Saskatoon-University voters got a chance to watch their parliamentary hopefuls duke it out in their first debate Friday at the University of Saskatchewan.
Seated in low, fire-side chat style chairs Cynthia Block (Liberal), Claire Card (New Democrat), and Brad Trost (Conservative) debated a wide array of topics before a near-packed auditorium of around 200 people.
Saskatoon-Grasswood Green Party candidate Mark Bigland-Pritchard filled in for Valerie Harvey, who could not attend due to her duties with the Saskatoon Legal Aid office.
Questions from the moderator gave the audience a broad understanding of the candidates’ stances on First Nations relations, environmental regulations, Bill C-51, and student tuition and debt.
Moderator questions were followed up by questions from the audience on sustainable food research, scientist muzzling, economic growth, gun laws, seniors and the Idle No More movement.
Card, who is also a professor for the university’s Western College of Veterinary medicine, received a warm welcome while the crowd also cheered for Bigland-Pritchard and Block on several points.
Trost received the coolest welcome from the primarily student-filled audience, with the moderator having to step in at one point when hecklers began calling out.
Following the debate, a few members of the audience seemed surprised by how civil the whole affair was.
“This was actually a very civilized meeting compared with some of the other meetings,” Paul Denham said.
“There was a large turn out, the candidates were pretty civil and there was some good discussion all around,” second-year agrobusiness student Thomas Renwick said.
“I thought the candidates had a range of different opinions. Brad Trost, he had good ideas and was civilized and was touting the independent line as a conservative,” third-year political studies student Rhett Stevenson said, adding all the candidates presented themselves well.
Though he thinks the Liberals fared very well and attacked the NDP on how they plan to balance their budget, he didn’t think there was any clear winner in the debate.
“It could be any game because last night Thomas Mulcair, in my opinion, won the (federal debate), but here I think the local candidate did a really good job as the Liberals. So it’s anyone’s game still,” he said.
Audience members were split on whether they have made up their minds on who they will vote for, but there is still a month of campaigning left before the Oct. 19 federal election.