Every March, the Gauntlet puts together a Students’ Union general election supplement to inform students of who is running for executive positions, what they hope to do if they’re elected and who we think is most likely to actually accomplish their platform.
This article is a little different from that. Due to the resignation of the previous vice-president external last April, the SU is holding a byelection to fill the role. Two candidates — Laura Caraballo and Anayat Sidhu — are running.
The VP external always fills an important role at the SU, but that’s especially true this year, with a provincial election taking place on or before May 31, 2019. The VP external is instrumental in making sure student issues become election issues and securing a large student turnout at the polls.
After you’ve read our candidate profiles, take the time to review each candidates’ platform for yourself. Engineering students can also vote for a faculty representative among four candidates. Platforms are available on the SU website. After you’ve read up, make sure you vote from Oct. 10–12 online through the myUofC student centre or in-person via ballot boxes across campus.
The vice-president external is the Students’ Union’s representative to the 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.
We originally had trouble getting in touch with Laura Caraballo. Eventually, she contacted the Gauntlet to inform us that she attempted to withdraw her nomination for the vice-president external position because she is “not going to be able to perform the [VP external] duties if [she happens] to be elected.”
Since Caraballo missed the deadline to withdraw her nomination, her name will still appear on the ballot but she will not be campaigning for the position.
Vote for Caraballo if you want to instil chaos into the SU.
Anayat Sidhu is a passionate candidate for the vice-president external position. Her three main platform points offer a solid foundation for the job but currently lack details on how she plans to accomplish these goals.
The first platform point is to advocate for affordable education. She says she wants tuition to be predictable for both domestic and international students in future years. Since 2015, Alberta post-secondary tuition rates have been frozen, but the freeze currently only extends until the end of the 2018–19 academic year. Sidhu said she would approach tuition raises by advocating for them to be tied to Canada’s Consumer Price Index. Outside of tuition, Sidhu wants to raise student awareness of open educational resources and scholarships available on campus.
Her second platform point centres on reaching out to politicians and voicing undergraduate concerns. Sidhu intends to do this through correspondence with both politicians and students. While it’s clearly positive that she wants to focus on advocating for students to political bodies, it is, in essence, a distillation of what the SU’s vice-president external role entails. The job exists to represent students’ interests to politicians and making this an explicit platform point fails to highlight what else Sidhu plans to advocate for or how she would pursue that advocacy.
Advocating for funding for mental health and sexual assault resources on campus is Sidhu’s final platform point. One of the most promising goals she mentioned here is creating programs to inform students on their legal rights — like those pertaining to transit tickets, housing and labour law — and the legal resources currently available on campus. She also intends to advocate for Canada Student Loans to review their definition of “permanent disabilities” to ensure that a wider net of undergraduate students get the resources they need. Much like her first platform point, Sidhu has her eyes set on positive change, but it is unclear how she plans to make them a reality.
One of the biggest responsibilities for the VP external for the remainder of their term will be co-ordinating a ‘get-out-the-vote’ campaign to encourage students to vote in the upcoming Alberta provincial election. Sidhu’s goals for the campaign centre around collecting pledges and starting conversations with students about voting. Sidhu added that she hopes encouraging students to vote for her in this byelection will push students toward voting in the provincial election.
Sidhu stressed the need to remain non-partisan around politicians and when encouraging students to vote. That stance carried forward to the Nov. 13 plebiscite about Calgary’s potential bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, which Sidhu said isn’t an area the SU should be “talking too much or too little about.” The SU is not currently performing any advocacy related to the Olympics — or the upcoming plebiscite.
When tasked with naming the politicians that represent the campus area at the municipal, provincial and federal level, Sidhu only successfully named Calgary Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell. Additionally, when asked about the SU’s existing municipal strategy, Sidhu didn’t highlight any specifics, saying she “definitely agrees with most” points of the strategy.
Before running for this role, Sidhu was elected twice as a student-at-large on the U of C senate. She said she quit that position so she could have a greater impact on campus. In part, it’s this experience as a senator that Sidhu says makes her the right choice for the SU’s VP external, in addition to her “over six years” of advocacy experience, dating back before she began her undergraduate degree.
Overall, Sidhu is a dedicated choice for VP external. Vote for her if you don’t want to instil chaos into the SU.
• U of C student-at-large senator, 2017—18
• Canadian Youth Representative, Child and Maternal Health
• Researcher, Hotchkiss Brain Institute