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SU Elections 2024 Q&A: Vice-President (Operations and Finance)

There are two candidates for the position of vice-president (operations and finance) — Joachim Bony and Levi Flaman.

The vice-president (operations and finance) serves as a steward for the Students’ Union’s (SU) $13 million budget. They manage and finance SU businesses, such as Dewey’s and The Daily Grind. They also oversee the operations of the Students’ Union Building (SUB).

There are two candidates running for vice-president (operations and finance):

  • Joachim Bony, a third-year business, economics, and law major.
  • Levi Flaman, a fifth-year open studies student, and the current vice-president (operations and finance).

The following interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Why have you decided to run for vice-president (operations and finance)?

Joachim Bony: First of all, I think there’s a sense of responsibility. I’ve always wanted to serve in various positions, and that’s why I’m already serving as vice-president (operations and finance) over at Campus Saint-Jean (CSJ). What I’ve learned in that position is how to provide support to our fellow students. Universities are very diverse environments, where we face challenges on a daily basis. Where we’re always being put to the test. So I think that’s where the SU has to step-in and do that work. Given the current challenges — from the affordability crisis, to the tuition increases and post-pandemic recovery — I think these challenges represent an opportunity and a chance for the SU to modernize. And I think I’m the right person to do that.

Levi Flaman: To build off the work that we’ve already done this year. We were trying to make things affordable for students. Given the vice-president (operations and finance) doesn’t have a whole lot of control on educational expenses, whether it’s tuition fees, or textbook costs, but what I could do in my role is control some of the costs within our building. So, we implemented UASU’s Member Mondays, where you get discounts on select businesses on campus. We have the Student Price Card within Perks, so you could redeem points you’ve accumulated throughout the year to get a discount on nationwide retailers. We have another two big deals coming up this year. The U-Pass is up for renewal, and the Single Source Cold Beverage agreement. So it would be both the vice-president (student life) and vice-president (operations and finance) looking over both of those contracts, making sure that there’s nothing that slips by us, like what happened last time. Because as they say, the decisions of today really affect the students of tomorrow.

What would you say are three main takeaways from your platform?

Bony: I think my platform can be boiled down to three main aspects. First of all, accessibility and visibility. Making sure that there is ease of access for students to the SU, and making the SU more visible to students in its mission. Services and businesses, and their sustainability and transparency. Making sure that we optimize operations that respond to the needs of students. Simplifying the transparency of our SU, making sure that we’re more accountable to students that way. Finally, making sure that we are impactful and relevant in what we do within the SU, making sure that the students feel the impact of the SU directly.

Flaman: So first, as alluded to with the two big contracts, the U-Pass agreement is locked in for four years. If it’s renewed next year, the Single Source Cold Beverage agreement is locked in for 10 years. So, I’ll be taking what I’ve learned, and my attention to detail that I’ve learned as a business, economics, and law minor within the Alberta School of Business, and pour over some of the fine print and legalese. Making sure that things are going to be beneficial for us, or at least we’re getting the best deal. Compared to the person that we’re signing with or with Edmonton Transit Services. Second, taking a big focus on operational efficiency. Something in my role this year as vice-president (operations and finance) that we weren’t privy to as council members is just a lot of the wasteful spending that we do internally as an organization. Something that you get more of a glimpse into on a day-to-day basis. But taking that and expanding the scope, seeing how that is in the organization as a whole.

Previous vice-presidents (operations and finance) have worked to increase transparency of the UASU’s finances while working on better-managing the UASU’s budget. Why should students trust you with a budget of over $13 million?

Bony: Of course, it’s an amazing responsibility to be a student, and to ask your fellow students to trust you with that much money, with their money. But I think that with all we’ve seen happening in our lives, as I said, from the affordability crisis to the tuition increases, now is the time to make sure that we’re focused on student needs. That’s the central focus of my campaign. At the end of the day, the way I want my campaign and my tenure to impact students is that by the time I’m done being vice-president (operations and finance), the majority of students on campus know what our SU does, and can directly feel the impact of the services that we offer to students.

Flaman: As the incumbent this year, I had more of a hand-in the budget creation process that will go to council for approval for the operations and capital expenditure budget for next year. Something that I didn’t have a hand-in as just a member of finance committee. Something that I really pushed for in my time as a councillor and then a little bit last year — which I’d like to build upon and try and set more money aside [for] — is to have an external party come in and do a performance review or a compliance review. So it’s not just us saying “yes, everything’s on the up and up.” We do get an external audit, our financial statements are audited every year. So that in and of itself should show how how transparent we are. But we can always go one step further.

How would you work to maintain both the financial stability and quality of UASU owned businesses such as Room at the Top, Dewey’s, The Daily Grind, and more? 

Bony: From my consultations, I’ve come to understand that there isn’t a lack of services at the SU, but it’s more a problem of making sure that students know that they’re there, and that students can actually feel the impact of the work that’s done. That’s the challenge that’s already existed for a long time in our SU. So maintaining the quality is about making sure that we’re focused, in terms of how we evaluate the performance of those businesses and services, by making sure that we look at how they impact students. Making sure that how we evaluate performance is attached to what students get out of those businesses and those services, and making sure that we bring the focus back on students, and not just on numbers.

Flaman: Well, that’s where that performance review comes in, or as its often called, the value for money. Just because we’ve been doing something a certain way for the longest time doesn’t mean there couldn’t be other ways or better ways of doing things. I think the most cognizant example of that was when I went back home to Saskatoon over Christmas break. I scoped out their campus, and explored some of the businesses they have. Particularly their campus pubs, similar to Dewey’s. Their prices were comparable, if not a little bit lower. The food quality I would say was a little bit better, and their bar, even during the middle of finance finals week, was almost full. And so when I came back, I inquired with my counterpart at the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union and their bar. I managed to ask what their secret sauce was, because when I looked and dug into their financials, their projected revenue with their business was over twice ours, even though they’re a smaller school. So there’s clearly something that we can do better on that front as well.

How do you plan on achieving the operational Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Committee recommendations, which if followed, will contribute to reconciliation efforts by the Students’ Union?

Bony: It’s about being a partner. It’s often said that we, the non-Indigenous community, have to sit down and listen. That’s the first thing that the SU has to do, is sit down and listen. We must also make sure that our Indigenous partners are the ones providing guidance in how we do this. In this process of reconciliation, we don’t really get to decide on our own what reconciliation is going to look like. We ought to follow what those directly impacted by this issue tell us what reconciliation is going to look like, and that’s what I intend to do. Make sure that we direct the resources of the SU to following the guidance that is provided by our Indigenous stakeholders and partners.

Flaman: We will be working closely with the the new First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) Initiatives Specialist. So we’ll be working with the new person that fills in that role, and largely it comes down to a question of resources. There’s really nothing, there’s no problem on Earth that with enough time and money can’t be solved. Granted, in this position, time is finite. We’re largely in one-year terms, unless you run for a second. But when you have only so much money to go around and so much money to divert to certain initiatives, there are some that we need to identify as more of a priority than others. But when you have different departments competing for the same slice of pie, it’s a matter of just reassessing your priorities every year and and making sure those things get done by whatever means necessary.

UPDATE: On February 27 at 11:56 a.m., this article was updated to remove the name of the FNMI specialist to protect their privacy.

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