VP external panel takes world by storm

By Sarelle Azuelos

On a frozen Tuesday afternoon, three excited but somewhat uncomfortable candidates sat in front of a nearly empty group of chairs to convince the few in attendance why they should be the next Students’ Union vice-president external.

Hardave Birk, the current VP external and a presidential candidate for the upcoming election, moderated the event. The VP external is responsible for lobbying all three levels of government for student interests.

The three candidates, Paul Hamnett, Jason Coles and Matt McMillan began by describing their platforms.

Hamnett went first saying he would focus on lowering non-instructional fees, making fee increases predictable and removing the parental assumption from loan applications — most government loans consider parent income and assume support when students apply for funding.

“I think the number one thing on students’ minds is the predicability of tuition when they come to school,” he said.

Coles said his priorities would be to close the tuition increase “loophole” schools have to increase their ancillary fees. He also wants to increase student engagement. He repeatedly referred to his history as Residence Students’ Association VP external as relevant experience for student engagement.

“I think it would be a huge asset to continue a working relationship with them,” said Coles.

McMillan also said his “major strength” was his background. He said his relationships with politicians and past political involvement would help defeat market modifiers, which he described as “bad news bears” for students.

“I know members of the provincial government and provincial parties,” he said.

The candidates were then asked how they would take advantage of the provincial and federal lobby groups that the U of C SU is a member of.

McMillan said the provincial budget essentially left students out entirely and the Council of Alberta University Students should address this.

“This is what we need to fight for,” he said.

Cole said CAUS should focus on the tuition fee policy while on a federal level, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations should make transferring from school to school easier for students.

For Hamnett, teaching students about provincial politics — that an inexpensive membership card would allow a student to introduce policy to a political party — and increasing grants on a federal scale were main concerns.

All three candidates spoke at length about student engagement, but highlighted different approaches. Coles mentioned “talking to people,” emails and posters while Hamnett discussed radio, television and social media such as Facebook and Twitter. McMillan said students would follow issues they found important and that his job was to “carry the torch.”

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