By Derek Baker, February 28 2019 —
The Students’ Union held its first executive forum for the 2019 general election on Feb. 26. The three candidates vying for the operations and finance vice-presidential position — Omer Mansoor, Briana Stallcup and Jarin Thundathil — answered questions from current VP student life Nabila Farid and audience members in the MacHall courtyard.
The forum began with each candidate reiterating their platform. All the candidates’ platforms can be found on the SU website.
Farid’s first question asked candidates how they would work with the university as MacHall’s building manager. The SU became the full building manager of MacHall on May 1, 2018, following the building’s ownership dispute with the university.
Stallcup stated that her platform point for MacHall infrastructure and redevelopment addresses this question. She cited the MacHall survey that found 66 per cent of respondents believe MacHall should be redeveloped.
“It would appear that the conversation and the door for that conversation has been closed,” Stallcup said of the University of Calgary’s response to the survey. “I would 100 per cent want to open that door. I understand that diplomacy is important with the university but it is also extremely important that they understand the student perspective, as we fund them, not vice-versa.”
Thundathil wants to push for more deferred-maintenance funding from the university for redeveloping MacHall, as well as looking for expansions for student spaces.
“Our building here is relatively old and it hasn’t been updated in a really long time,” Thundathil said. “It’s time we started seeking funding from them a little more aggressively.”
Mansoor pointed to his previous experience with the MacHall dispute agreement, stating that he was part of the SU operations and finance committee during the year the dispute was settled. He said that the SU should look into holding a referendum to see if students would support funding a MacHall renovation.
“There is an important delineation between an expansion and a renovation,” Mansoor said. “A renovation may be a lot more feasible as opposed to a large-scale expansion.”
The candidates were also asked which of their platform points would be their priority if they could only achieve one. Thundathil said his platform point introduces new policies to increase the transparency of the SU, such as by how it reports its credit card statements. Mansoor wants to get more students involved with the SU, stating, “If more students aren’t getting involved with the SU, the SU isn’t doing its full function on campus.” Stallcup highlighted her re-allocation of executive funds and wanting to scrap Colour Night — an annual SU transition event for new elected officials — and executive retreats.
Farid also asked candidates what policy developments they would like to bring to the SU. Stallcup and Thundathil both mentioned implementing a ‘yes/no’ vote for elections where only one candidate runs for the position.
Stallcup also mentioned implementing a sexual violence policy that would apply to candidates during the campaigns of SU elections.
Thundathil mentioned working on the differential tuition policy, citing changes to provincial tuition regulation with Bill 19, to “bring this policy into the modern era and make it more relevant.”
Mansoor said that he wants to deal with inconsistencies between SU policies, as well as creating a new policy for diversity and inclusion advocacy.
An audience question asked candidates whether they would advocate to change the Health and Dental Plan to direct billing rather than reimbursement. All three candidates were in favour of advocating for direct billing.
Another audience question asked Thundathil and Mansoor — a current and former elected official, repectively — to respond to Stallcup’s plan to scrap Colour Night. Mansoor expressed that the event is funded by an external party.
Voting days for the 2019 SU general election are March 5–7. Students can vote through their my.ucalgary.ca page or at in-person voting booths. A stream of the operations and finance forum can be found here.