Student representatives were told to informally vote on supporting the NDP’s minimum wage without notice on Tuesday night.
Council moved in camera to discuss what stance to take and didn’t come to an official decision. While Students’ Union President Fahim Rahman didn’t comment on what resulted from the discussion, he said more consultation is needed before the SU decides whether to support the wage increase.
But Mike Sandare, SU Vice-President (External), said the question of supporting the minimum wage likely won’t return to council.
The SU’s final decision will be taken to the Council of Alberta University Students, which will take an official student stance on the issue based on Albertan students’ councils. The minimum wage increase will affect about 305,400 Albertans, 70,200 of which are students. The other 235,100 are non-students, but some might be trying to get into post-secondary, Sandare said.
If CAUS decides to support the minimum wage, the NDP will be able to claim that representatives of Albertan students officially support the wage hike.
Sandare said the Ministry of Advanced Education has been wanting student support for more than a year.
“If we vote ‘yes’ there’s the possibility that we gain political capital with the government in power,” Sandare said.
Sandare said the con of voting yes was the possibility of becoming a “catch-all advocacy group” — if the SU supported this move by the government, it might be asked to support other political initiatives such as housing, Sandare explained.
The discussion moved in camera after Board of Governors’ representative Colin Champagne argues that the rest of the discussion should be private.
“We’re openly discussing political strategy and we mentioned using this decision to gain political capital with the government,” Champagne said. “I don’t understand how everyone’s not realizing this, but doing this in an open matter is not a smart move.”
Normally, councillors must be given two weeks to vote on a motion to ensure they have time to think, research, and consult their constituents to make the proper decision. An informal vote, however, doesn’t require a two-week notice.
Arts councillor Victoria DeJong questioned why the vote, though informal, needed to happen immediately.
“We just got introduced to all this information. I didn’t know that we would have a vote on this and I don’t think a lot of other people would have a vote on this … I really don’t feel comfortable voting on this issue when I haven’t had time to do my own research.”
Sandare responded that because council was cancelled two weeks ago, the issue couldn’t have been brought to councillors. He said the informal vote was to gauge councillors’ interest in time for the next meeting with CAUS at the beginning of October.
Sandare said the issue likely won’t come back to council, but students wishing to give input on the minimum wage stance email or meet with him to give their input by September 27.