External seats up for grabs

Tempers flared this week as Students’ Union vice-president external Jen Smith lambasted candidate Mike Soron during the open question period of the SU external election forum.

“I’m wondering if this kind of attendance will show what your performance will be like if elected vice-president external next year,” asked Smith, claiming Soron skipped several key events during a recent conference he attended as an external commissioner. Soron refused to answer Smith directly but said the complaint was unwarranted as he went to the most significant sessions during the conference.

“This forum is not about her, and I’m disappointed she’d ask this question,” he said. Smith has come under fire from SU staff and elected officials in the past for being difficult to work with.

Besides the infighting from the current external commission, the forum ran smoothly. A large crowd first watched nine candidates vying for the four external commissioner positions present their platforms and answer some pre-determined questions before listening to Soron and his opponent, Julie Labonte, square off for the position of VP external.

The candidates running for external commissioner all seemed dedicated to lobbying of some form or another, with the exception of James Michi, who wanted to de-emphasize the lobbying portion of the job somewhat and work with the other commissions to do things like examine the SU’s role in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. Furthermore, Michi vowed to examine the SU’s relation to the current student health-plan provider.

“They work for the man, and that man is Gallivan and Associates,” said Michi, noting that having a private healthcare group supply students with a prescription drug program may be one of the first steps towards a privatized healthcare system.

All of the candidates said they are opposed to tuition increases, with Renee Lee specifically wanting a fully funded tuition freeze and Natan Albahari advocating for a tuition reduction. All of them wanted students to be more involved in the decision-making process, with Gil Lewinsky, Jeff Rakebrand and Zena Bailly promising to focus on what the student body wants most. Mike Selnes and Dalmy Baez want to see the quality money better used as indicated by the response to the plebiscite question. Stephanie Fergusen added more environmental responsibility from the SU along with the standard campaign promises.

The forum then moved to a debate between Labonte and Soron, who also exhibit remarkably similar platforms. Both performed well, highlighting their wishes to represent students and be an active voice on both a federal and provincial level.

“Worrying about how your fellow students are going to pay for education shouldn’t be your top priority,” said Soron. “Worrying about how students are getting turned away because there’s not enough seats shouldn’t be your top priority, or how your faculty isn’t getting enough funding. You shouldn’t be concerned about these during your day, you should be concerned about mid-terms, you should be worried about studying for your class and term papers.”

Labonte, while stressing that continued support of CASA is important, advocated more provincial involvement.

“The fact is that we’ve got a lot of things on our hands right now with the provincial government,” said Labonte. “As it stands, spring 2006, PSE review has to be looked at as a major priority.”

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