Labonte’s many projects mean she must balance herself very carefully to ensure she completes her goals, just as a tight rope walker leaves spectators breathlessly wondering if they can pull it off.
As the Students’ Union VP external, Labonte is responsible for lobbying government, public relations and awareness campaigns. This includes working with post-secondary education lobby groups on civic, provincial and national levels. Along with the SU president, the VP external develops policies and positions on tuition and student debt related issues.
In her platform, Labonte promised to re-examine the Canadian Alliance of Students’ Association–a federal student lobby group–to make it more effective. With Labonte as western regional director, she has successfully provided the U of C significant weight, and is working towards giving students in smaller, northern schools a voice in the large organization. At the lobby conference in Ottawa, Labonte worked with other CASA members to meet with the prime minister and many other government officials and got each person to support at least one issue concerning PSE.
1. Lobbied the provincial government, resulting in tuition being frozen at 2004/05 levels and an increase in student loan living allowances.
2. Lobbied the federal government resulting in a commitment to meet with the provinces about issues concerning PSE.
3. Chaired the first SU policy committee to improve policies concerning CASA, sustainability and clubs.
4. Improved health and wellness resources, including work on the Women’s Resource Centre advisory committee.
5. Orginized Political Action Week.
Yet to come
•A second Political Action Week, focused on peace and war.
•A national leadership conference in March, focusing on empowering youth and getting them out to vote.
•Creation of an endowment fund for student initiatives which benefit the university community.
•Continued lobbying at the provincial and federal levels.
Despite her external focus, Labonte has not lost sight of U of C students. As a former Eco-club executive and co-organizer of last year’s Enviropolooza, Labonte has both the knowledge and the passion to implement environmentally sustainable policies. She is working towards implementing a program to “green” the SU offices by educating staff and purchasing fair trade, organic and non-toxic materials whenever possible. For the winter semester she is teaming with VP events Eric Jablonski to plan a second Enviropolooza and a global warming awareness week.
Labonte is also the executive cabinet liaison for Volunteer Services and is working towards setting up the program so its momentum is continuous from year to year by establishing a permanent staff position.
Labonte works well with her external commission and is both knowledgeable and passionate about issues concerning PSE. She definitely does not lack ambition, but her involvement in many projects may be her undoing if she is not able to balance them effectively. For example her planned national youth leadership conference has caused other members of the SU to worry she is spreading herself too thin and devoting much time to a project of benefit to only a small number of students.
Labonte faces a challenge to ensure that Ralph Klein’s promise of having the most affordable and best post-secondary system in Canada is followed through on now that Ed Stelmach is premier, but her experience and confidence speak well for her.