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Election Dissection 2017: Vice-President (External)

This is part three of a feature series about three Students’ Union experts’ analyses on who should and will win each race of the 2017 election, based on platforms, Q&As, and campaign performance. Opinions expressed do not reflect those of The Gateway.

The Vice-President (External) race is the biggest this year, with four candidates running: Arts councillor Reed Larsen, correctional officer Ankur Pandey, Education Students’ Association VP (External) James Thibaudeau, and psychology student Lisa Zhang.

Larsen’s platform includes a plan to create a housing guide for University of Alberta students, creating legislation to address university residences, and regulating mandatory non-instructional fees and international tuition.

Pandey, known for his poster tagline, “My voice is your voice,” aims to protect student rights, improve student employment opportunities by bringing speakers and job events to campus. He also aims to extend the tuition freeze and reform the student loan system.

Thibaudeau echoes the idea of making education affordable, but in a different way from the other VP (External) candidates — with tuition, he aims to find a way to allow tuition to rise at a predictable rate. He also would commit to running EMPFest for a second year.

Zhang’s platform centres around regulating mandatory non-instructional fees, creating an employment database for campus similar to LinkedIn, and making mental health resources more international-student friendly.

The analogy Simao used to describe the race was “two and a half Reeds.”

“If you look at last year’s VP (External) race, it was a bonafide candidate, half a candidate, and Reed,” Simao said. “This year, we have Reed who is a bonafide candidate with a lot of moxie, and then you have James who is getting there. Then you have Lisa and Ankur who, maybe it’s because of the personalities of the other two or maybe it’s their lack of experience, I don’t see them sticking out.”

He reminded the panel that the role has one of the most stark transitions of all the executives on May 1. And many candidates new to the position soon discover many of their platform points aren’t possible to implement.

Panelists credited Pandey for his work ethic and desire to make change in the Vice-President (External) position — but as far as platform content and insight into real issues go, he falls short, Simao said.

“I don’t think it’s from a lack of trying, it’s from a lack of experience,” he explained.

Moving to Thibaudeau, Simao called the education student “half a candidate” and “really outgunned” — he knows the issues relevant to the portfolio, but some of the things in his portfolio are impossible. To pull ahead in the race, he’d have to challenge Larsen on platform points and policy goals.

“He lost me when he said he wanted to campaign about tuition increases,” Simao said. “When you look at it, and you go into depth with it, there’s content. It is a good idea to advocate for sustainable increases. But as soon as you say, ‘I want to increase tuition,’ the reality is that no one is going to vote for you.”

Panelists found Lisa Zhang, while a dark horse, was also in a valid in pursuing the role. Impressed with this year’s running, Allard found that none of the candidates “were too far off the mark.”

Allard thought Larsen was the best candidate. His platform wasn’t considered exciting, but that’s normal for the Vice-President (External) role, since it usually involves taking up decades of advocacy work, Allard said.

“Reed has demonstrated deep understanding of pretty much every aspect of the portfolio,” he said. “Reed’s a friend of mine, so I’m trying to stay impartial. He’s also got the personality and the work ethic to be effective in that position.”

Simao commended the fact Larsen translated his platform into French, and found the points to be comprehensive — there were buzzwords, but all of them came with concrete steps to achieve specific goals.


Should Win

Reed Larsen — three votes

Will Win

Reed Larsen — three votes

The panel:

Justis Allard was the Agriculture, Life, and Environmental Sciences councillor for 2014-15 and 2015-16. He’s now graduated and working in the real world, but he was willing to lend us his Students’ Union experience for an afternoon to discuss candidates.

Oumar Salifou

Kieran Chrysler was The Gateway’s Managing Editor in 2015-16 and Arts Editor in 2014-15. Now graduating with a degree from the Alberta School of Business, Chrysler returned to The Gateway to give her take on this year’s election and share her wisdom after living through two years of elections newsrooms.

Oumar Salifou

Jordan Simao has been a highly-involved member of the Campus Saint-Jean community as president of the French campus’ residence association, and councillor on Association des universitaires de la Faculté Saint-Jean. He ran for Vice-President (Student Life) last year, and has returned to the elections scene this year as an active commentator.

Oumar Salifou 

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