Every year during reading week, the Gauntlet puts together our 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 candidates vying for executive positions to our office — after the one time every year that we actually clean it — for a five-minute platform pitch and a 10-minute question and answer session. A panel of Gauntlet staff picks apart the platforms and grills candidates on some of the key issues they would face if elected.
Last year, the MacHall ownership dispute between the SU and the University of Calgary demonstrated the need for strong student government. The dispute — and the ensuing lawsuit — was inherited by this year’s Students’ Legislative Council and will be passed on to whomever is elected this March. The failure of the injunction application this year and the resulting loss of control over roughly $1.9 million in MacHall-based revenue puts the incoming SLC in a difficult position. U of C students need competent student leaders now more than ever to address the MacHall ownership issue and work in the interest of students.
We know the election period can be annoying. Posters cover every possible inch of wall space and costumed candidates invade your classes to beg for votes. Student elections can seem juvenile and meaningless, but their outcomes are still significant. The SU’s decisions and policies affect the student body as a whole, whether it’s fighting for tuition fee regulation or keeping country music out of Bermuda Shorts Day. It is crucial we elect capable officials who have our best interests at heart.
Since you can’t properly judge a candidate on an outdated meme poster or a 90-second classroom pitch, the Gauntlet is here to inform you of the candidates’ qualifications and platforms. Once you’ve read our reviews, look for our panel’s endorsements on the last page. 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 period if you have any questions.
And of course, don’t forget to vote March 7-9. You can vote online through your student centre or in person via ballot boxes in MacHall.
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 or city councillors.
Shubir Shaikh’s experience as a political club president, Students’ Union Faculty of Arts representative and student-at-large on the University of Calgary Board of Governors makes him an experienced candidate for vice-president external. However, his interview didn’t display the confidence necessary for the demanding external portfolio.
Shaikh wants to build off the SU’s current lobbying priorities for the upcoming Calgary municipal election. These include pushing for secondary suite legalization, property tax exemption for university residences, improved transit access for students in under-served neighbourhoods and a large Get Out the Vote campaign. These are all commendable ideas, though they’re admittedly already things the SU is doing.
Shaikh’s best municipal idea is partnering with other post-secondary institutions to bring back the Calgary Student Caucus for a large Get Out the Vote campaign. This is a good approach to lobbying that would ensure city council candidates are more aware of student issues.
Provincially, Shaikh’s major focus is Open Educational Resources. He wants U of C professors to have an incentive to use OER, particularly for large classes like Economics 201. He admitted this would be tough, but said he could make headways alongside the Council of Alberta University Students. When prompted to provide a more concrete plan for success, he suggested public awareness campaigns, which is a good first step, though already in place at the internal level.
Shaikh’s other provincial aims include closing tuition loopholes that allow for market modifiers, regulating tuition to be capped by the Consumer Price Index and expanding the Student Temporary Employment Program to be year-round. These are solid goals and standard platform material for any realistic vice-president external candidate.
Federally, Shaikh’s ideas for working with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations are good, albeit unoriginal
Shaikh has sensible goals, but a concern has to be his lack of creativity — much of his platform is pulled directly from the SU’s current external priorities. While this is a safe approach, Shaikh could benefit by offering more of his own ideas.
Shaikh’s platform shows he clearly understands the role and scope of the external portfolio, but his soft-spoken nature lacks the poise or assertiveness of his opponent. That said, his previous SU experience and interactions with politicians through the Board of Governors make him well-prepared for the role.
• Board of Governors student-at-large, 2016–17
• SU Faculty of Arts representative 2015–16
Kendra Toth has the ideal disposition of a vice-president external, displaying a balance of knowledge and personal charm in her interview. While her platform isn’t as comprehensive as her opponent’s, her warm personality and thorough research on the issues make her a strong choice for vice-president external.
Like her opponent, Toth’s priority is the upcoming municipal election. She understands the major issues facing students and has already advocated against residence property taxes as the current president of the Residence Students’ Association. Toth is the only candidate of any position to propose two forums on campus for this election — one for the mayoral race and one for the Ward 7 race. She also mentioned advocating for secondary suite legalization and a student transit fines appeal board. Both issues are vital to University of Calgary students, though they’re admittedly already being pursued by the current Students’ Union.
Toth said she is willing to work on advocacy for provincial student jobs, particularly surrounding the Summer Temporary Employment Program. Both candidates highlight these priorities in their platforms, which is reassuring to see. Toth differs in that she wants to expand the program to include internships and co-ops. She also wants to prioritize advocacy around tuition for both international and domestic students. These are already priorities of the Council of Alberta University Students and Toth said she is on board with working on these with CAUS.
The biggest concerns with Toth are her lack of governance experience outside the RSA and the fact she didn’t bring up federal issues until prompted. She admitted that municipal and provincial priorities are more her focus. However, she was able to demonstrate a thorough awareness of federal advocacy issues when asked and said she is excited to advocate for student jobs and other issues on a federal level.
Toth’s strongest quality is her demeanour. What she lacks in political experience, she makes up for with her friendliness and strong will to learn. Her answers to all our questions were concise, thoughtful and clear.
Ultimately, while her platform is less broad than her opponent’s, Toth’s personality makes her an excellent candidate for the position. Vice-president external is all about schmoozing with powerful personalities and Toth seems capable of schmoozing with the best of them.
• Residence Students’ Association president 2016–17
• External coordinator for the Residence Athletics Association 2015–16
For more coverage of the 2017 Students’ Union election, click here. Our next election article, featuring profiles of the vice-president student life candidates, will go online at 9:00 a.m. on March 1. And come out to our Great Presidential Debate on Thursday March 2 at 3:00 p.m. in the Cassio Room to watch the presidential candidates literally fight each other. It’s gonna be great. More info here.