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HRM Votes

District 5, 6 candidates debate student issues

Tuition, fair wages, transit take centre stage at college forum

3 min read
Jessica Caparini
caption Candidates Ned Milburn, left, Kate Watson, Sam Austin, Warren Wesson and Tony Mancini discuss tuition, housing and the minimum wage on Monday night.
Jessica Caparini

Candidates running for regional council in districts 5 and 6 discussed the issues that matter most to students Monday night, in the theatre of Nova Scotia Community College’s Waterfront Campus.

“We make up nearly 10 percent of the city’s population and that’s why student issues are municipal issues,” began Charlotte Kiddell, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Nova Scotia, which co-hosted the debate with the community college.

Issues on the table included minimum wage, food security, affordable housing, transit and tuition rates. These questions were selected to represent the key issues in the federation’s Generation Vote campaign.

Although the minimum wage and tuition are mainly the responsibility of the province, candidates discussed how they could have an influence on them at the municipal level.

“I think that the municipality can really show leadership by implementing a living wage policy (for municipal jobs),” said Gabriel Enxuga, a district 5 candidate, referring to a study in which the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia determined that the wage Halifax residents need to live comfortably is $20.10 per hour.

“I think anyone who works for this city should  be able to afford to live in this city.”

Listen to Kate Watson speak on what the Halifax Regional Municipality can do to ease tuition:

All candidates from districts 5, Dartmouth Centre, and 6, Dartmouth East, were invited. Ned Milburn, Sam Austin, Enxuga, Kate Watson and Warren Wesson attended from District 5, and Tony Mancini came from district 6.

Adam Bowes, Tim Rissesco and Derek Vallis from district 5 and Carlos Beals of district 6 did not attend.

Connor Small, who’s studying television and radio journalism at the community college, says transportation is one of the most important issues candidates discussed.

“If I couldn’t count on transit to help me get my groceries back and forth, or if that cost (wasn’t) taken care of, my grocery bill would be much less, I’d have to eat much worse food which would directly affect my health and my ability to attend class and my ability to focus in class.”

Many of the candidates discussed implementing affordable bus passes for low-income earners. Enxuga discussed scrapping bus fares entirely, like Cape Breton did over the summer. Watson called for free bus passes for young people and seniors to “make transit cool.” Milburn suggested creating an efficient rail system so that residents can depend on public transit.

The federation’s Kiddell says that she was pleased with the discussion.

“Students I’ve been talking to during the day today, who didn’t necessarily know that there was a municipal election going on, ended up here tonight. So I feel like this was a success.”

Check out other notable clips from Monday’s debate:

Warren Wesson on food security:

Ned Milburn talks affordable housing:


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