King’s University College’s 490-seat Kenny Theatre was packed, as London’s mayoral candidates took on each other in the two-hour long debate on October 8. The event was organized and run by King’s social justice and peace studies and political science students.
The debate format first allowed the 13 candidates in attendance to highlight what distinguished them from the other contenders in a one-minute speech at the start of the debate. Candidates answered questions posed by students then two candidates were chosen at random to rebut the original candidate’s answer.
The floor was opened for the community to direct questions to specific candidates during the third part of the debate and candidates were allowed to ask each other questions at the end of the event.
Students who couldn’t access the debate in person took to Twitter to stay engaged, and many students watched the live feed from just outside the theatre.
The candidates received questions from students on how to keep students in the city after graduation and improving student-police relations. The debate brought to light issues of making the city accessible to the disabled and creating jobs in London.
Questions from the community primarily centred around fixing traffic snarls and how to bring jobs to London through the utilities sector.
Campaign frontrunner Matt Brown took on the majority of questions from the floor, although each candidate had opportunity to make their opinion known on a variety of issues. Brown impressed with how the students both organized and ran the debate.
“This was the best-run, best-organized all-candidate’s meeting that I’ve participated in to date,” councillor Brown said. “The students should be very proud of what they accomplished today.”
Councillor Paul Cheng believed there was room for improvement. According to Cheng, there was not enough time for the debate to really get running and for the candidates to make their positions clear on pertinent issues.
“Three hours would’ve been fine — there was no free flow. But the questions were very sharp, very poignant, very productive — to the point [and] high quality,” Cheng said.
Western will host another debate Wednesday night at the Mustang Lounge, and voting for London’s new mayor begins October 27.