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Two candidates square off in SU vice-president external candidate forum

By Scott Strasser, March 1 2017 —

The executive candidate forums for the 2017 Students’ Union election continued on March 1, with the forum for vice-president external taking place in MacHall at noon.

The two University of Calgary students vying for the position — Shubir Shaikh and Kendra Toth — squared off against each other for just under an hour.

Current SU vice-president external Tristan Bray moderated the forum, which included opening addresses from each candidate, several questions from Bray, a critique period, a speed round and audience questions.

Both candidates used the opening address to rehash their platforms, which include many similar goals at the municipal, provincial and federal level.

Alongside her municipal priorities, Toth spoke about the need for proper tuition fee regulation for both domestic and international students in her address.

“With the current tuition freeze, we want to make sure that tuition doesn’t jump drastically after the tuition freeze is up,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for us to do a ton of consultation to make sure we get student priorities addressed.”

In his opening address, Shaikh broke down his platform into each level of government. He highlighted his plans to advocate alongside the Canadian Alliance of Students’ Associations to lobby the federal government to allow the Canada Student Loans program to cover the mental health assessment fee.

“Mental health is becoming a serious issue,” Shaikh said. “The number of attempted suicides in the past five years has nearly doubled [and] depression and anxiety have also increased.”

Questions from Bray included how each candidate would remain non-partisan if elected, why they didn’t include student financial aid initiatives in their platforms, how they would organize a successful Get Out The Vote campaign and if they had any unique plans to improve student employment opportunities.

Both candidates mainly reiterated their platforms when answering these questions.

Bray also gave Toth and Shaikh the opportunity to critique and compliment their opponents. Toth’s criticism of Shaikh was that he included advocating for Open Education Resources in his platform.

“I believe the majority of this issue is under the vice-president academic role,” she said. “I do believe that OER are about 90 per cent under the VPA role.”

In his critique of Toth, Shaikh said he didn’t know why she highlighted advocating for international student tuition.

“One of the things that stood out from Kendra’s platform was the regulation of international students’ tuition fees. In my platform, I wrote that students should have predictable tuition. That also means international students as well,” he said. “Why was international tuition highlighted?”

During the speed round, Bray asked Toth and Shaikh if they knew who the current political representatives are in the three political ridings the U of C is situated in. Neither candidate knew who the councillor of Ward 7 is — the ward that the U of C will be in in the near future — what two ministry positions Calgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie MacLean holds and which Member of Parliament the SU needs to lobby for student employment initiatives.

Audience questions included what lobbying or advocacy experience each candidate had, how they plan to consult international students on tuition regulation and why U of C residence buildings should be exempt from property taxation.

For the Gauntlet’s review of the two candidates vying for vice-president external, click here.

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