The vice-president (external) is responsible for lobbying government on behalf of students. This means teaming up with provincial and federal student advocacy bodies and meeting with city, provincial, and federal government members to talk about issues that affect students.
This year, the incumbent, Adam Brown, is facing off against challenger Robert Bilak. They both know their stuff, but who will, and should, win?
Adam Brown, who is running for re-election, has been consistent and focused throughout his entire campaign. Not only has he been a strong performer at every forum, but his platform points align with what students want, and include clear explanations as to how he intends to carry them out.
Brown’s platform consists of four major points: advocating for affordability, fostering wellness and employment, modernizing our student spaces, and empowering the Students’ Union.
Considering these points in the context of Brown’s previous term is crucial, as many of them aim to continue the work he’s been doing thus far as vice-president (external). For instance, he states that he will continue the “get out the vote” effort started this year, adding a little later that he will “continue [his] work to engage our Indigenous students in reshaping how the Council of Alberta University Students and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations approaches Indigenous student issues in advocacy.”
Brown touches on many of the hard issues students on campus want addressed, such as reconciliation, the inclusion of student voices from satellite campuses, school affordability, and mental health resources. He lays out clear, concise solutions to these problems, though they often rely on the continuation of his previous policies and ideas.
Brown has also improved his forum performance somewhat since the beginning of the races. While I myself have called Brown a “stone-faced politician” and a “dispassionate tin-man,” his demeanor on stage has felt slightly less mechanical than it did a week ago, which can only add to an already strong platform and candidate.
Robert Bilak began campaigning as a dedicated, if perhaps less trained competitor to Brown. His forum performances have been average, though this may just be because he’s pitted against a strong speaker like Brown. His platform points are strong, but seem to be overshadowed by what could be bravery — sometimes verging on impertinence — at the forums.
Bilak’s platform consists of three major points: enriching the campus community, expanding student employment opportunities, and shaping external advocacy. While his ideas are strong, he hasn’t had the experience this past year to outline them as succinctly as Brown. Despite this, I feel as though this would have little impact on his role, if he is elected. He outlines problems that matter to students at the U of A, such as international student tuition, deferred maintenance, student employment, and provincial advocacy. However, many of his solutions involve “working with” various groups and organizations, indicating that if he has a structural approach to these issues, they’re not included in his platform.
Bilak is a worthy opponent to any candidate running for VP (external). He’s relatable, though sometimes this is offset by his tendency to walk the line between strength and impertinence. Whenever he’s been asked how he would ensure his advocacy would not be disregarded by the government or university, he has said in one form or another that he will remind them that they are here to serve students. Though technically true, I’m not sure the Prime Minister or even the Dean of Students would give him the same benefit of the doubt as I do.
Who will win, and who should win?
I believe, given his experience and his consistent public performance, that Adam Brown will win this election. Robert Bilak may be a worthy competitor, but without the knowledge and experience in the role Brown has, he’s at a serious disadvantage.
When it comes to who should win, the question becomes more complicated. Despite everything, I do think Brown should win. His platform is more detailed, and he has more concrete outlines for how he will achieve his goals in the coming year. If Brown wins, surely we will have a candidate who will achieve what they say they are going to.