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Louie Villanueva

SU election supplement 2016: vice-president external

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.

External


The vice-president external is the Students’ Union’s representative to municipal, provincial and federal governments. They are also the primary delegate for the many umbrella lobbying organizations the SU takes part in. Vote for the candidate you think can hold their own in a meeting with cabinet ministers and city councillors.

 

Tristan Bray

 

After losing by just one per cent last year, Tristan Bray returns to the fight for vice-president external with more confidence and a better platform.

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“The way we deal with advocacy has fundamentally changed with the change in government.”

Like the other candidates for the position, Bray suggested amending the province’s Post-Secondary Learning Act to eliminate the loophole that allows for faculty-specific fee hikes known as market modifiers, as well as loopholes allowing mandatory non-instructional fees to rise faster than the rate of inflation. He also sees the possibility for legislation mandating student representation on faculty councils, which is an interesting way to get around administration’s reluctance on that issue.

Bray plans to lobby the provincial government to amend post-secondary mental health funding from non-renewable lump funding to annual payouts based on the number of students in each school. It’s a large ask of a province facing a budget shortfall, but Bray argues the new government will be friendlier to these ideas than the Tories were.

With regards to student jobs, Bray wants to push the provincial government to increase the scope of the Student Temporary Employment Program, expanding eligibility to include recent grads and maintaining the program year-round. Though a lofty goal, this is an advantage for Bray, as neither of the other candidates mentioned student employment in their platforms.

He was also the only candidate to mention municipal issues. Bray briefly touched on the fee hikes to the UPass, and mentioned that he wanted to create an appeals process for students who forgot their UPass and were ticketed. While it’s an excellent idea, it’s unclear how receptive Calgary Transit would be to the concept.

Bray is the most politician-like of any candidate running for the position. While this mostly makes him confident and well-spoken, he can occasionally come across as smarmy.

His platform is ambitious and he’ll likely get bogged down on one or more of these issues if elected. But all of his platform points are solid. If he got only a handful of them done, it would still be a successful year for the Students’ Union.

Selected Qualifications:

Former Liberal club president
Faculty of Arts Students’ Association political science representative

 

Martin Cruz

 

Martin Cruz has the experience and qualifications to handle the vice-president external portfolio.

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“The centre of my campaign is to provide students a voice and have direct influence in the development of our advocacy policies.”

Cruz promised to expand the lobby-training program piloted by current vice-president Romy Garrido and prep students for committee involvement. He also wants to secure mental health funding and advocate for amending the post-secondary learning act to abolish market modifiers and mandatory non-instructional fee loopholes. These ideas come up every year, but they’re still good ones.

In his interview, Cruz demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of student lobbying, the upcoming review of Adult Learning Systems and organizations like the Council of Alberta University Students — key aspects of the portfolio.

His platform and interview were full of familiar buzzwords like “engagement,” “advocacy” and “transparency.” Despite this, Cruz has the knowledge and experience to follow through on at least some of his promises.

Cruz already has experience in student government and lobbying at the college level. His work as both the vice-president student life and president of the Red Deer College Students’ Association proves his passion for advocacy and student politics. Since transferring to the University of Calgary, Cruz has also been involved with the Faculty of Arts Students Association as their vice-president operations and finance.

The vice-president external needs to be poised and confident when lobbying administration and the government. Cruz is both of these things.

He spoke about developing advocacy priorities and strategies at the U of C and then bringing those to organizations like CAUS, instead of the other way around. This mentality of working from “the inside out,” as he called it, is a pragmatic approach to the portfolio. And his focus on students in the university community to help lobby external stakeholders is smart and well thought-out.

If elected, Cruz would do a fine job with the external portfolio, though his ideas are pretty standard stuff.

Selected Qualifications:

Red Deer College Student’ Association president 2013–2014
Faculty of Arts Students’ Association vice-president operations & finance

Jen Tokarek

 

Along with securing provincial funding for mental health, Jen Tokarek wants to close tuition loopholes and regulate mandatory non-instructional fees. She also plans to host digital townhalls on social media where students can ask politicians questions. The final pillar in her platform is ensuring the University of Calgary continues to receive funding for mental health initiatives.

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“Using that student voice to approach government directly and to make them accountable is the best means [of lobbying].”

All candidates for vice-president external have affordability and mental health funding somewhere in their platform. Compared to her competitors, Tokarek provided relatively few details on how she plans to accomplish her goals. When pushed for specifics, Tokarek often fell back on buzzwords and didn’t demonstrate a thorough understanding of the issues.

In her interview and online platform, Tokarek states that all it takes to eliminate the market modifier loophole is a meeting between ministers. While this is technically true, it diminishes one of the biggest problems faced by students in recent years. If it’s so easy, how come it hasn’t been done yet? She also provided little information on how she would convince ministers to have that meeting. If she can’t, she doesn’t seem prepared for a fight.

Hosting digital townhalls is a decent idea. But getting students to participate will be difficult and those that do are likely to be politically informed students already involved on campus. It’s difficult to see what offering already engaged students another megaphone will accomplish. In a relatively short three-point platform, it seems like an odd priority.

When asked how she would like to see tuition regulated in Alberta, Tokarek said she favoured an inflation-tied cap on tuition. This is the most sensible option and she should get points for picking it.

Tokarek is the only external candidate who is currently a member of Students’ Legislative Council. Her experience as an arts faculty representative is a plus, but all three candidates have some experience that makes them a good fit for the position. Tokarek would likely do a fine job as vice-president external, but she brings few new ideas to the table and there are better options out there.

Selected Qualifications:

• Students’ Union arts faculty representative 
• Vice-president fundraising Consent Awareness and Sexual Education club

 

Read our reviews of the presidential candidates here

Read our reviews of the vice-president student life candidates here

 

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