Pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates am­biva­lent over “ex­ter­nal and di­vi­sive” amend­ment

SSMU ex­ec­u­tive can­di­dates an­swer ques­tions from the press

The McGill Daily - - News - Cem Ertekin & Xavier Richer Vis The Mcgill Daily

On March 8, can­di­dates for the up­com­ing Stu­dents’ So­ci­ety of Mcgill Univer­sity (SSMU) elec­tions par­tic­i­pated in this year’s press de­bates, held in the SSMU Ball­room. The vot­ing pe­riod for the ex­ec­u­tive elec­tions will be­gin on March 16 and end on March 18.

The can­di­dates – with the no­table ex­cep­tion of VP Ex­ter­nal can­di­date Alexei Si­makov, who did not at­tend the de­bates – were given the op­por­tu­nity to present their elec­toral plat­forms and to an­swer ques­tions from mem­bers of the stu­dent press.


U2 En­vi­ron­ment stu­dent Ben Ger and U1 Bio­med­i­cal and Life Sciences stu­dent Jor­dan Sin­der are com­pet­ing for the po­si­tion of SSMU Pres­i­dent.

Le Délit asked both can­di­dates where they stood re­gard­ing the con­tro­ver­sial amend­ment to the SSMU Con­sti­tu­tion which, if passed, would block “ex­ter­nal and di­vi­sive” mo­tions from be­ing dis­cussed at Gen­eral As­sem­blies (GAS).

“I am for di­rect democ­racy,” said Ger. “As a stu­dent gov­ern­ment, we should rep­re­sent ex­actly what the stu­dent body wants, and the GA is an amaz­ing way for stu­dents to come out and man­date their ex­ec­u­tives to do cer­tain ac­tion.”

He con­tin­ued, how­ever, by as­sert­ing that “there is some­thing to say for the idea that the [mo­tions would re­quire a] two-thirds ma­jor­ity [to] stay on the agenda.”

“If it passes,” he con­cluded, “I will sup­port it.”

Sin­der ar­gued that “there is a dis­tinc­tion be­tween de-politi­ciz­ing SSMU as a whole and mak­ing sure our ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil is po­lit­i­cally neu­tral.”

He ex­plained that while his pres­i­dency would avoid po­lit­i­cal stances, he would feel a strong obli­ga­tion to sup­port ac­tivist groups on cam­pus – even those that might bring for­ward po­ten­tially di­vi­sive GA mo­tions.

“As a mem­ber of the ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil, I think it’s wrong for us to as­sert cer­tain stances on th­ese di­vi­sive is­sues,” fin­ished Sin­der.

VP Ex­ter­nal

U4 In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Stud­ies stu­dent Alexei Si­makov and U3 Phi­los­o­phy and Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence stu­dent David Aird are com­pet­ing for the VP Ex­ter­nal po­si­tion. How­ever, Si­makov was not able to at­tend the de­bate, and told The Daily that was owed to school­work.

Most of Aird’s rel­e­vant expe- ri­ence has been with the Mcgill Against Aus­ter­ity cam­paign. When asked by The Daily how he would sup­port other cam­paigns on cam­pus – such as Di­vest Mcgill and Demil­i­ta­rize Mcgill – Aird replied, “My in­volve­ment with other cam­paigns is def­i­nitely less pro­nounced than with the anti- aus­ter­ity cam­paign. [...] I in­tend to ap­point some­one who is very knowl­edge­able [ about] those cam­paigns as Po­lit­i­cal Cam­paigns Co­or­di­na­tor.”

Aird con­tin­ued, “I think th­ese cam­paigns ben­e­fit from hav­ing a cer­tain in­de­pen­dence from [the VP Ex­ter­nal] po­si­tion, from SSMU in gen­eral. [...] I find [th­ese cam­paigns] to be more or less self­man­age­able and self-sus­tain­ing at this point. [...] I’m open to giv­ing them all the in­sti­tu­tional sup­port that they need.”

VP Univer­sity Af­fairs

U3 His­tory and East Asian Stud­ies stu­dent and Arts Sen­a­tor Erin So­bat is run­ning un­op­posed for the VP Univer­sity Af­fairs po­si­tion.

Dur­ing his open­ing re­marks, So­bat told the au­di­ence, “I want to do a lot more to in­form you about [the VP Univer­sity Af­fairs’s] role in ad­vo­cat­ing for your needs at the Univer­sity level.” He also em­pha­sized his ex­pe­ri­ence in both “project-based” and “ad­min­is­tra­tive port­fo­lio-based” po­si­tions.

Re­spond­ing to a ques­tion from The Daily about his opin­ions on po­lit­i­cal neu­tral­ity and how that would af­fect the dy­nam­ics of next year’s SSMU ex­ec­u­tive team, So­bat said, “Next year in gen­eral will be a re­struc­tur­ing year and there will be a lot of con­ver­sa­tions about what SSMU’S pri­or­i­ties are in terms of ad­vo­cacy as well as ser­vice pro­vi­sion, know­ing that cuts will have to be made. [...] I will say that I do feel that SSMU does have an im­por­tant role on cam­pus and will ad­vo­cate for that.”

