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Tomorrow’s voters quiz today's Kamloops mayoral candidates

The five mayoral candidates met with students at NorKam secondary on Oct. 4 to discuss myriad issues

Mayoral candidates pitched ideas to the next generation of voters during a meet and greet at NorKam secondary on Tuesday. Students in six social studies classes in grades 10 to 12, gave up their lunch hour to quiz candidates on their visions for Kamloops.

The event was organized by social studies teachers Nikki McFarlane, Trevor Pendergast, Brynden Swint and Bryan Uyeda. Candidates sat at tables in a packed library and students filtered amongst them, discussing transit, housing affordability, amenities and more.

Ray Dhaliwal graduated from NorKam in 1974 and is running for mayor.

“You youth have to tell me what you want to see,” Dhaliwal told a group of students gathered around his table. “This is your community.”

Grade 12 students Santana Miller and Leah Boyes read Dhaliwal’s platform in advance of the event and told KTW he impressed them most among the five candidates running for mayor because of his plans for a youth council.

Speaking with candidate Sadie Hunter, students expressed concern about transit reliability and a “flaky” app. Hunter suggested a loop system connecting passengers to core destinations. She said she was not aware of technological issues with the app and promised to raise it during a city meeting later that day.

Candidate Reid Hamer-Jackson also went to NorKam some 50 years ago. He never graduated from high school and ended up on the streets in Edmonton. He credited “hard work” for his current business ownership and run for mayor.

“You can do whatever you put your mind to,” Hamer-Jackson told students.

Hamer-Jackson also spoke about rising overdose deaths and his campaign’s emphasis on recovery options, as well as housing affordability.

Grade 11 students Aleyna Gamble and Elizabeth Gammel listened and told KTW they are worried about the cost of housing as they near graduation.

“I would like to move out of my parents house one day,” Gammel said.

Students who spoke to candidate Dieter Dudy told KTW they were impressed by his vision for city growth.

“I really like it because it helps benefit not just businesses, but it also helps benefit youth programs,” Grade 11 student Mattias Jabs said.

Grade 10 student Noah Tkaczuk noted it could counter Kamloops’ “little-town vibe.”

Parks, waterparks and an iconic piece of architecture, similar to the CN Tower, were cited by students as missing amenities.

Candidate Arjun Singh was asked questions on topics outside of the city’s jurisdiction — including health care and the cost of gas prices — but used it as an opportunity to promote climate action.

“No gas prices cheaper — can’t do that,” Singh said. “Go electric.”

Pendergast said the school tries to convey civic responsibility by giving students a taste of what it is like to exercise their democratic voice. In addition to the event on Tuesday, the school will host a mock civic election.

About 800 NorKam students will be asked to cast a ballot on Oct. 13, two days ahead of general voting day and a few years before most students will be able to actually vote.

“What we’ve all been attempting to do is just to get them [students] to realize that democracy only works when there is people buying in,” Pendergast said.

He equated democracy to a refrigerator, noting that it can be taken for granted until it no longer works.

“Then, all of a sudden, you realize it was kind of an important thing.”

Student Santana Miller, in fact, said she wants to be a politician one day. Perhaps she will be back in 50 years talking to students, similar to Dhaliwal and Hamer-Jackson.

“There’s so many issues in the world that need to be solved and you can help influence to solve those issues,” Miller said.