Photo by Fabian Mayer

Frosh 2017: Dealing with the man

A student’s guide to all levels of government.
By Jason Herring —

Municipal Government

You’re most likely to feel the effects of municipal government in your day-to-day life, especially if you live off-campus. They control topics important to students like public transit and secondary suites — often with a staggering level of incompetency.

Full-time students are required to purchase a UPass as part of their mandatory student fees. It costs $140 per semester, but is far cheaper than purchasing monthly passes. The CTrain is the primary mode of public transport in Calgary and serves most of the city well, but those living in the deep southeast and along the northern stretch of Centre St. have to take the bus until the Green Line is completed in 2024.

Many students prefer to live away from their parents off-campus, leading them to a rental market rife with secondary suites — self-contained basement or backyard dwellings attached to an existing residence. These are typically more student-budget friendly, but are often ran illegally, meaning tenants don’t have basic renter’s rights. This is due to the Kafkaesque process of secondary suite approval where each property must be approved by council on a case-by-case basis. It’s a near-incomprehensible level of madness.

The City is also looking into a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games, which is nothing if not divisive. Calgary hosted a profitable Olympics in 1988, but that back when hosting a Games didn’t cost $5 billion.

If you’re not happy with your elected officials, there’s a municipal election on Oct. 16. Mayor Naheed Nenshi is running for a third term and seems primed to emerge victorious, but a number of other candidates have thrown their hats in the ring.

Pay attention to the election and figure out who you want representing you. If you’re really passionate about a candidate, get involved in their campaign. It’s easiest to effect change at this level.

Provincial Government

It’s been over two years since the New Democrats took over the provincial government, ending a 44-year Progressive Conservative reign. Rachel Notley’s NDP hold a majority government and are tasked with steering the oil-dependent province through a major recession.

The NDP have tried to balance environmental sustainability with the reality of Alberta’s oil and gas industry. Notley has been a staunch supporter of the Trans Mountain pipeline through Alberta and B.C. and she rejected the federal NDP’s Leap Manifesto, which detailed a future without pipelines or fossil fuels. She also implemented a carbon tax, which intends to encourage Albertans to make greener choices by taxing greenhouse gas emissions.

The NDP’s last budget projected a $10.3-million deficit, putting money into infrastructure funding and banking on a soon-improving economy. Students are among the main beneficiaries of the NDP’s budgets, with the party implementing a tuition freeze until at least the end of the 2017–18 academic year and reinstating the Summer Temporary Employment Program, which helps subsidize wages for student summer jobs. Additionally, they’ve allowed plenty of funding for post-secondary mental health and the redevelopment of the campus’s most run-down buildings and are in the process of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The shape of Alberta politics recently changed drastically as the PCs merged with the far-right Wildrose Party to form the United Conservative Party, hoping to reclaim power in the 2019 election. That party doesn’t yet have a leader, but both former PC head Jason Kenney and ex-Wildrose leader Brian Jean are vying for the role.

Federal Government

Federal politics are fun, but they don’t play a huge role in students’ daily lives. The Liberal Party’s Justin Trudeau was elected as prime minister in late 2015, replacing long-time Conservative PM and U of C alumni Steven Harper.

The federal government controls the student loan program, which the Liberals recently changed so that student don’t have to repay loan debt until they’re earning over $25,000 a year. They’re also legalizing marijuana by Canada Day 2018. Provinces will have jurisdiction over the details of legalization, but it’s thanks to the Liberals that you’ll be soon be able to roll one up without any fear of the man harshing your buzz.

Federal politics are often where the most absurd and controversial stories play out. It’s worth keeping an eye on what’s happening in Ottawa — just be sure to look at Trudeau with a more discerning eye than the many news stories focusing on his witticisms and dashing good looks.


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