VP Fi­nance

U3 Strate­gic Man­age­ment and Ac­count­ing stu­dent and SSMU Club Au­di­tor Niall Carolan is run­ning un­op­posed for the VP Fi­nance po­si­tion, one of the two po­si­tions that have been cre­ated out of the for­mer VP Fi­nance and Op­er­a­tions po­si­tion.

When asked by the Bull & Bear about how ex­actly he is plan­ning to en­sure SSMU’S fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity given the re­cent fail­ure of the mem­ber­ship fee in­crease ref­er­en­dum, Carolan men­tioned the Stu­dent-run Cafe­te­ria (SRC) among the items that would need to be re­con­sid­ered, should the SRC run a deficit in the long term.

Nev­er­the­less, Carolan said, “I per­son­ally wouldn’t feel com­fort­able say­ing that I am go­ing to cut this and this at this meet­ing right now. [...] I think that there are spe­cific places that do get cut quickly, like the Club Fund. [...] How­ever, I be­lieve that that’s one of the most [sig­nif­i­cant] things that stu­dents ben­e­fit from by pay­ing their stu­dent fees.”

VP Op­er­a­tions

U3 Bio­chem­istry stu­dent Sacha Magder is run­ning for VP Op­er­a­tions, the other half of the for­mer VP Fi­nance and Op­er­a­tions po­si­tion.

Among Magder’s cam­paign prom­ises is the ad­di­tion of a “sleep­ing space” in the Shat­ner build­ing. Point­ing out the con­flict be­tween the num­ber of spe­cial­ized spa­ces that SSMU would like to add to the Shat­ner build­ing and the build­ing’s phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions, The Daily asked Magder how he would ap­proach space re­al­lo­ca­tions.

Magder said, “There are spa­ces that are avail­able and can be moved. [...] I think there are a lot of other ways we can op­ti­mize the space and use it bet­ter and more ef­fi­ciently.”

VP In­ter­nal

U1 Ma­te­ri­als En­gi­neer­ing stu­dent Daniel Lawrie is run­ning un­op­posed for the VP In­ter­nal po­si­tion. His plat­form cen­tres on com­mu­ni­ca­tion, or­ga­ni­za­tion, and trust.

“I be­lieve that through th­ese val­ues, we’ll be able to fix some of the is­sues that are cur­rently [af­fect­ing] the VP In­ter­nal’s port­fo­lio,” Lawrie said.

The Bull & Bear asked Lawrie how ex­actly he plans to mo­ti­vate stu­dents to be more en­gaged, apart from just com­mu­ni­cat­ing with them. Lawrie em­pha­sized that SSMU needs to go be­yond sim­ply us­ing the list­serv, and start us­ing mo­bile plat­forms such as the My­mart­let app.

“It’s cru­cial for every­one to have ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion as eas­ily as pos­si­ble. [...] Peo­ple will be able to get th­ese no­ti­fi­ca­tions on their phone. If you look at our gen­er­a­tion, we are the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion. [...] Every­one’s on their phone 24/7,” Lawrie said.

VP Stu­dent Life

Elaine Pat­ter­son, a U2 English Lit­er­a­ture stu­dent and Arts Un­der­grad­u­ate So­ci­ety (AUS) VP Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and Dushan Tripp, U3 His­tory stu­dent and Clubs & Ser­vices Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to SSMU, are com­pet­ing for the newly cre­ated VP Stu­dent Life po­si­tion, which is re­plac­ing the VP Clubs & Ser­vices po­si­tion and tak­ing over the men­tal health port­fo­lio from the VP Univer­sity Af­fairs.

Erin So­bat, VP Univer­sity Af­fairs can­di­date

The Daily asked both can­di­dates what they saw the role of VP Stu­dent Life within SSMU Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil to be, con­sid­er­ing the scope and po­lit­i­cal na­ture of top­ics dis­cussed.

Tripp re­sponded, “As much as I might keep my po­lit­i­cal opin­ions to my­self, which I prob­a­bly will, I do be­lieve that SSMU is a democ­racy and that the voice of the peo­ple that vote and de­bate in SSMU should be [re­spected].”

Pat­ter­son said, “As a SSMU coun­cil­lor, I would do my best to make sure that my per­sonal opin­ions did not in­ter­fere [with] opin­ions I re­ceived from [those] who are part of cer­tain clubs and ser­vices, mak­ing sure that what they want to see hap­pens in SSMU Coun­cil, even if it’s some­thing I would not like to see hap­pen.”

“There is a dis­tinc­tion be­tween de-politi­ciz­ing SSMU as a whole and mak­ing sure that our ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil is po­lit­i­cally neu­tral.” Jor­dan Sin­der, pres­i­den­tial can­di­date

“There will be a lot of con­ver­sa­tions about what SSMU’S pri­or­i­ties are in terms of ad­vo­cacy as well as ser­vice pro­vi­sion.”

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