Students' Union vice-president external Alastair MacKinnon and Bigfoot have two things in common: lots of facial hair and a tendency to be mysterious behind the scenes. MacKinnon will be retiring to the senate at the end of the month, but he's not scurrying away from a job half-done. MacKinnon's racked up a large list of accomplishments during his year in office.
Student housing has been tackled by the SU for years. Under MacKinnon's watch, they made significant headway in two key projects. After lobbying the city for an extended period, the city has responded with a pilot project starting this fall partially funding suites in certain areas of the city to get up to code. The SU has also completed the much-vaunted inter-institutional residence feasibility study, an achievement that the SU has worked on since last year.
MacKinnon flew around the country on the student dime, but his efforts were worth every penny. With provincial lobby organization Council of Alberta University Students, MacKinnon secured another promise from the Alberta government to tie future maximum tuition increases to inflation, a move that may infuriate cash-strapped schools, but should make cash-strapped students happy.
On the federal front, Canadian Alliance of Student Associations continued lobbying regarding deferred maintenance issues was responded to in the form of a $2 billion commitment in the federal budget. CASA also worked with the federal government on drafting a new copyright bill with students in mind, a breath of fresh air after last year's failed Bill C-61. MacKinnon hopes that within the next six to eight months, the federal government will amend the current law regarding textbooks that currently tacks a 10 per cent mark-up on imported books. As chair of the Calgary Student Caucus, MacKinnon and the other Calgary post-secondary institutions have agreed in principle to lobby for a city-wide U-Pass, noting that any proposed fee increase from Calgary Transit would be responded to with a request to extend the U-Pass to spring and summer.
For the past year, MacKinnon represented students with a great deal of preparedness and passion. His efforts not only bore fruit this year, but provided a strong base for future external commissions to work from. He's going to be a tough act for incoming VP Kay She to follow.