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SU Elections Dissection 2021: Vice-President (External)

A lack of details over enacting advocacy left the panel with questions about Fotang's candidacy

Every year The Gateway hosts a panel to determine who should and who will win in each race for the Students’ Union elections to assist those undecided on who to vote for. Our election dissection panel is here with their insights on student politics and their takes on this year’s candidates.

Opinions expressed by the panelists do not reflect those of The Gateway.

The Panel

This years panel for election dissection included:

  • Ashlynn Chand: U of A alumni, former arts and culture editor at The Gateway.
  • Stephen Raitz: U of A alumni, past candidate for Students’ Union vice-president (student life).
  • Kelsey Fortier: second-year law student.

The candidate

Christian Fotang, a third-year biological science student and current science councillor on Students’ Council.

The panel began the discussion by noting that the vice-president (external) (VPX) is likely the most difficult position to run for this year. With increasing budget cuts to post-secondary education and the planned implementation of performance-based funding, panelists agreed there are numerous issues facing any VPX.

As the only candidate, the panel focused exclusively on Fotang’s performance as a candidate. Looking at Fotang’s platform, Raitz believed he focused on the right areas to advocate for, especially when it came to student affordability. Specific promises made by Fotang included fighting to pause or eliminate student loan interest and advocating for tuition increases to be restricted to the Alberta Consumer Price Index.

However, Raitz was disappointed with the lack of details around how Fotang would carry out this advocacy if elected.

“How are you going to ask for these things?” Raitz asked. “Outside of supporting the penguin campaign, how are you going to advocate? Is it mass campaigning? Is it engaging with other groups?”

The vague amount of details left Raitz uncertain about his ability to deliver on many of his advocacy efforts.

Panelists additionally felt Fotang’s stance on performance-based funding should’ve been stronger. In his platform, Fotang promises to push for performance metrics to focus on student service outcomes, in addition to fighting for transparent data collection. However, panelists agreed this was too much of a “moderate” position that centred around reform, rather than rejecting the funding system entirely.

“There are things that are inherently bad for students,” Fortier said. “Performance-based funding and some of the cuts, that to me is something where you got to dig your heels in.”

Chand agreed with this position, saying she would love to see more radical candidates running for the SU executive team. In the past, Chand believes that Students’ Unions too often took moderate or realistic positions to issues facing secondary education, which didn’t properly represent the frustration felt by students on the ground.

“Students are pissed,” Chand said. “Students aren’t really into ‘let’s be more realistic.’ They want to fight. They want someone who can at least led them, rile them up, and have their voice heard.”

During the discussion, Raitz offered numerous ideas on how Fotang could improve on his plans. He specifically mentioned how standing with mass labour movements could help spread a message about the value of post-secondary education. Additionally, Raitz encouraged him to build better relations with municipalities, as this level of government could help alleviate student concerns over transit and housing.

In the end, all actively considered whether students should vote none of the above in this race. While the VPX role is important, some panelists suggested Rowan Ley, the current VPX and uncontested presidential candidate, could continue much of his current advocacy work if elected.

“If this was vacant and Rowan [Ley] was president…I don’t think it would be a major issue,” Raitz said. “[Ley] could just be doing the work of the VPX, because he knows what it is and he’s been doing it well as VPX this year.”

Who should win: three votes for none of the above

Who will win: three votes for Christian Fotang

Mitchell Pawluk

Mitchell Pawluk is the 2020-21 Opinion Editor at The Gateway. He's a fourth-year student majoring in political science and minoring in philosophy. When not writing, he enjoys reading political theory, obsessing over pop culture, and trying something new!

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