Commentary | Daily SSMU Executive endorsements

These are the candidates we feel are the best picks for the job

PRESIDENT – Maggie Knight

The Daily endorses Maggie Knight on the basis that she has a concrete vision for her portfolio. Her past experience as a SSMU Environment Commissioner is an important and positive predictor of initiatives that she has pledged to take on during her presidency.

Both candidates’ campaigns have been fairly rhetoric-heavy, focusing on transparency in particular – which is appropriate considering students’ and councillors’ fatigue with SSMU as an effective conduit for real change. But in order to combat student apathy, presidential candidates must promise more than “change,” and Knight has well-defined ideas for political participation that aim beyond tokenistic consultation. Knight clearly has the savvy to navigate the SSMU bureaucracy because she has written and seen the results of significant policy, like the current five-year plan to improve SSMU’s sustainability.

Knight’s leadership skills and cross-faculty perspective as an Arts and Science student will serve her well in guiding the student Senate Caucus. Both candidates were incredibly well spoken at the debates, and we trust that either would be tactful in negotiating student interests with the University. As a Clubs and Services rep to council, Knight is familiar with hot-button issues like the McGill name, food on campus, controversial events, and student space.

Our endorsement comes with one qualification: as the only student voice on McGill’s highest governing body, the Board of Governors, the SSMU President should unequivocally fight for accessible tuition. Both candidates would certainly be pragmatic on this front, but we hope that neither would lose sight of their principled stances against tuition hikes.

VP UNIVERSITY AFFAIRS – Emily Clare

Although the two candidates for this position had similar platforms, our endorsement goes to Emily Clare, who has a stronger vision in terms of student consultation and issues such as tuition hikes and the Strategic Reframing Initiative (SRI).

Clare’s experience as SSMU Equity Commissioner will serve her well in the VP UA position, which requires an organized leader who can facilitate cooperation within the SSMU Senate Caucus and between different student groups. She also demonstrates a good understanding of her portfolio, as well as the ways to work within the position to introduce productive change.

Furthermore, Clare’s genuine outrage in regards to the administration’s stance in the SRI bodes well for her ability to push for greater student consultation with the administration. Her passion will be necessary to achieve any change with the University, which has shown little regard for student consultation this year. Similarly her plans to work with PGSS to provide a united front against tuition hikes will be particularly salient next year when Quebec’s tuition freeze is due to expire.

A major concern with Lauren Hudak was her support in a motion that was brought before SSMU Council this fall that would have attempted to bring a referendum before students that would wholly defund QPIRG. While taking a political stance against an organization is her prerogative, this motion was ruled completely out of order because it is out of the purview of SSMU to abolish funding for another independent campus organization. Her complete misunderstanding of the powers of SSMU is disconcerting, and does not inspire confidence in her abilities as VP UA.

Clare has taken progressive political stances on controversial issues such as military research. She seems to understand the importance of being a student representative who can both facilitate the student voice, and stand on issues with conviction. We hope that she will use this passion to work hard to ensure strong student representation in the coming year.

VP EXTERNAL – Joel Pedneault

As an acclaimed candidate Joël Pedneault easily won the most wholehearted of our endorsements. With three years of experience with SSMU and the portfolio, Pedneault is a stellar candidate for the job.

His previous work mobilizing against tuition increases and collaborative relationships with other Quebec student organizations will serve him, and us, well as we enter the last academic year before tuition is unfrozen in 2012.  His platform of fighting tuition hikes highlighted out-of-province and international tuition fees, demonstrating his focus on keeping issues relevant to the students he will represent.

His realistic and broad view of the portfolio is admirable – especially his support of the General Assembly and his readiness to collaborate with other executives for a high-performance SSMU. Pedneault’s long-term vision for McGill will be an asset to the University and will bring depth to the executive. Pedneault is ready for next year’s biggest battles: rising tuition and overcoming student apathy. The portfolio is in capable hands.

VP INTERNAL – Kady Paterson

The choice for VP Internal was not clear-cut, given that two candidates clearly stood out from the rest as far as their experience and platforms. Todd Plummer, with his experience with the Milton-Parc community and AUS and refreshing take on the portfolio, would be both ready to handle issues like diversity, and work hard to push for more McGill student involvement outside of the “bubble.”

