The annual MSU Presidential debate was held in the MUSC Atrium this afternoon. Between 2 and 4 p.m., the five candidates were grilled on their platforms, plans, and the proposed referenda to be voted on this election. The debate was well-attended, with dozens of students standing for the duration of the event.
While candidates reiterated most of the platform points outlined on their websites, the debate gave candidates the opportunity to offer more in-depth explanations and criticize their opponents’ points. Multiple candidates scrutinized Tristan Paul’s grocery store and online MSU forum proposals, while Paul in turn questioned Ehima Osazuwa’s goal to lower tuition for McMaster students.
Osazuwa’s intention to lower tuition was also brought up during the student question period at the end of the debate. He defended his platform well; however it was clear that any intended changes to McMaster’s tuition policy will not become a reality for at least two years.
The lack of women in leadership within the MSU and the university’s ongoing mental health initiatives were two topics of interest to a large portion of the student body. Every candidate pledged to do more to encourage women to seek higher leadership positions within the MSU, but their suggestions to organize more focus groups and mentorship opportunities were unoriginal and repetitive.
Similarly, all five candidates stressed the need for increased mental health services, but Corey Helie-Masters was the first candidate in the debate to propose hiring additional professional counsellors, citing that currently eight counsellors are employed to service over 20,000 undergraduate students.
Candidates were caught off guard by a question regarding the differentiation of Ontario universities and what aspects of that initiative worried them. Every candidate besides Tristan Paul and Corey Helie-Masters admitted that they did not know what university differentiation was. Paul stated his worry that McMaster’s smaller faculties, notably Humanities and Social Sciences, would be threatened by this process of requesting each university’s best and worst faculties as these are decidedly smaller than McMaster’s medical school and Science programs.
All five candidates agreed on many of the topics covered in the debate. They all stated they would be voting in favour of both the Constitutional amendment and Healthcare referendum; however the candidates did not see eye-to-eye on which service provided by the referendum was the most valuable. All but Helie-Masters, who was adamant about the coverage for contraceptives, said vision care was the most beneficial coverage provided by the referendum.
When asked to critique current President Teddy Saull’s time in office, John Tambakis was the only candidate to not discuss Saull’s lack of communication, especially on social media, instead praising him for his ability to listen to students and pointing out the similarities between his platform and Saull’s initiatives.