Trips acrosss Canada put SU over travel budget

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The Students' Union is currently 30 per cent over their travel budget, totalling an amount over $8,000.

Major costs included travel to unforeseen locations, two unplanned conferences and bringing an extra commissioner to the Canadian Alliance of Students' Association conference in Ottawa.

"When you're budgeting for things you never know the locations of conferences," said SU president Emily Wyatt. "We didn't know the majority of conferences this year were in Toronto, whereas they could have been in Vancouver or even Calgary."

Wyatt is currently at the CASA annual general meeting in Fredericton with vice-president external Julie Labonte.

"I think the main reason we went over budget this year was because there were a couple of conferences that weren't recommended," said Wyatt. "For example, there was one in Toronto that [SU VP academic] Shannon [O'Connor]'s predecessor didn't recommend that she go to because it was supposed to be about campus infrastructure. Later it was discovered that it was going to be on the quality of teaching, which is something that is really pertinent to our school."

Another unplanned conference was the G10 presidential conference, said Wyatt.

"The presidential summit was something that wasn't budgeted for this year," said Wyatt. "I went to St. Catherine's. It was the presidents from the top 10 largest schools. It was one of the most beneficial things that I've gone to all year because everyone's on the same level with their student associations. We have a lot of similar issues that we can help each other work through."

Wyatt admitted the travel budget should've included more for planned costs as well as the two additional conferences, but stressed the extra costs were worth it.

"The first option is [the travel deficit] will come from what we didn't spend out of the executive individual budgets," said Wyatt. "From there we're having a really good year as far as our conference and events and catering. As well, our food court is doing phenomenally well so it will come from the base operating [budget]. We're in no way going to run a deficit because of this."

In previous years only one commissioner attended the CASA conference. External commissioner and VP external-elect Mike Selnes was one of two commissioners who attended this year.

"I think [the CASA conference] was more than worth the cost to the SU," said Selnes. "We want to be an effective lobby organization and the best way to do that is to have our feet on the ground. Someone is going to give you more credibility if you're speaking to them one on one. I think that magnifies a lot when you're talking to a member of parliament who gets interest groups coming to them five times a day, every day."

Selnes said the conference taught him about both CASA policies and how to lobby, and he plans to return next year.

"We've been starting to get the ball rolling on what conferences we're going to," said Selnes. "That process is going to carry itself out more as we take office, but as the executive meets we're figuring it out. Obviously I'll be doing the lobby conference again and bringing a CASA ambassador or two. The VP external does do a lot of traveling, that's part of the portfolio. I'll be in Edmonton on several occasions which is much cheaper than traveling nationally, but it still incurs a cost."

The SU has a gross revenue of over $14 million, but VP operations and finance Cody Wagner stressed that hitting targets is still essential.

"Certainly from an operations and finance perspective I'm very disappointed with us going over," said Wagner. "I'm disappointed with our budget forecasting, but certainly the rest of the SU--the other six people that have votes on the executive cabinet--are very happy to afford the opportunities to commissioners."

"We hope that it will level out in its own budget centre--the student government section--and eventually that would even out with the rest of the SU," said Wagner.