CampusOpinion

It’s populist versus politician in the vice-president (external) race

The second SUBStage forum was filled with all kinds of twists and turns regarding the vice-president (external) race.

The two candidates, Robert Bilak and Adam Brown, have been taking incredibly different approaches to the race. Bilak has voiced a lot of student-centric concerns, whereas Brown, ever the stone-faced politician, has been focusing on continuing his work from the past year. If you were at this forum, you can attest that a drinking game called “take a shot every time Brown mentions Bill 19 or his 40 minute meeting with Justin Trudeau” would kill both you and anyone else in a 10-foot radius.

Though Brown seemed to parrot his platform points and past experience over almost every single question he was asked, a unique point emerged from an interesting place; when asked what accomplishment the two had been most proud of from their previous year in their respective SU positions, Brown mentioned that he was very happy with his progress regarding advocacy for students at Campus St. Jean. This is a point we haven’t heard much about, and it was a breath of fresh air to hear him talk about something other than his time in parliament this past year.

Bilak, adversely, made a few controversial statements. When confronted with what they might do if a government change resulted in views which directly opposed students or the SU, he said that he would “remind [the government] that they are at the service of the people.” For a position that requires him to work so closely with both provincial and federal governments, these are toes he should not be stepping on. Though the idea is true that the government’s ultimate purpose is to serve the people, it is also true that they have the power to restrict our funding, student government, and much more. It is best to build relationships with the government based on mutual understanding, not parasitic alliances which can only hope to fail.

Both candidates seemed to have positive and negative points, but both also tended to evade the more difficult questions. When asked what they would do for the women on campus if elected, both stuck to the same parrot points the SU has been previously guilty of: pushing initiatives with STRIDE, making the SU feel more accessible to women, and hoping for a future SU with more women in it. If it was unrelated to student government, neither of them offered a comment, despite the fact that the question was not specific to the SU.

Neither candidate stuck out as a clear leader during this forum. Brown has the experience, but it feels like he has no personal stake in the position (and if I hear him mention his past experience as vice-president (external) one more time, I’ll personally eat Bill 19). Bilak seems like he is quite invested in the position and knows what it means to students, but has so far not laid out any concrete plans to carry out his ideas. Honeyed wine sounds lovely, but you can’t make it without any grapes.

Despite the fact that there is not yet a clear winner, both candidates have some very strong points and ideas to work with. In spite of their faults, it looks like no matter who wins, we will have a very opinionated and strong advocate for students at the U of A.

Payton Ferguson

Payton Ferguson is a second-year English major by day, 2019-20 Opinion Editor for The Gateway by night (and also day). She enjoys long walks to the fridge, writing until her wrists ache, and bombarding social media with pictures of her chihuahuas.

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