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Emilie Medland-Marchen

MacHall defence fund increase passes first reading at SLC

By Scott Strasser, August 19 2016 —

Students’ Legislative Council voted in favour of the first reading of a resolution to increase the Students’ Union’s “MacHall defence fund” by $350,000 on August 16.

The vote was nearly unanimous, with no votes against the proposed increase and just one abstention, from arts representative Peter Friedrichsen.

“My best description for my decision to abstain was because I think more discussion was needed about the resolution, but we didn’t have the time or space to really go through it as a group,” Friedrichsen said. “I definitely support student ownership of MacEwan Hall, however the gravity of the situation requires the utmost diligence from the SU, as we represent students first and foremost.”

According to SU vice-president operations and finance Branden Cave, the extra $350,000 will help fund the SU’s dispute with University of Calgary administration over MacHall ownership for the next six to 10 months.

“Since March we’ve been able to see how much we’ve spent,” Cave said. “We’ve been talking with our lawyers about what the next steps are and the best estimates around how much that time is going to cost.”

As of August 5, the ownership dispute over the building has cost the SU $330,781 in legal fees.

In March, last year’s SLC approved a $500,000 “MacHall defence fund” to continue funding the lawsuit. The money was non-budgetary and came from the SU’s reserves, which currently equal around $11 million.

While there is still over $160,000 left in the original fund, Cave said the SU is trying to be proactive for the future.

“Whether we like it or not, we’re in a legal battle with the university to defend MacHall and it’s going to cost us money regardless, whether it’s going through the courts or if we find a solution another way,” Cave said.

The SU and university administration already went to court twice this spring over an injunction that would maintain the current management agreement of MacHall for the duration of the lawsuit — an agreement that gives the SU control of the building and roughly $2 million in annual revenue from MacHall’s third-party tenants.

Cave said the injunction is the first step of what will be a lengthy legal battle.

“The best way to look at this, the injunction decision is around management and the $2 million in revenue coming in from the third-party tenants. The ownership is about the long-term fight for protecting the student investment that’s been made in the building,” he said.

As of August 19, the verdict regarding the SU’s injunction application has not been provided by Justice Kim D. Nixon, the Court of Queen’s Bench judge presiding over the application.

The resolution to increase the MacHall defence fund by $350,000 requires one more approved vote before it is passed, as per the SU’s bylaws.

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