Every year during reading week, the Gauntlet puts together a Students’ Union election supplement to inform students on who is running, what they plan to do if elected and who we think is best for the job.
We invite all executive candidates to our office for a five-minute platform pitch and a 10-minute question and answer session. Our panel of Gauntlet staff picks apart their platform and grills them on some of the key issues they will face if elected.
This year more than ever demonstrated the importance of a competent student government. The MacHall ownership dispute between the SU and administration put student issues at the forefront of campus debate. Rather than caving in, the SU stuck to their guns and fought the university tooth and nail. Had we chosen incompetent leaders during last year’s election, the outcome might have been very different.
We understand the SU election can be annoying. Posters cover every possible inch of wall space during the campaign period and costumed candidates come to your classes to beg for votes. It can seem juvenile, but that doesn’t mean the outcome isn’t important. The SU’s decisions affect the student body as a whole, and it’s crucial we elect capable officials with our best interests at heart. And you can’t properly judge a candidate on a goofy poster or 90-second classroom visit.
Once you’ve read our reviews, look for our panel’s endorsements. These are the candidates we feel would do the best job if elected, based on their interview, platform and previous experience. But don’t just take our word for it. Every candidate’s platform is on the SU website, and most candidates make themselves available during the campaign if you have any questions.
And of course, don’t forget to vote March 1-3. You can vote online through your student centre or in person via ballot boxes in MacHall.
The Gauntlet will release our reviews of the candidates throughout the week. All reviews, along with our panelists’ endorsements, will be published on Thursday, February 25 in print and online.
The president is the leader of the Students’ Union. They have the most flexible portfolio, but they’re generally in charge of setting a direction for the organization. They also maintain official relations with the university, oversee the work of Students’ Legislative Council and vote on the Board of Governors. Look for an assured, pragmatic candidate who’s aware of the challenges facing the SU.
Nick Boots has some platform points that make him a feasible choice for Students’ Union president. However, most of his initiatives fall outside the SU’s jurisdiction and would be difficult to achieve.
Boots took a populist approach to his campaign, consulting with students and campus organizations for months before crafting his platform. While admirable, this strategy resulted in some impractical goals.
Boots wants to advocate for cheaper textbooks and parking discounts on evenings and weekends. But parking prices at the University of Calgary are determined by assessing other post-secondary institutions in Calgary and charging similar rates, and convincing the third party companies in charge of parking to decrease their prices would be a hard sell. Boots argued large data collection and shrewd negotiating could show these companies their prices lose customers. His plan for battling textbook costs would use a similar approach. But collecting statistics on a large scale is a huge time sink and — considering there’s no chance this will work — it’s a misplaced priority.
Although it’s in his online platform, Boots didn’t bring up the MacHall lease negotiations until prompted. When asked about it, Boots claimed he’d continue the fight for student control of the building, citing student investment into MacHall over the last several decades. But not bringing up the issue of his own accord is a red flag.
His catchiest ideas are a Bermuda Shorts Day-like homecoming party in September and a weeklong cultural fair to celebrate diversity on campus. He believes this party would give incoming students a chance to meet others before starting classes, decreasing loneliness later on. Regarding diversity week, Boots suggests ethnic student clubs could have booths to showcase their country’s food and culture. His conversations with Campus Security and current SU executives shows he understands the process behind planning these events.
One unique aspect of Boots’ platform is his focus on charity. During the campaign period, he wants to set up donation boxes around campus to donate old shoes and shoe-shining stations where students can donate $2 to the Calgary Drop-in Centre. It feels strategic, but using the SU election’s publicity to do some charitable good is a noble cause. It’s surprising other candidates aren’t doing anything similar.
Boot’s thorough consultation with his constituents and his strong personality make him a viable candidate for president. While most of his goals are impractical given the SU’s authority, give him your vote if you like his ideas and passion.
