McGill well represented in federal election campaign
by Daniel McCabe
Politicians are a shady lot. They make promises they don't keep, speak in prepackaged sound bites and campaign only to earn cushy pensions for themselves.
According to opinion polls, plenty of Canadians view politicians this way, but there are at least 17 McGill students who beg to differ. There are good politicians and there are bad politicians, they argue. Fresh from finishing off their final exams and term papers, these students are putting in 12-hour days, seven days a week to prove their point. They're politicians themselves and they're all candidates in the current federal election.
Most of them are running for the NDP in Quebec. At least 15 students from McGill are campaigning as NDP candidates, including former Students' Society president Chris Carter and Post-Graduate Students' Society vice-president Erin Runions. Other students running for the NDP are Michelle Bonner, Anne-Marie Buck, Elizabeth Clark, Yas Etessam, Chris Florence, Jessica Greenberg, Karen Hurley, Sarah Mayo, Samantha McGavin, Hannah Rogers, David Rovins and Jason Sigurdson.
The sizable contingent of McGill NDPers is partly the work of Adam Giambrone, an archeology student and the co-chair of NDP McGill, the largest NDP campus club in the country.
"This past year I kept my eyes open for people who could do a good job for us," says Giambrone, an NDP candidate in Mont-Royal. "It was an amazing year on campus in terms of student protests and student activism. There are plenty of people at McGill who fought the cuts to education and who believe that health care and other social services need to be protected."
When it comes to electing candidates in Quebec, the NDP has a pathetic track record--only one NDP candidate has ever been elected in the province. Giambrone has a realistic view of his chances. "The odds of winning are slim, but we're running an energetic campaign anyway. This is probably the most organized the NDP has been in this riding in quite some time and people are taking notice. It's given me the opportunity to get our message across on radio and on TV."
The 20-year-old student says his youth is probably an advantage when he encounters voters. "I think I benefit from being young. I never get the door slammed in my face. The worst I get is a curt reception at times, but people are usually willing to talk to me."
"The thing I'll remember most about running is just being able to talk to all the people in this riding," says Jason Sigurdson, an NDP candidate in Vaudreuil-Soulanges and a sociology and political science student. "I feel kind of privileged to be in a position where people can come up to me and talk about their hopes and their concerns about the future."
Brian Sarwer-Foner, a master's student in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, is one of three Quebec candidates for the Green Party of Canada. You could say Sarwer-Foner is practicing what he researches--his master's thesis is about how environmental groups in Canada try to effect changes, particularly in terms of promoting stronger measures for protecting biodiversity in this country.
"I've met a lot of environmental activists through my work and [Green Party leader] Joan Russow asked me to run." Sarwer-Foner was already balancing his studies, a part-time job and looking after his two children. "I asked my wife what she thought--there was no way I was going to do it without her blessing. She said to do it, but only if I was going to give it my all.
"I'm running because I really believe the Liberals have a lousy track record when it comes to the environment. If they had done anything worthwhile, they would be boasting about it right now, but they haven't been talking about the environment at all. Look at their endangered species legislation. It offers no protection for the habitats of endangered species and you can't protect them unless you protect the places where they live. This gives me a chance to challenge the way they've been doing things."
Sarwer-Foner backs the Green Party's approach to the environment--placing a heavy tax on corporate polluters, while offering tax incentives to companies that adopt more environmentally friendly practices, for example.
"The other day I traveled across the riding and the thought struck me--this is my riding. I'm a candidate here. I wouldn't call it a power rush, because I know I'll never win. But the riding includes the mountain, Westmount, McGill--it's a special place and I feel a sense of pride in being part of this."
The youngest candidate running for the Progressive Conservative Party--and possibly the youngest candidate in the country--is 18-year-old political science student Kent Glowinski, the Tories' candidate in the British Columbia riding of Skeena.
Glowinski recently returned to the Tory fold after a stint in the Reform Party. He liked the Reformers' approach to the economy, but grew increasingly disturbed with the party's positions on minority groups, homosexuals and Quebec. He was booed by Reform delegates at a policy convention when he challenged Reform leader Preston Manning on the party's official positions on marriage and families--positions Glowinski believes discriminate against gays.
"I got booed and Bob Ringma, who said he would send black and gay employees to the back of his store if their presence troubled customers, received an ovation. I knew then that I was in the wrong party."
He faces a challenge running for the Tories in B.C. "The riding associations were pretty much wiped out in the last election. We started off with zero dollars and not much support. This began as a three-way race between the Liberals, the NDP and Reform. Now it's a four-way race."
Glowinski says his age hasn't been a factor in the race--except for the fact that it has garnered some extra media attention.
"People were a little concerned about it at first, but it isn't much of an issue anymore. They notice that what I say makes sense. I was born and raised in this riding and I know what it's all about. There are a lot of little towns in this area and we tend to compete against each other. I propose setting up an economic council that would bring everybody together so that we can attract investment to this whole region. That would benefit all of us."
Glowinski might be spending election night in Toronto--MuchMusic has asked him to participate in a panel of young candidates from the different parties. Giambrone says he will probably spend the night at the headquarters he shares with Westmount candidate Chris Carter--a TV crew from CFCF wants to film the goings-on there. As for Sarwer-Foner, he says he and another Green Party candidate will probably throw a party. "It will be a green party, of course."