Kady Paterson, on the other hand, has the most direct SSMU experience and has the most concrete and creative vision for the Internal portfolio. Emphasizing “internalizing” the Internal portfolio, Paterson – a former Daily editor – has several specific plans for how to improve the portfolio, including stressing fiscal responsibility in events, creating a wide array of more diverse events focused more on small-scale success, and reaching out to first year students, a demographic often ignored at McGill.

Given these considerations, The Daily feels that Paterson clearly emerges as the stronger choice for the position, because as a current and active member of SSMU and a diverse array of campus groups, we believe she will be able to build on her knowledge and strengthen the Internal portfolio. It is also important to note that her voting record at Council indicates her ability to compromise when appropriate, something that may serve her well when dealing with a diverse array of student groups and other members of the McGill community.

Kady Paterson is a former Daily editor, and those current editors with close relationships did not participate in her endorsement process.

VP FINANCE AND OPERATIONS – Shyam Patel

The role of VP Finance and Operations can be an understated one, only becoming high-profile when controversy arises over unethical investments or dramatic financial losses. That’s not to say it isn’t important – the VP Finance is responsible for making sure the several hundred dollars collected from each student every year are used responsibly and effectively by SSMU. Shyam Patel has the relevant background and concrete vision to make a fantastic VP Finance.

Currently working as the SSMU Funding Coordinator, Patel has been responsible for allocating money to clubs and other student groups. That’s a big part of the Finance and Operations portfolio, but Patel has made a point of shadowing current VP Nick Drew in order to pick up the skills he hasn’t encountered in his current job.

Though his platform doesn’t contain any sweeping changes, it hits all the necessary points. In addition to trying to emulate the currently very successful Gerts and Minicourses, his plans to turn to SSMU Book Bazaar, the replacement for the disastrous Haven Books, into an online general-purpose marketplace for McGill students is also very welcome.

Though he wants to move cautiously before cutting ties with companies, Patel insisted strongly on the importance of ethical investments. This is especially important considering that his opponent, Stefan Prokopetz, told onlookers at the candidate debates he wasn’t “an ethical kind of guy about my investing.” Patel on the other hand wants to give the Financial Ethics Review Committee (FERC) a mandate to meet as a regular committee rather than the once a semester, ad hoc schedule it has now.

VP CLUBS AND SERVICES – Torn

When it came to endorsing a candidate for VP Clubs and Services, The Daily was torn. Both candidates present significant strengths, and both have major weaknesses. While Monika Fabian has the necessary experience for the job, her apolitical stance is troubling. Meanwhile Carol Fraser’s activist background and vision for changes to SSMU are an exciting prospect, but she lacks concrete experience for the very demanding and technical Clubs and Services portfolio.

The current Interest Groups Coordinator, Fabian is responsible for managing club status applications and chairing the Clubs and Services committee. This, along with a host of other experience with SSMU and other groups on campus gives her the necessary tools for the hugely demanding day-to-day tasks of VP C&S, including overseeing more than 300 student groups and the operations of the Shatner building.

While the Clubs and Services portfolio is often the most managerial in terms of its day-to-day responsibilities, Fabian’s stated desire to remove politics from the job is extremely concerning. Student groups need to be treated fairly and equally, but the VP C&S also has a seat on SSMU Council, a political body. Moreover, it’s absolutely essential for all execs to work together on advocating for students’ best interests on all levels, including presenting a united front to the administration and outside bodies.

The second candidate for the position, Carol Fraser, is running a campaign with great ideas for political involvement and innovation, like a green roof for the Shatner building – and more communication with clubs.  She wants to push for more grassroots and non-hierarchical channels for students to get involved with SSMU, and she’s also the only one of the candidates to mention the importance of students’ right McGill name in her platform, a key example of why political involvement matters for the position.

All that said, she has nowhere near the amount of experience Fabian does with the actual operations of SSMU. The Clubs and Services portfolio is highly demanding, and requires a deep technical grasp of the workings of the society. And, while it’s possible to learn on the job, whoever wins does need to hit the ground running as soon as they take office. Finally, there’s no way to know if Fraser’s familiarity with non-hierarchical environments like Midnight Kitchen, where she’s the Volunteer Coordinator, will translate well into the highly codified and rigid structure of the SSMU bureaucracy.

Carol Fraser is Commentary editor Courtney Graham’s roommate. Graham did not participate in the Clubs and Services endorsement process.


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