• U of C Conservative Association president
• Fifth-year finance student
Jordan Grant has a solid business resume, but this doesn’t change the fact that his platform is filled with some baffling, misguided ideas.
Grant’s platform focuses on attempting to turn the University of Calgary into an “entrepreneurial university.” He thinks by shifting the school’s focus towards small business and startups, the U of C can solve many — if not all — of its problems.
By building partnerships with venture capitalists and investment firms through unspecified means, Grant hopes to increase the funding and resources available to students wishing to start their own businesses. He claims this will not only help students find jobs, but also fix the economy, raise enrolment and cause university administration to be nicer to us.
Grant wasn’t able to provide details on what these partnerships would entail, or how he might go about making them while president of the Students’ Union. These plans also assume there is significant demand for startup funding at the U of C, and ignores any students that may be uninterested in that type of opportunity.
His strangest claim — that a focus on entrepreneurship would cause administration to respect students and stop their efforts to take control of MacHall — also showed a profound misunderstanding of the relationship between the SU and the U of C.
Grant didn’t mention the ongoing MacHall lease negotiations in his platform. He claims this is because the issue should be over by the time he takes office. This is a misinformed notion that demonstrates Grant’s lack of awareness on issues facing the SU.
Grant’s other main platform point is a plan to split the SU’s policy review committee into two separate committees — one to review past policy and one to develop future policy. He thinks too much policy is redundant, and believes keeping people who are drafting new policy separate from people who are examining old policy will somehow do something to solve this issue.
Grant has experience with the SU as a faculty representative, but this only makes his platform even more confusing. It’s hard to believe that a member of the Student Legislative Council could have such misguided priorities.
Grant’s ideas may appeal to some business-minded students, but his ignorance of key issues make him this year’s weakest candidate for president.
• SU Haskayne representative
• President and co-founder of Elysium Inc.
Stephan Guscott may not have a flashy campaign, but he has a complex understanding of the issues facing the Students’ Union. He is easily the most qualified candidate for president, coming across as level-headed and poised during his interview.
Guscott’s term as an SU executive means he understands the importance of MacHall ownership. Regardless of the mediation’s outcome, the issue likely won’t go away and next year’s president needs to be prepared to follow through. Having already been involved in major decisions regarding the dispute, Guscott would be able to spearhead those decisions in the coming year. Neither of the other presidential candidates mentioned MacHall and when asked about it, they had nowhere near Guscott’s understanding.
In addition to the pressing issue of MacHall ownership, Guscott wants to put a student representative on the university committee that recommends who should be appointed to the Board of Governors. Guscott says he wants students to hold the board accountable, something desperately needed in the wake of scandals like the Enbridge affair.
He also pledged to change the SU committee nominations processes in order to give students outside the SU the ability to sit on university committees.
These aren’t the catchiest or most popular ideas, but they are practical and well thought out. More student representation at the upper levels of decision-making would only be a good thing.
Guscott seems knowledgeable about the upcoming provincial Adult Learning Systems review, the inevitable end of the tuition freeze, student representation on faculty councils and increased residence fees. He hit the main issues the SU will face next year without prompting.
Guscott’s platform is about protecting students in the longterm. He would serve as a level-headed presence in negotiations over MacHall, and his plans to introduce more student voices on university committees would ensure student representation in the years to come.
After two terms with the SU, first as a kinesiology representative and then as vice-president academic, Guscott brings experience and a complex understanding of the boring but necessary aspects of student governance.
As drab and bureaucratic as his platform may sound, Guscott is qualified, professional and prepared to lead the SU next year.
• SU vice-president academic
• SU Faculty of Kinesiology representative 2014–15
Read our reviews of the vice-president external candidates here
Read our reviews of the vice-president student life candidates here
Correction: The Gauntlet originally stated that Stephan Guscott wanted to put a student representative on the committee that appoints members to the Board of Governors. The committee in question only recommends appointments to the provincial government, who appoints all members. We apologize to our readers for these errors.