subsidies," said Progressive Conservative candidate Jim Silye, looking at Anders.
The issue of health care also struck a major chord with both candidates and students. In particular, candidates were asked to define what they thought about two-tier health care.
"When you can buy your way up to the front of a lineup we have two-tier health care," said New Democrat candidate Greg Klassen.
However, Silye and Anders stood up for the existence of private diagnostic clinics, such as MRI clinics.
"Every party is having a heyday with this and I am sick of it; the fear-mongering has to stop," said Silye.
Later in the debate the issue of the CA’s proposal to allow citizen-initiated referendums on contentious issues came up.
Green Party candidate Еvan Osentоn did not think highly of the idea.
"At this point I would urge you all to go to the This Hour Has 22 Minutes Web site, so that we can have Stockwell Day’s name changed to Doris Day," said Osentоn in reference to a current campaign mocking the CA leader.
"I think our position on referendums is quite clear," said Liberal candidate Frank Bruseker. "We call them elections. We put out our platform and promises and we stand by them."
At this point, several students in the crowd started yelling "GST, GST," in reference to the unkept 1993 Liberal promise to scrap the Goods and Services Tax.
Eventually, the issue of abortion arose and was linked to the referendum proposal. All candidates spoke in favour of a pro-choice stance against opening the issue to a citizen vote, except Anders.
"The Alliance has no official position on abortion," said Anders.
"I think that if you put a referendum question to the Canadian people as to whether they want tax dollars paying for abortion, the majority would say no," continued Anders.
The forum concluded with each candidate being asked to summarize the merits of their candidacy in five words or less.
"Vote, vote, vote, vote, vote," said Klassen.
"No two tier, tuition abolition," said Osentоn.
"Vote Anders out, Silye in," said Silye.
"Brain drain, waste, tax cuts," said Anders.
"Vote Liberal, compare platforms. Liberals are the best," said Bruseker going over the word limit.
While Osentоn is also Co-editor of the Gauntlet, he did not edit this story.