By Natalie Sit
The proposed University of Calgary student-run Public Interest Research Group’s win in the Students’ Union plebiscite has raised questions about their future.
A total of 1,889 students approved the plebiscite with a majority of students in favour of a $1.00 levy. Slightly more than 40 per cent of students voted against PIRG. Unlike a referendum, a plebiscite is non-binding and used as an information gathering tool.
"Obviously, we’re glad it passed," said PIRG member Megan Hope. "You want as much support as possible, so I guess we’re were a little disappointed. There were more no’s than we had hoped [for]. It’s interesting to know the numbers. [For example], there were more people who voted for four dollars than two dollars. That shows people are willing to pay for this idea."
The PIRG group is unsure what ideas they want to tackle, but they plan to meet April 6 in SS 315 to cement a vision and plan for the eventual referendum.
Students’ Union Vice-president Operations and Finance Matt Lauzon supports PIRG but thinks PIRG needs development.
"It’d be better if they formed a group and demonstrated they are a valuable resource," said Lauzon.
SU Op-Fi Commissioner and VP Op-Fi-elect Natasha Dhillon also supports PIRG and pointed out they are not a real group until the referendum passes. She thinks PIRG provides information traditional university sources cannot provide. In her upcoming term, she said she will help PIRG as much as possible.
"Now it’s up to that group of students to collect the information they said they were going to and to work on the issues and get ready for the referendum question to see if there will be a PIRG on campus," said Dhillon.
PIRG’s strategy to increase awareness is to talk to those who normally wouldn’t support PIRG.
"I think on the plebiscite, one drawback was we talked to people we knew would be supportive and came to us," said Hope. "We need to make more of an effort to go into different faculties and talk to different people. Hopefully [we can] talk to people who voted no and turn those people into yes [votes]."
PIRG is planning action in time for the Free Trade of the Americas conference in Quebec City.
"Action is something we go out and physically do as members of PIRG," said Hope. "So on April 1 at Eau Claire, we’re building puppets and doing a little play."
PIRG can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.