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Sustainability becomes point of difference in VP Ops-Fi race

Comparing the platforms of Emily Kimani and Julia Villoso, sustainability plans become an important distinction

This article expresses opinions based on The Gateway Forum of the Students’ Union 2021 Election on February 23, 2021.

One of the major differences between this year’s vice-president (operations and finance) (VP Ops-Fi) candidates is sustainability. For candidate Emily Kimani, it is a major focus and for candidate Julia Villoso, the word only made it on her full platform once outside describing the Sustainability and Capital Fund and her role on the committee overseeing it.

During The Gateway‘s election forum on February 23, the difference was raised to Villoso. Sustainability has been a topic that has been noticeably absent from the past two forums. It feels as if COVID-19 has left sustainability out of the conversation this year and these candidates have very different approaches to this issue; Kimani plans to surge ahead without full consideration of the pandemic and Villoso plans to keep the status quo and neglects the issue.

In her remarks, Villoso raised that her predecessor Alana Krahn did a lot for sustainability and that she left it out of her platform because it is expected that she will continue in Krahn’s footsteps. She does want to see a carbon neutral SUB but wants to work with students in achieving this. She has no detailed plans of her own for sustainability, but wants to support student initiatives through the Sustainability and Capital Fund.

Kimani’s platform on sustainability is threefold: economic, social and environmental. She promises to optimize revenue from existing SU businesses and considers economic sustainability to be very important this year specifically. Socially, she promises to provide free menstrual product dispensers in SUB, hoping to then expand this service across all campuses. Additionally, she promises to renew and further advertise Empower Me, a mental health support offered through the SU Health and Dental Plan. Her environmental plan consists of creating a bulk foods section at SUBMart and making SUB food vendors reduce their plastic waste. 

The environmental section seems to be where Kimani seems to really shine in this campaign and she’s not afraid to go into detail. She hopes to eliminate plastic at the DailyGrind and introduce paper straws and packaging for other vendors in SUB. She wants to organize a jar drive, to provide sanitized glass jars for students at a bulk foods section in SUBMart. The bulk foods section was first introduced last year in Alana Krahn’s campaign but due to the pandemic, it never materialized. 

While bulk food sections shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, guidelines for grocery stores released in October 2020 do allow bulk food with certain precautions. However, Krahn was not able to follow through on this idea. Many businesses continue to err on the side of caution by not accepting reusables and Bulk Barn has suspended their reusable container program.

Villoso takes a more realistic but neglectful approach. In tonight’s forum she pointed out that Kimani lists the Myer Horowitz Theatre renovation on her plans for sustainability despite the fact that it will not be completed during her term. Kimani responded that while most of the revenue will come once the theatre opens, the SU can begin to advertise and plan. Villoso responded with her own plan to focus on donations and fundraisers to ensure that there are sufficient funds to complete said renovation. 

Do students want a focus on sustainability right now? Students did vote for the Sustainability and Capital Fund last year which indicates that climate change and waste reduction are important to them. A common occurrence during the pandemic, however, has been allowing environmental commitments to move to the back burner and Villoso seems to take that approach. During Monday night’s residence forum, she said she had no major goals for this fund and she wants to leave it up to students to make use of it. Kimani however, embraces this fund and takes things even further with detailed environmental plans in her platform.

If sustainability is a priority for you during this election, you may want to consider Kimani as a candidate who won’t shy away from this issue even during these trying times. Idealism is certainly preferable to neglect and this race demonstrates the larger problem of the environment coming to head with the pandemic.

This article expresses opinions based on The Gateway Forum of the Students’ Union 2021 Election on February 23, 2021.

Emily Williams

Emily is the 2021-22 Opinion Editor at The Gateway. She previously served as a Deputy Opinion Editor. She is in her third year, studying political science and history. She is a lover of nature walks, politics, and times new roman font. She can often be found in value village, curating her signature look.

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