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BC Provincial election debate at Magee Secondary School: All tomorrow's voters

Debating BC's future for BC's future voters.

Four parties square off at Magee Secondary School
Damian Kettlewell, Bill Clarke, Matt Toner, and Andrew Wilkinson at the Magee Secondary School debate.

Shh! We're about to start

High-school students wearing ties. I'm not used to seeing this without hearing the phrases "Yes, your honour"  or "No, your honour". Carol Lee, one of the organizers, greets me amid the last-minute chaos.

Carol is one of 12 students who teamed up to bring the four major parties onstage to debate in front of the Magee Secondary School student body. Our participants are:

  • Damian Kettlewell (Greens)
  • Bill Clarke (Conservatives)
  • Matt Toner (NDP-False Creek)
  • Andrew Wilkinson (Liberals)

The debate starts in ten minutes, and the auditorium is filling up. It's a gorgeous auditorium, too: I've performed at regional theatres that were far less modern. Then again, I should not be surprised that Kerrisdale has a pretty nice high school.

Maddy Tan, Marko Flores-Makon, Maia Beresford, Carol Lee

Maddy Tan, Marko Flores-Makon, Maia Beresford, Carol Lee

I grab a seat next to a dude who looks like Jay from "The Inbetweeners". I hear the two girls in front of me chatting: "Politics makes my family angry. I don't get involved."

"It'd be funny if your brother voted Conservative."

"If he voted Conservative, we'd kick him out of the house."

You'd think getting a bunch of people nearly old enough to drive to sit down quickly and quietly would be easier than this. You'd be wrong. I feel old.

Meet the candidates

Matt Toner, standing in for Vancouver-Quilchena's Nicholas Scapillati, has two advantages going into the debate: he looks the youngest, and he has a cool job (game designer and founder of Zeros 2 Heroes). His handout was folded into one of those flip-game-thingies like in the "Community" intro.

Bill Clarke appears the outsider: he looks every inch the career politician (though he's a recent entry in this race), and students aren't exactly famous for voting Conservative. Clarke, though, proves the biggest surprise of the morning.

Bill Clarke: Conservatives

Bill Clarke: Just happy to be here

During the intro phase, Clarke asks, "How many of you are eligible to vote on May 14?" Out of a packed auditorium, maybe ten people raised their hands. Clarke jokes, "I may as well go home." He, like the other candidates, knows that this isn't the case, though: every single kid young adult in this room will be able to vote in the next Provincial election, and civic participation is a habit that must be cultivated early.

The debate itself has to be squeezed into an hour and twenty minutes: the length of a class period. This means that responses have to be short, which takes the four candidates a few attempts to really nail: your "quick story" will take up three-quarters of your response, so it's best to just get straight to your point.

The debate itself coversa series of pre-selected topics, including education costs, housing prices, job creation, health care, and the environment. The video below shows our four candidates discussing higher education and real estate prices. Apologies for the Blair Witch cinematography.

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