By Zarif Alibhai and Scott Strasser, January 19 2017 —
With the Calgary municipal election next October, the University of Calgary Students’ Union has set their municipal lobbying and advocacy priorities.
SU vice-president external Tristan Bray presented the union’s priorities for city issues at Students’ Legislative Council on Jan. 17.
A highlight of the SU’s municipal mandate is continued lobbying of the city to legalize secondary suites, which are housing units inside single-family homes. They typically consist of a basement with a separate entrance, kitchen and bathroom.
Currently, the process for legalizing secondary suites in Calgary involves a homeowner acquiring a building permit, paying a registration fee and arguing their case for legalization in front of city council — a process that eats up many hours of a council meeting, as each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
“We’re hoping it becomes an election issue because city council has wasted so much time dealing with secondary suites,” Bray said. “We’re hoping more councillors will take a public stance on it.”
Additionally, public transportation issues compose two of the SU’s municipal priorities. The SU wants to push the city to create an appeal process for U of C students who are ticketed for forgetting their UPass — something the SU started to pursue last year.
Bray said students who forget their UPass can be fined $200. They can argue their case in court, but that usually only gets the ticket reduced to $150.
“Given the financial stress on students and the time it takes to go down and get that ticket reduced, this is a small change that could make a big impact for students,” he said.
The SU’s other transit-related focus is advocating for more convenient transit access for students in newer communities.
“Every student pays for a UPass, so they should have the opportunity to use that UPass,” Bray said.
Getting the government to increase property tax exemptions for U of C residences is another focus for the SU. Currently the city charges U of C residences between $700,000 and $1 million per year on municipal property taxes, which is then passed onto students, according to Bray.
“It’s money coming out of students’ pockets,” he said.
The last municipal priority for the SU is to make voting easier for students. According to Bray, the SU will run a Get out the Vote campaign next summer.
According to the city’s official website, there are currently 55 candidates registered to run in the 2017 Calgary municipal election. Bray said the SU plans to speak with as many candidates as possible.
The Calgary municipal election will be held on Oct. 16, 2017.