By Derek Cornet
As mayoral hopefuls lobbied their key demographics during this year’s municipal election, it was evident as to which group appeared to be of least importance. Students, numbering around 13,000 at the University of Regina alone, seemed to be overlooked and their issues were left without answers. For whatever reason this occurred, it’s fair to say representation of students on the municipal level will be low during the next four years.
Many ambitious projects this year were conducted through the University of Regina Student’s Union and the Regina Public Interest Research Group to encourage students to cast a ballot. URSU hosted a mayoral debate in the Ridell building and invited all the students to join. The attendance at the mayoral debate proved to be very dismal; URSU president Nathan Sgrazzutti estimates only 35 per cent of the seats were filled. The lack of interest seemed to have sent a message to the mayoral candidates that students just don’t care about the municipal election.
RPIRG also decided to try encourage students to vote and perhaps sway the vote in their favour. They decided to publish a mayoral report card graded according to how candidates answered five questions. Topics included the environment, public transportation and affordable housing. Even though the research group found the report card to be successful, determined by a spike in website visits, it didn’t have any measurable impact on election day. Michael Fougere, who received the third lowest grade out of eight, was declared victorious by capturing 42 per cent of the vote.
Despite Fougere’s stated commitment to make affordable and below markets housing his first priority if he is elected mayor, the RPIRG ultimately gave him the lowest mark on the affordable housing question, giving him a mark of 3.53 out of 10. With high student voter apathy and dismal student interest, it’s highly unlikely that the affordable housing issues face by students will be addressed anytime soon.
None of the mayoral candidates had any specific plans on how to alleviate the housing problem for students. While they all, especially the top three vote getters, realized there was a housing crisis, nothing concrete besides consultations and summits were offered to find a solution.
Conrad Hewitt, a council hopeful for Ward 1, meanwhile, had a specific plan on how to address the problem for students. He suggested offering property tax incentives for homeowners in close proximity to the university. The tax incentive would have given property owners grants after they had renovated and built secondary suites in their homes. Perhaps if this type of incentive were made known to students and included in mayoral platforms, students would have had more of a desire to vote.
While some students did vote during the election, its probably safe to assume the vast majority did not. Whether it be the lack of engagement by candidates or ineligibility and voter apathy by students, there will be a feeling of exclusion as those students who didn’t vote haven’t been represented.