Leam Dunn is the closest this election cycle has to a joke candidate, but the jokes themselves remain to be seen.
When asked about what he might actually do if elected, Dunn had very vague surface-level ideas that revealed how little he knows about how the SU operates. He would like to see information on university spending to be more accessible and easy to interpret for students, would like a “little play” in the university budget so that budget cuts would have a limited effect on students. Although the core of these points is well-intentioned, they seemed to be ideas Dunn could’ve come up with on the spot, rather than goals that were developed and researched.
Dunn was correct to identify that the Students’ Union has an engagement problem, but doesn’t seem to have a plan on how to improve this, simply stating, “I feel like I can do student engagement.”
He also had some questionable thoughts on university financials, suggesting that the university could save money and “negate costs” of the tuition increase by not putting student money and SU resources towards planning protests. These costs don’t exist, as none of the protests on campus were organized by the university or SU. He also suggested the SU could promote cost-cutting on construction projects for saving money. When asked where he would like to see these funds go, Dunn asked if in that scenario there would be a “net profit,” and suggested it could negate costs of the tuition increase.
Since he didn’t much to say on his joke platform, Dunn pitched several ideas around BSD that further established Dunn’s lack of understanding about the SU. He suggested a “laissez-faire” approach to BSD, returning the form it took in the ‘80s. There are several reasons why the SU would be unable to do this — the university asked the SU to organize BSD as a single event in 1989, and other problems such as security costs make the concept unfeasible on cost alone. Dunn didn’t seem to be aware of the limiting and at times combative relationship between the administration and SU in organizing BSD, and didn’t address the ongoing problem of deficits racked up by the event. As for lack of attendance, Dunn suggested pushing BSD after exams. While this may be more convenient for those with exams in the days right after class ends, it wouldn’t address the number of students who leave for vacation or who simply wouldn’t want to return to campus after their exams are done.
Dunn should consider leaning into the “joke” part of his joke campaign. If you’re gonna be a joke candidate, you should go all in.
A memorable mix of self-assurance and jitteriness, it was evident from the moment that he sat down at our table that Frank Finley wants, quite badly, to be the Students’ Union president. His firm, assertive stance on student leadership might just be what students need in this challenging political climate. Finley’s anti-establishment persona is needed as student dissent continues to grow and those facing the brunt of post-secondary budget cuts seek to unite against the provincial government.
When asked how he feels he can effectively work with a Conservative government given his background working for the Office of the Premier while an NDP government was in power, Finley responded that he would unite partisan interests under a student-centered focus, citing his endorsements from a wide range of political groups on campus during his past campaigns. While he tactfully avoids making any claims about the other candidates running for his position, he argues that his experience in politics distinguishes him and makes him more able to see his platform points through.
Finley’s platform points are largely conventional with a few notable exceptions — he wants to bring more inclusive meal options to campus, for example — and his plans to execute them appear well-thought-out, although some appear more implementable than others. His ambitious goal of convincing the United Conservative Party to reinstate the Summer Term Employment Program (STEP) and his pledge to improve MacHall infrastructure both seem more like carefully chosen campaign strategies than implementable goals. However, his plans to improve accessibility on campus by overseeing the development and maintenance of half-floor lifts and electronic ramps is a realistic, achievable goal, and his plan to monetarily bolster the campus food bank to ensure its clients do not go hungry stems from laudable intentions. He also promises to put a “yes/no” vote in place for candidates running unopposed in an election, even acknowledging that past candidates that have run on the point have not implemented it — he vows to be different.
Finley has the experience and the political chops to accomplish his goals and he very clearly has a vision. Unfortunately, it’s that same political acumen that may be just what holds him back in this race as it is emblematic of what students loathe the most about campus politics, namely it being an insider game wherein hyper-involved students race against each other to bolster their resumes in preparation for their inevitable venture into the world of career politics. There is a restlessness to this year’s Frank Finley, his demeanour reminiscent of that of a Sanders-esque populist figure, hands on hips, demanding to be elected.
Frank is the candidate to vote for if you want someone to make noise and demand change.
This is Quinn Stevenson’s second presidential campaign, having run for the position last year. This time around, Stevenson is much better informed about the presidential role, admitting that he spent some time talking to past presidents during his year away from the SU. He has largely backed away from the pieces in last year’s platform that fell more into the vice-president student life and vice-president academic roles, acknowledging that his campaign this year is more broad and positions him better to support the vice-presidents in their roles. The holistic way he views the SU’s governance structure is admirable as he understands that vice-presidents have also been elected by students to achieve their goals and that their doing so rests partly with him. Thankfully, he’s also dropped the tired old “improved food-labelling and food offerings in MacHall” campaign promise.
Stevenson is very focused on student mental wellness. His passion when discussing the matter is genuine and inspiring. Voters can be assured that, if elected, he will advocate tirelessly for mental health resources on campus and won’t rest until more such resources are in place.
His goal of using the President’s Consultative Task Force in order to engage the needs of underrepresented and marginalized groups on campus is absolutely doable, though he needs to spend some time thinking about what actionable and measurable goals for inclusion he wants to take after he’s done the consultative process.
Stevenson says he’ll demand transparency from the university, to ensure student money is being put to good use. This is a feat easier said than done. There’s no doubt he’ll demand it, but whether or not he gets it is a different story. That being said, he’s incredibly personable and his approach to the government and university administration is more of a collaborative and consultative one, in direct contrast to Frank Finley’s more aggressive approach. Though, when push comes to shove, Stevenson doesn’t give any indication he’d back down. His more moderated approach might just be what’s necessary to get things done in a challenging political climate. His plans to lean on CAUS and other student organizations are solid as he understands that, when functioning as a block, there’s more power to make demands.
Overall, Stevenson has a genuine desire to make life better for students and has actionable plans to get out and talk to students and make sure the SU is working for them. He may seem like the “safe” choice but don’t let his moderated approach fool you — he will be an unrelenting advocate for student interests.
Remember, the supplement constitutes the opinions of our panel — it’s important that you read the candidate’s platforms on the SU’s website, interact with those running for positions, ask questions and make up your own minds about who deserves your vote!