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November 23, 2000 Students and faculty agree on election




Most faculty think it was a lacklustre campaign

by Marie Valla

Maybe it’s because it’s getting cold outside with Christmas less than two months ahead. But, not unlike non-academic Canadians, the small group of Concordia faculty members who agreed to share their opinion on the electoral campaign didn’t sound too thrilled to go out and vote on November 27.

It’s not the right moment, said Maria Peluso (Political Science), because people don’t feel involved. “Elections have less impact in November,” she explained. “It’s winter in two-thirds of the country.”

It was still unclear to many why Jean Chrétien called an election in the first place. Political scientist Guy Lachapelle, who analyzes public policy, wondered if the election was a disguised plebiscite for the current prime minister. “In his third term, will Jean Chrétien be able to face new challenges such as globalization?”

The problem, said Marcel Danis, Political Science professor and former Progressive-Conservative minister of labour, is that the campaign is really boring. “A number of people want to support the Liberal party, but think that Chrétien may have done his time,” he said. He acknowledged that he himself, for the first time, might vote for the Liberals.

The issue of leadership is legitimately at stake in the campaign, said Communication Studies Professor Maurice Charland, a specialist of the political discourse. “There is a level of policy commitment — Which party carries out the best policy? — but also a degree of character — Which party best represents the feelings of the population?”

A crucial question in this election, according to Charland and several others, is whether Stockwell Day is likely to govern in the interests of all Canadians. No, said Peluso. “Day would hold referendums all the time,” she said. “It would polarize people even more. This is not governing.”

As a former journalist now teaching in the Journalism Department, Mike Gasher shares Peluso’s concern about the growing political and geographical polarization of the country. “The campaign shows the divide between two different visions of the country and of the government’s role,” he said.

For Lachapelle, only the Bloc Québécois has succeeded in putting the real issues in perspective. The attraction of regional parties, he explained, reflects the end of a national vision of Canada. “The economic integration of Canada in the Americas makes the pressure for change stronger.”

As far as issues were concerned, these faculty members agreed that something had to be done about health care. Throughout the 1990s, Gasher recalled, there was lots of talk about the budget deficit. “Now it’s time for the social deficit Canada is suffering to be addressed.”

These professors expressed a feeling of resignation about the outcome, but for Lea Katsanis, an American citizen teaching marketing at Concordia, the campaign was finally getting more interesting. “The smaller parties are picking up steam and have really achieved their objective — to attack the record of the Liberals and provide themselves with some momentum,” she observed.

However, according to a poll released November 16 by the CBC, La Presse and the Toronto Star, the Liberals are still ahead, and a Liberal majority looks likely.

Students are discouraged by federal politics

by Alexandra Schaffhauser

Many Concordia students following the election campaign feel deluded.

Craig Sauvé (first-year History and Liberal Arts College), said, “I listen to the radio, and it’s basically critiques of every stupid thing that a minister has done or a party leader has done. It has left me with no faith in any of them.”

Sauvé, who will probably be voting NDP, feels the major parties don’t address his concerns.

“The Bloc has an agenda, but it’s totally nationalistic — I’m not interested in that. The Alliance has a moral agenda. The PC — I don’t like rightists. I believe there should be more funding of health care; I don’t want to see a two-tier health care system. I want to see more funding in education.

“It seems to me that the Liberal party, especially Paul Martin being the head of the G-20, is sort of furthering private interests,” he said.

Many Concordia students feel cornered. Voting in a federal election in Quebec often turns into a vote for or against Quebec sovereignty.

“I don’t feel like I live in a democracy,” Sauvé said. “I was willing to throw my vote to something like the Green Party or the Natural Law Party. I surely don’t want the Bloc, and I’m not too interested in the Liberals either.”

Tammy Karawi (third-year Theatre) will vote Liberal, partly out of habit, but she said, “I’m not as aware as maybe I am of [the election in] the States. I watch the news when I can, [but] every time I watch, one person is insulting the other.”

Political Science graduate student Arti Sachden feels that the vote she casts will be for a policy, not a leader. She’s been voting Liberal “since Mulroney and all the problems that happened 10 years ago.”

Stockwell Day has brought controversy to the election campaign this year, and many are thankful for it. Mark Cohen (second-year Journalism) would be happy to see the Canadian Alliance as the official opposition.

“I’m ready for a new face as prime minister,” Cohen said. “I’d be more favourable towards voting Liberal if Chrétien wasn’t the leader of the party — if they had chosen Brian Tobin or Paul Martin.”

Aside from the Liberals, he pointed out, the Alliance is the only party that stands a chance of a majority in the House of Commons. “It’s not so much because of [Day’s] policies, because he’s ultra-conservative and he’s anti-gay and probably a racist, but he’s new and he’s fresh.

“I think a lot of people in my age bracket are ready for some change with regards to education, opportunities for young people, budgetary surplus spending. People are fed up with the health-care system. People are generally fed up with the Liberal government.”

Patric Gagner (first-year Psychology) will be voting Liberal, but he’s disgruntled. “Chrétien was supposed to eliminate the GST — that never happened. He lied about a lot of things. I would like to see the NDP win, but that’s never going to happen.”

Yasmin Gardaad is in her second-year of Political Science, but she said, “The more I learn about politics, the less I want to be involved.” She watched the TV debates, but they didn’t change her mind, and she feels there’s too much emphasis on big business.

Although the Liberals eliminated the deficit, they also significantly decreased funding to social programs and the health-care system. They have promised to inject $21 billion back into the health-care system, as well as making tax cuts of $100 billion over the next five years. They have also proposed to allocate $1 billion by 2004-05 towards the support of research, development and the high-tech economy.

Meanwhile, new funding towards Canada’s colleges and universities has not yet been proposed. Transfer payments to the province resulted in drastic cuts to higher education in the 1990s, and tuition fees have been increasing in most provinces. Post-secondary education in Canada needs approximately $2.7 billion to return to the level of support it enjoyed in the 1970s. Restoring education funding is one of the main concerns of many university students.