Today (October 12), grade six students from two local schools take part in the Students Votes Program. Students from Meadowbrook School and Helois Lorimer School will fill out ballots for mayor, city council and school trustee in a mock election running from 11:30am to 12:45pm.

Yesterday (October 11), 120 students from both schools attended an all candidates forum hosted by Helois Lorimer. The students heard from three mayoral, thirteen council and four trustee candidates, and then had an opportunity to ask the candidates questions that they came up with.

The forum was moderated by Dan McEwing, who has been moderating a Facebook page dedicated to discussing this year's election. Organizers of the forum reached out to McEwing and asked him to take part in the event. McEwing said the forum was a great event, because students often have a perspective that older voters haven't considered.

"Students definitely have their own perspectives. It's great to see students come out and ask the hard hitting questions."

Each candidate was given one minute to introduce themselves, and then were grouped together to answer the student's questions. The students asked informed questions on many of the prominent issues in this year's election.

Trustee candidates Jim Forrest, Melyssa Bowen, Jason Spratt and Pam Thursfield were the first to face the students. The trustees addressed questions about the need for another high school, why they wanted to participate in politics and what their number one priority would be if elected.

Because the pool of council candidates in this year's election is so large, those candidates were split into two groups. The second group consisting of Darrell Belyk, Nicole Proseilo, Daria Skibington-Roffel, Charlotte Blackwell, Al Jones and Lindsey Coyle, fielding questions on the need for more animal foster care, recreation facilities and a women's shelter. They were also asked what they thought was the biggest issue facing Airdrie.

Mayoral candidate Peter Brown, Marie Lauer and Fred Burley took the floor next. The students asked if the candidates planned to run again if they aren't elected this time around. Other questions focused on healthcare, business attraction and budgeting.

The final group of council candidates included Ron Chapman, Tina Petrow, Mo Benini, Tim Lowing, Candice Kolson, Kelly Hegg and Shelley Bitz. This group was asked about the best thing they would be able to do for Airdrie and their ability to do it. Another student asked if the candidates just make up the things they put on their website or if they are telling the truth. Other questions centred on plans for downtown and emergency services.

The candidates were each given one more minute for final remarks. As the candidates spoke, many encouraged the students to push their parents to vote. The candidates complimented the students' questions, saying many of them were more difficult to answer than questions asked at the All Candidate Forum on October 3. Over and over, the candidates reiterated that the students are the future of Airdrie, their voices do have power and they do have the ability to make change.

Organizing teachers Amrit Rai Nannan from Meadowbrook and Anna Jensdottir from Heloise Lorimer felt the event was a success. Nannan explained these types of forums and mock elections are important because they promote civic engagement among students.

"They are now civically engaged, and many of them will stay this way because they've had a positive experience."

Jensdottier agreed, adding that at that age, many students feel their voices don't have power.

"It's really important to start at a young age, to show them that in their community they have a voice and with that voice they can actually influence their parents as well."

Both teachers called the event a success, and were pleased with the questions asked by the students.

Two of those students were Elle from Meadowbrook and Claire from Heloise Lorimer, who shared their thoughts on the forum.

"I think it was really good that we were able to ask our personal questions today," said Elle. "Then it really helps assess which ones that we want to vote for."

"I just liked hearing all the candidates speak about different things they thought," said Claire.

The results of today's Student Vote will not be released until October 16, after the municipal election is held.


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