Few voters, many ideas at all-candidates forum

Brian Chiduuro, SAC. (Jim Elliot/The Omega)

Brian Chiduuro, SAC. (Jim Elliot/The Omega)

The candidates for the TRUSU General Election detailed their platforms to opposing candidates and few others on Good Friday, March 25. Of the 31 candidates running, 25 attended the event. Including candidates, TRUSU staff and media, there were 36 in attendance at the forum.

TRUSU Executive Director Nathan Lane acknowledged that scheduling the forum on Good Friday was not ideal and that efforts will be made to avoid holidays in the future.

The Nations United slate accounted for four of the absent candidates. Only their Women’s Representative candidate Briana Guise was present. Guise said that the absences were due to her slate all having to work.

The forum began with candidates for president stating their positions. Student Advocacy Coalition (SAC) candidate Brian Chiduuro pledged to make TRUSU more open and approachable to students and questioned the importance of experience in student government. Incumbent Melissa Gordon, who leads the TRYOU slate, spoke about her experience and passion for student government. Independent candidate Jeremy Jenvenne said that he represents English and Fine Arts students as well as the disabled. Suryansh Vats of the Nations United slate was not present.

The candidates then received a question from the floor about how they would improve voter turnout. Jenvenne drew on his experience as a skating instructor, saying that he was used to getting people involved. Gordon said that she would focus on getting students that are already involved in other campus activities such as clubs involved in student politics.

“For those that are not already engaged and it’s their first time coming to campus, I think it’s really important for them to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there. They should attend events like clubs day or the back to school barbecue where we’re actively reaching out to students,” Gordon said.

“The election is basically set up for the benefit of the establishment right now,” Chiduuro said about the problem of low voter turnout. Chiduuro went on to say that TRUSU had been promising the same things for five years and criticized the Board of Directors’ spending on entertainment events such as the outdoor movie nights.

When asked what the one thing he hoped to bring to TRU if elected was, Chiduuro pledged that his slate would support the fossil fuel divestment campaign on campus. Replying to the same question, Gordon detailed her slate’s campaign promises including sustainability initiatives, improved transit service and longer hours for on-campus food vendors. Jenvenne pledged to improve the campus food bank and “bring hope to students.”

Chiduuro remained animated throughout the rest of the forum, holding his fist in the air and applauding loudly when his fellow SAC candidates finished speaking.

The forum went on to hear from candidates for the three Vice President positions, VP Internal, VP External and VP Finance.

Both VP Finance candidates, Mwansa Kaunda from TRYOU and Oluwafemi Akinsanpe from SAC agreed that student fees need to be lowered. Akinsanpe repeated Chiduuro’s support for divestment from fossil fuels.

Jeremy Jenvenne, Independent. (Jim Elliot/The Omega)

Jeremy Jenvenne, Independent. (Jim Elliot/The Omega)

TRYOU VP External candidate Amber Storvold repeated her slate’s platform focusing on guaranteed course offerings and improved transit service. SAC candidate Yingqiong Wu said that she is the only Chinese candidate and that she is trying to inspire other Chinese students, who she says are reluctant to join school activities.

Gagandeep Singh, SAC’s VP Internal candidate, was not present, so Julian Simpson, TRYOU’s candidate took the stage alone to detail their plans for the Entertainment and Equity Committees.

Advocacy reps for women, graduate students, LGBTQ students, international students and First Nations students also spoke about how they would advocate for the groups they represent.

Yash Thakker from SAC and Deepti S. Lobo from TRYOU both said that graduate students need more co-op and work placement opportunities.

SAC Aboriginal Representative candidate James-Dean Aleck spoke very passionately about the preservation of Aboriginal art and culture on campus and opposed pipeline and other fossil fuel projects.

“We must fight this monster that is trying to destroy what my people are trying to protect,” Aleck said, speaking about the Kinder Morgan pipeline. TRYOU’s Aboriginal Representative candidate, Rochelle DelaRonde was not present.

Caitlin Orteza, who is running unopposed for LGBTQ Representative on the TRYOU slate said that she would bring her experience as treasurer of Kamloops Pride to the position.

The Women’s Representative debate was noteworthy because it was the only one to feature a Nations United candidate, Briana Guise. Sierra Rae of TRYOU and Sola Omatsoguwa also spoke about how they would attempt to empower women on campus. Rae promised increased access to feminine hygiene products provided by TRUSU.

Eight Director-At-Large candidates also spoke about how they would assist the rest of the Board of Directors, and used the time to reiterate their slates’ platforms.

Polling for the election begins on March 30 and continues until April 1 at 4 p.m.