In an election cycle dominated by buzzwords, in an environment ruled by apathy and a fair bit of despair for the future of student politics, candidates should be giving solid and to some extent novel approaches to solve issues facing students. While this is an equally important concept to each position on the SU executive, vice-president (external) seems more prone to this type of issue than any other position. It’s simple. A student will ask the vice-president (external) candidates a question about a real, and worsening, issue affecting students for years, to which the candidates will respond that they will lobby the provincial government to solve it. Not only is that the same response that every candidate has given and likely ever will give at this rate, but because it’s insane to assume the province will or even can intervene with our current advocacy efforts. Consider this. It is not as if our current vice-president (external) has spent the whole year thinking “wow, it would be really nice if I had advocated to the province regulate international tuition.”
Instead, they have spent this year doing the exact lobbying candidates propose today. Candidates shouldn’t think then that advocating to the province is going to be a departure from status quo, or that it will end in results.
Additionally, it isn’t as if the province is really in a position to make significant changes. The New Democratic Party have already planned out a significant budget deficit and we’re reaching the end of their term in government. Right now they are looking to avoid making waves by not spending money that, in the opinion of many Albertans unrelated to university, doesn’t need to be spent. Going to the province to stop the Board of Governors from raising international student tuition likely isn’t going to work. It isn’t even just this issue that functions like that, but also things like the cost of textbooks, rent, or mental health funding. All of these things can be lobbied to government, but not just to government. Part of the VPX’s job is reaching out to other organizations and trying to create those joint partnerships that bring funding, programs, or any other type of support to our campuses for our students.
Moreover, the vice-president (external) could advocate alongside grassroots organizers, could support grassroots activists in our province in changes that do ultimately bring benefits back to our campuses and to our students. Alternatively, advocate with grassroots activists that in turn put pressure on the government in a way that the SU or even a council of SUs is simply unable to.
Giving any of these responses shows an interest in caring about issues, an interest in looking for alternatives that we haven’t utilized to the fullest in the past. These approaches are a start in revitalizing campus and bringing students back into advocacy, not just going to the province, and we need our vice-president (external) candidates, both now and in the future, to realize this.