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SU Elections 2015: Campus Saint-Jean Forum Recap

Campus Saint-Jean has “been waiting since the 18th century” for previous promises made by Students’ Union executive election candidates, students said Friday, Feb. 28 at the French campus’ forum.

Candidates representing the presidential race, vice-presidential race and plebiscite and referendums were available for questioning by CSJ students. Candidates in attendance were under fire from CSJ students who have witnessed broken promises made by candidates in the past.

“Talk is cheap,” one student said during question period. “You all have huge platforms, but we’re still waiting for promises. How will you include CSJ, (VP candidates)?”

Vice-President (Operations and Finance) candidate Cody Bondarchuk said accessibility and safety is one of his main concerns. Bondarchuk, who has spent the last two years as Safewalk director, added that he would look to increase University of Alberta Protective Services patrols and recruit Safewalk volunteers from CSJ.

Samer Sleiman, Bondarchuk’s opponent, said he would like to translate the SU’s governing bylaws into French while increasing communications to speak on issues and become better informed.

VP (External) candidate Blue Knox said she’d implement “community nights,” where “the SU is coming to CSJ, and not CSJ to them.”

Dylan Hanwell, also in the VP (External) race, said instilling a better sense of bilingualism into North Campus would help both parties involved, as CSJ has “a better undergraduate experience.”

Vivian Kwan, whose was the lone VP (Student Life) candidate at the CSJ forum, said she’d like to make “communication processes transparent,” while working around “broken promises” made to CSJ students in the past. The other VP (Student Life) candidate, Param Singh, was not in attendance.

VP (Academic) candidates Shakiba Azimi and Fahim Rahman both brought up the need to invest in and build relationships between council campus associations and the SU so their needs are heard.

Azhar Khan, who is running uncontested in the Undergraduate Board of Governors Representative race, was not in attendance at the CSJ forum due to other commitments. Khan’s candidate profile on the SU website has “no bio received,” which “pissed off” one student in the audience, and questioned what the BoG rep candidate intends to do, as little platform information is available for voters.

Azhar Khan’s proxy, current BoG Representative Sangram Hansra, said he doesn’t know why Khan didn’t fill out a bio and profile, but assured those in attendance he’s ready for the position, and that “he’s already advocating.”

With the Alberta government reportedly floating the idea of possibly eliminating the tuition cap, which regulates the cost of tuition, VP (External) candidates were asked what they would do if elected.

Both Knox and Hanwell agreed that the elimination of the tuition cap would hinder education, as Alberta Premier Jim Prentice pledged to restore post-secondary funding lost in the 2013 budget cuts.

Knox said she would look at what the elimination of the tuition cap would mean in “the bigger picture” of the Alberta government.

“This is flawed legislation,” Knox said. “I also want to continue efforts to monitor Mandatory Non-Instructional Fees and other fees.”

Hanwell said his approach would be to convince the government that this is the wrong decision through advocacy and external lobbying efforts.

“You have to make it seem so ridiculous that the tuition cap won’t be there so the government can’t fathom what it is without it,” he said.

One of Hanwell’s main platform points throughout his campaign is advocating for a 10-year renewal of the tuition cap, which expires in 2016. When asked how he would have approached the 25 market modifiers being approved in December 2015, Hanwell maintained that the tuition cap is more important as it covers all tuition, while treating market modifiers on an individual basis.

“I would rather have a base tuition cap, because some students still support market modifiers,” he said.

Knox said a progressive financial aid system needs to be implemented, as affordable education should be attainable for all students when situations like market modifiers are approved by the government.

“We need to make sure education is not sacrificed, but improved,” she said.

Presidential candidate Navneet Khinda and current VP (External) also addressed the possible elimination of the tuition cap. While she leaves the VP (External) portfolio this April, she intends to pursue and lobby the provincial government if voted as next year’s SU President.

“We’re facing some tough challenges this year … I’m ready to lead you and that we all can lead together,” she said.

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