Election frenzy grips Canada

By Dean Hetherington

For the third time in seven years Canadians are going to the polls. On Sunday, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien formally asked Governor General Adrienne Clarkson to dissolve Canada’s 36th parliament. The election, set for Nov. 27, is only three and a half years into the majority Liberal government’s mandate, and local candidates have already begun the five-week campaign.

"Until the last week or so nobody knew if there would be an election for sure," said Diane Ablonczy, MP for Calgary Nose Hill and Co-chair for the Canadian Alliance’s campaign in Alberta. "Most [Alliance candidates] are off and running; we could not do anything until the election was announced."
Liberals across the country justified the need for an election.

"One of the things is that we have a much larger surplus than we expected," said Liberal candidate for Calgary Centre Joanne Levy. "We are going to Canadians with this surplus and our platform of where they want this money to go. I think the overriding theme of this election will be a choice about what kind of candidate do the voters want; do they want a candidate for a strong government with good ties to the provinces or something else?"

As of Sunday, not every riding in Calgary had candidates from each federal party.

"On a national basis we have our leaders tour around Canada," said NDP media representative Denis Atkinson. "Locally, ridings are considered on a campaign by campaign basis, but most members will be nominated this Saturday."

Post-secondary education will be part of each party’s platform focus. However, there are discrepancies between platform initiatives.

"In terms of the university we have done many things in the past term," said Levy. "In the last budget we reduced interest on student loans, created the millennium scholarship, and have made student loan amounts tax deductible."

Opposition parties are critical of the Liberal record for post-secondary education.

"We want to abolish the millennium scholarship," said Atkinson. "We want to create a program for universal university education based on aptitude as well as a tuition freeze for the provinces with a tuition rollback to 1995 levels. We also want to protect students from bankruptcy and create higher standards for Canadian education."

Ablonczy was equally critical of current post-secondary policies.

"Core funding for education is important, the Liberals cut transfer payments over 30 per cent and have not significantly replenished it," said Ablonczy. "We are way behind in affordability. The CA wants to make student loans income contingent."

The deciding factor of the voter’s decision may ride on other important issues.

"I suspect it will focus on issues of economy and domestic government," said University of Calgary Professor of Political Science Rob Huebert. "I get it from talking to colleagues that this election will come down to the Liberals against the Partis Quebecois in the East and the Liberals against the Canadian Alliance in the West. Canada is doing well right now but people tend to vote differently just for a change."

Local Progressive Conservative Spokesperson Stephen Carter refused comment to the Gauntlet because of his disapproval of an opinion piece on Catherine Clark which ran in the Gauntlet two months ago. Carter feels that, "The Gauntlet will not provide balanced coverage of the PC Party."

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