2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

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Uncontested candidate Mateusz Salmassi speaks at vice-president external forum

By Vama Saini, March 2 2024—

On Feb. 28, the University of Calgary Students’ Union (SU) organized a vice-president external forum as part of the upcoming SU general election, hosted by the outgoing SU President Shaziah Jinnah Morsette. Mateusz Salmassi, a fifth-year international psychology student at the University of Calgary, is running uncontested. Salmassi has served one year and four months as VP external in the SU and is running for reelection.

During the forum, Salmassi outlined the Get Out the Vote campaign for the upcoming municipal and federal elections. Salmassi emphasized media pressure and lobbying to counter work-hour restrictions. He expressed plans to extend this advocacy to ensure students’ voices are effectively heard.

“We’ve met with liberal ministers to conservative critics and NDP critics to get these parties to adopt student issues onto their platforms for the upcoming federal election,” said Salmassi. 

When questioned about the most critical issue he would advocate for, Salmassi expressed his commitment to securing more funding for the university from the province to address tuition hikes and affordable housing.

“I think that the core of the issue that we are dealing with right now that is driving everything from tuition increases to crumbling buildings to not having TAs and [professors] is the gutting of the operating funding to the U of C by the province and getting infrastructure funding for U of C by the province,” said Salmassi. 

Salmassi is opposed to the government’s implementation of a cap on international students’ visas. He attributes rising housing and living costs to the government’s failure to address zoning regulations, housing investments and city planning over the past decades.

“I think that implementing a cap on international students is really opposite of the actual issue. The cost of housing, the cost of living is not caused by international students,” said Salmassi. “International students overwhelmingly subsidize post-secondary education across all the provinces. The issue is that over the past 20 to 30 years, cities have refused to change their zoning regulations, and provinces have said we’re going to slash community housing and other housing investments.” 

At the provincial level, Salmassi’s platform centers around restoring funding to the university. He aims to launch a province-wide campaign to exert pressure on the Albertan government and build coalitions with other student unions, public sector unions and major industry leaders.

“When it comes to building the coalitions with these partners, I think the important thing is to lead with common ground on a number of issues. For example, major industry — these big businesses need students. When students are delayed in graduation because there aren’t enough course offerings that they need to graduate or when the quality of education declines, that is a major problem for the economy,” said Salmassi. 

Salmassi expressed his goal to advocate for the permanent lifting of work-hour restrictions and the elimination of the co-op work permit requirement at the federal level. He cites his past lobbying efforts and media pressure, which resulted in the extension of the temporary lifting of work hours by the federal government.

“In my term already, I’ve met directly and directly lobbied with the federal minister of immigration. That’s something I would be able to continue to do if I was still in office,” said Salmassi. 

Regarding the tuition freeze, he considers it an interim measure until a more substantial cap on international tuition can be achieved. He emphasizes the need to organize politically and garner student support.

“I do think that the most realistic win we can get at this moment is ensuring that the two per cent  domestic tuition cap stays and that we get some form of cap on international tuition. The reason I put tuition freeze on my platform is because I wanted to be clear to both voters and also have the mandate when I push the provincial government that if there’s any room to go more bold, that is what I’ll do.”

Salmassi ties his goal of reinstating the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) to building coalitions with major industries. He emphasized intentional partnerships with small businesses and nonprofits.

“I think partnering with them in a really intentional way and also targeting the specific ministers of the provincial government for lobbying who have expressed interest or openness to bring back the program,” said Salmassi. 

Voting takes place Mar. 5 to 7 through your My U of C Student Centre.

All undergraduate students can vote YES or NO on their ballot for Mateusz Salmassi as VP external or ABSTAIN from voting.

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