Video by Joel Cherry / Story by Danielle Mario

The attacks against the Conservative government were numerous without the presence of the Tory candidate at the University of Regina’s candidates’ forum on Oct. 1.

Many audience members were disappointed with the absence of the Regina Wascana riding’s Conservative prospect, Michelle Hunter, said Jessica Sinclair, president of the U of R Students’ Union (URSU).

“We took extra special care with Michelle Hunter,” said Sinclair, who helped organize the event as part of URSU.

 The attacks against the Conservative government were numerous without the presence of the Tory candidate at the University of Regina’s candidates’ forum on Oct. 1.

Many audience members were disappointed with the absence of the Regina Wascana riding’s Conservative prospect, Michelle Hunter, said Jessica Sinclair, president of the U of R Students’ Union (URSU).

“We took extra special care with Michelle Hunter,” said Sinclair, who helped organize the event as part of URSU.

“We offered to fix it around her schedule, to change dates, and we called her many, many times. The story we heard is that her campaign manager just really didn’t want her to be there.” Hunter said later in a phone interview that she had made a prior commitment to campaign in Vibank, Saskatchewan.

"I'm not 100 per cent sure of the date, but we'll be visiting the university before the election," she said, insisting that her absence at the forum was not politically motivated.

Hunter provided a written statement apologizing for her absence, adding that, “it was not conducive with her campaign schedule.”

The Lazy Owl was filled with students munching on nachos as Liberal veteran Ralph Goodale, NDP candidate and U of R English professor Stephen Moore, and George Wooldridge of the federal Green Party pushed their party lines, despite the missing fourth party.

The forum consisted of questions on environmental policy, post-secondary education for Inuit and First Nations students, atomic energy, gay and lesbian issues, the economy and electoral reform.

The question most focused on at the full venue came first; each of the candidates were asked what they plan on doing for post-secondary students at the U of R.

The prepared statement from Hunter highlighted the Conservative government’s removal of tax on student scholarships and bursaries, tax-free purchases of textbooks, and tax assist for student transportation costs.

“The Liberals, and in my mind and judgement, there is no larger priority for Canada than education and higher learning,” countered Goodale, who ran over the bell on several occasions.

Goodale rung the party promises of educational grants, bursaries and access grants. Every student being eligible for a $5000 student loan despite parental income, and flexibility of loan repayment, he said.

“We need to shift to a more generous grant system, keep tuitions under control and more predictable, and stop hobbling our young people when they’re done school,” countered the NDP’s Moore, adding that “corporate tax giveaways need to come to a halt”.

The Green’s Wooldridge said the other parties have had an opportunity to come through on promises and have failed in past.

“Post-secondary education should be a right, not a privilege,” he said. “We should forgive student debt, and offer target grants to lower income earners.”

Despite mild bickering on policy proposals, all three candidates aimed most of their criticism at Hunter’s missing voice.

“The Conservatives have absented themselves from this discussion today and I hope you with absent them from the result of the vote on October the fourteenth,” said Goodale in his closing statements.

Similar incidences of Conservative absence have taken place at a debate in the northern Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River riding and at the University of Winnipeg.

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