Photos by Mariah Wilson

SU election supplement 2019: vice-president external

Update, March 4: Anayat Sidhu has been disqualified from the VP external race. The Gauntlet is keeping her profile online for posterity.

It’s that time of year again. Posters are plastering the walls, self-important student politicians are interrupting you on your way to class and there’s a guy standing in the front of your economics lecture dressed like Woody from Toy Story. It feels like the first snow of winter.

We love the Students’ Union election, which is one of the reasons why we make this supplement that you’re currently reading. Just like how all these folks are passionate about serving the student body and bringing change to campus — or getting that sweet resumé line — we’re passionate about informing students about who’s running, what they want to do if they’re elected and how likely it is that they’ll actually get those things done.

On Family Day weekend, we compiled a panel of our staff, cleaned the office, put on some nice clothes for once and interviewed (almost) every executive and Board of Governor representative candidate in this year’s SU election. Each interview follows the same format: We give each candidate up to five minutes to pitch their platform, then spend 10 minutes asking them questions. After that, we write up these little profiles to help inform students about the crowd of candidates.

There’s a number of pressing issues at the forefront of this year’s election, but the biggest theme is change. Upcoming provincial and federal elections could mean significant political shake-ups both in Alberta and throughout Canada. Plus, new University of Calgary president Ed McCauley is settling into his job. If there’s any time to push for change external to the SU, it’s now. 

Beyond that, issues surrounding Open Educational Resources, Bermuda Shorts Day, MacHall redevelopment, policy reform, long-term financial stability for the SU, mental health and sexual violence are all central to one or more of the contested positions in this election. These are things that affect all students and SU elections have a significant impact on how those issues are handled. It’s your electoral duty to elect competent officials to represent you. Take that responsibility seriously. 

In addition to the elected positions, this year also has a referendum for increasing the SU Volunteer Services fee from $0.75 to $1.50 for full-time students per semester. You can read our thoughts about that in our editorial at the front of this supplement. We’ll also have news coverage of the referendum throughout the campaign period online at thegauntlet.ca. 

Don’t just read our candidate profiles and endorsements. Read the candidates’ submitted platforms on the SU website, attend some forums — or the Gauntlet’s presidential debate, taking place Feb. 28 at 2 p.m. in
MacHall’s Cassio A/B — and ask candidates questions yourself.

And make sure to vote through your myUofC student centre from March 5–7, ya turkeys.

Vice President External

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.

Austin Caron
“…”

Austin Caron is the only candidate who did not interview with the Gauntlet. Despite his verbal commitment to do so, Caron did not follow through on an interview. If he cannot take the time to go through the campaign process, can he be trusted to meet with elected officials and advocate for student concerns?

Plenty of questions surround Caron’s platform, not least of which is his choice of the word “offensive” to represent the “O” in his campaign acrostic poem of his last name. He doesn’t have a platform in his write-up on the SU’s site, though it does state that he looks forward to unveiling it at a yet-to-be-determined date.

At the time of printing, Caron’s social media links were not active, indicating that he has yet to begin campaigning or revealing said platform, so we’ve got nothing to go on.

His online statement says that the SU needs “the tried and tested leadership of someone with real world political experience, not someone who will lose their way to the bathroom when they get to Ottawa or Edmonton.” Perhaps Caron got lost on his way to the Gauntlet. 

The bottom line: Swipe left on Caron and his Tinder-themed campaign gimmick and give your vote to someone who values the electoral process.

Sadiya Nazir
“U of C is my home and so there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do to protect the interests of students and the interests of U of C.”

Sadiya Nazir’s bid for vice-president external is backed by a well-crafted written platform, some solid ideas and past experience as an SU science representative. Unfortunately, her interview didn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Nazir’s distinguishing platform point is to make university more affordable for students. She said that she wants to advocate for government funding for Open Educational Resources (OERs) and regulate international student tuition.

On OERs, Nazir said that she’d work with the next vice-president academic to lobby the government for increased funding. OERs are under-utilized and have the potential to save students thousands of dollars, so this is a much-welcomed advocacy goal.

