The vice-president (external) is responsible for lobbying government on behalf of University of Alberta students. This means teaming up with provincial and federal student advocacy bodies to draft policies. It also means many meetings with city, provincial, and federal government members to talk about issues like the tuition freeze, mental health funding, and international students’ tuition.
There was an issue for Esther Thieba’s campaign from the start. Her website wasn’t listed on her English posters, the website listed on her Facebook page doesn’t work, and the only poster with the correct website is the French poster. This is unfortunate, as students who don’t speak French are likely not scanning her French posters. Additionally, Thieba’s platform left much to be desired. It has five points that are briefly summarized before giving non-innovative solutions.
Thieba’s forum performances didn’t make up for how unsatisfying her website is. Throughout the forums, Thieba’s responses felt flat and intangible. At the Lister forum yesterday, when talking about issues she experienced, she did so without conviction, and again referred to “advocating for change.” Thieba may have thought that avoiding anything new would avoid missteps, but ended up avoiding standing out in any way. By fading into the background, Thieba allowed the race to run away from her. I’d be surprised if she wasn’t the first candidate out after NOTA. As covered in my article about advocacy, candidates need to give more than “I’ll advocate to the provincial government, an approach Thieba badly needed.
At the start of this election, I thought Jimmy Thibaudeau had what it takes. His platform, while sparse, has a good explanation of issues before giving how Thibaudeau will address them. His plans are decently detailed, so the platform points feel tangible, but fail to ensure confidence. For example, Thibaudeau has a point about advocating for 1992 tuition levels, but doesn’t explain why that should be the goal or how to achieve. While not a failure, this misstep isn’t a good reflection on Thibaudeau’s ability.
The same issue showed in his forum performances. While in the first forum Thibaudeau was able to give relatively strong responses, he wasn’t able to repeat that performance. He didn’t fade away entirely, but his answers consistently paled in comparison because he constantly came back to advocacy without a strong explanation. Consistently, Thibaudeau risked and lost by suggesting he would abandon current approaches. For example, when he suggest advocating for regulated international student tuition over a tuition freeze, or when he supported exemptions for residents over inclusion into the tenancies act. I understand his goal is to advocate for a position more likely to be accepted, but advocacy requires advocating for more than you want so when you inevitably compromise, you get most of your targets.
Adam Brown’s website is well-built, his platform is thorough, and his stances are well-explained so I know how he will approach the position. I’m not left guessing or needing to fill in anything, so I can walk away from his platform feeling satisfied that Brown not only understands the position, but is ready to innovate it for maybe the first time ever. Moreover, his platform is thorough and covers a wide variety of issues faced by students, leading me to believe that he prepared and reached out to a variety of students.
When it comes to forums, Brown started off on the wrong foot. That first substage forum earned him the nickname “Weed Man” because of his strange fixation with weed tax revenues as a solution to the variety of monetary issues students face. However, at every forum following that, Brown turned up the heat, providing answers that outshone his competitors at every turn. He provided answers that motivated students and gave hope that the SU executive really can look beyond itself. Moreover, Brown committed to creating real change, advocating to organizations besides the government, and has experience and political relationships to build bridges future VPXs can use to improve advocacy. These qualities are unreflected in other candidates, and are ideal qualities for this position.
Who should win, who will win, and why?
Brown outclassed his opponents in every way. While Brown losing to Thibaudeau wouldn’t be disastrous, it is unlikely that Thibaudeau would be able to achieve much. I’m uncertain if Thieba would be able to succeed. Brown, then, should win the election.
Moreover, Brown has been the best at energizing the student populace. I’ve seen more support for his performance at forums. Unless Thibaudeau can bring an unexpected surge of support, or if Thieba has been secretly successful in her campaigning, I’d be surprised to not see Brown win.