Further, regulations on international student tuition is another excellent idea. But it’s a tough sell to governments and universities. Still, she correctly stated that the U of C plans to increase the proportion of international students to 20 per cent over the next few years, showing that she’s at least done some research on her platform points. 

Increasing student employability is another goal of Nazir’s. To do so, she plans to advocate for expanding the Summer Temporary Employment Program. Nazir also plans on putting in a bid to be vice-chair of the Council of Alberta University Students, which could place the SU in a prime position to champion student issues.

Nazir’s final platform point focuses on increasing student awareness of the importance of voting. Aside from get-out-the-vote, she wants to host an on-campus candidate forum for federal election candidates to inform students of their choices. These are solid but unoriginal ideas that are more of a requirement and less of a campaign pledge for a VP external. 

It’s clear that Nazir did some research into the position, though worryingly, she couldn’t correctly identify either the city councillor for the university’s ward or its federal member of Parliament. Despite this, her understanding of the importance of the role, especially in an election year, is a good start.

If we had just read her platform, Nazir would appear to be a solid choice for VP external. But her interview raises some doubts.

After arriving 20 minutes late and without an excuse, she seemed flummoxed with our questions — not a promising quality for a candidate who would be representing thousands of students in meetings with elected officials. 

Nevertheless, Nazir’s solid ideas and well-crafted platform buoy her as a considerable candidate in the VP external field. Perhaps with some further preparation, Nazir could do her ideas more justice.

Selected Qualifications:

• SU science representative, 2018–19

• Get-out-the-vote volunteer, 2015, 2018–19

Anayat Sidhu
“It’s critical for us to jump on as many opportunities as possible and to show that we’re taking action and that we care.”

Anayat Sidhu, the SU’s incumbent vice-president external, hopes to return to the role for what’s set to be a busy term, with both provincial and federal elections upcoming. She brings with her a competent platform and a passion for advocacy.

Sidhu entered the VP external role in a November 2018 byelection, meaning she’s only spent a few months on the job. During that time, she says her biggest accomplishment was bringing the  #StudentsLetsAct mental health campaign to the University of Calgary. 

Much of Sidhu’s current work was set out for her when she took helm of the VP external portfolio mid-year. As such, she seems eager to forge her own goals if elected again next year. 

One goal is creating more employment opportunities for students. Sidhu says she’d like to do this by asking the federal government to provide more funding to the Summer Temporary Employment Program to provide the option for year-round work and to help employers subsidize more jobs. She also brought up having work-integrated learning options for any degree, meaning that students would have the opportunity to apply their studies in a workplace, no matter their area of study. Though these are admirable goals, their feasibility is questionable. 

Sidhu’s best platform points revolve around student mental health. She stressed that she wants to see the definition of ‘permanent disabilities’ under the Canada Student Loans Program expanded to include episodic illnesses. Beyond that, Sidhu wants guaranteed per-student mental health funding for the U of C and the development of a federal sexual violence standard for campuses. These three goals all feel concrete and achievable, making them easily the strongest of Sidhu’s platform.

One of Sidhu’s final points focuses on giving students a grace period — until they’re making a living wage — before student loan repayment. The proposal is quite similar to one recently cut by Doug Ford’s government in Ontario. Given the somewhat parallel trajectory Alberta’s politics seem to be following to Ontario’s, this seems like an unlikely proposition, though one that would undoubtedly benefit students if it were to be implemented in any capacity.

Sidhu seems somewhat unconcerned about a potential policy to make SU fees voluntary. 

Lobbying politicians and political hopefuls face-to-face and making connections is Sidhu’s preferred style. Sidhu is a confident and persuasive speaker, though she can get off track easily. Still, she’s someone students should feel comfortable talking to politicians on their behalf. Vote for her if you want a steady voice for students.

Selected Qualifications:

• SU vice-president external, 2018–19

• Two-term University of Calgary senator

• Researcher at Hotchkiss Brain Institute

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