The Varsity: We have Jason coming in as the outsider, and Sandy, the insider, justifying why she should stay: who was more convincing?
Giorgio Traini: What I wanted to hear from [Jason] was that they need new blood, and I didn’t really hear that from him. He just tried to prove that he had some community knowledge, which I would assume you do; you’re running for student government.
Padraic Ryan: He specifically said the answer to one question: I don’t want to use the word change. Change is his slate label.
GT: Coming in, Sandy said the same thing every incumbent sells: I know the ins and outs of the area. She didn’t really say anything about herself that she brought.
Erin Fitzgerald: But that’s how she’s running, and she didn’t do it particularly well. But she did it, whereas Jason didn’t.
PR: I agree, he allowed it to be about experience, and incumbents are always going to win over challengers if it’s about providing more of the status quo.
TV: … Who would you say did a better job of recognizing the needs of their constituents?PR: One answer I would have liked to see to that question is what’s the disconnect between the 13 per cent of students who vote and what the students who don’t vote want. Certainly some demands in student politics are only reflected among the turnout rate. Something like tuition, I don’t think 100 per cent of students want lower tuition as a political matter.
TV: Jason did say briefly that some students who don’t vote maybe feel disconnected from the student union.GT: I don’t think he really said what issues he was bringing from that other 83 per cent, but I’m glad he mentioned the major disconnect and that was the group who needed to be represented now.EF: But I don’t know if we can give Jason credit for just mentioning there’s a disconnect, if he doesn’t say anything substantive about what that disconnect is and what he’s going to do to fix it.
TV: They both talked about engagement as something students want, do you think students care about that?EF: I don’t care about being engaged.
PR: The nature of politics is that you have to say that everyone wants to be engaged, but obviously not everyone does. Particularly commuter students who have less of an interest.
GT: Right, but I think it’s within their mandate that they should focus on trying to get people more engaged. At least, to get their views on issues, because otherwise it’s just a few people sitting around a table playing with each other.
TV: Another big divide between the two seemed to be tactics and fighting fees. What do you think Jason’s point about joining the admin [in the fight], was that naïve or a genuine point?GT: I think it was probably his best point through everything [Jason] said. I buy his “us vs. them” comment [that UTSU engenders an “us vs. them” atmosphere]. I definitely feel that in UTSU’s 2030 campaign, it was very much, “the administration is the devil, they could never possibly have any student interests at heart.”
TV: In light of Naylor’s Towards 2030 synthesis, which suggests deregulating fees, what do you think of Sandy’s point that Naylor has a totally different philosophy about fees?
GT: Sandy said Naylor suggested higher fees, and then subsidies to those who need it. That doesn’t seem ideologically opposed to what she’s saying—ideologically opposed would be let’s just raise fees. It seems Naylor still has a wish to make sure that students who want to come can come, and that seems like a view that you can work with.
TV: Jason also made a claim about a lack of grassroots at UTSU. Was that a convincing argument?
PR: In lots of political debates, there are process vs. substance debates. He’s saying there’s something wrong with the process—it’s not grassroots—but he’s not really telling us how would the substance change.
Those kinds of claims seem easy to refute when you don’t really have a concrete idea of how the drop fees campaign have been different.
I think Sandy sort of dealt with that by saying, look, this is the people we talked to, this is what they want.
If he made a more aggressive claim, such as “students they specifically don’t want this campaign, and if you had consulted them, you would have found that out,” I find that more convincing than just saying it’s procedurally flawed.
TV: Sandy had the difficult job of defending UTSU’s connection to the Canadian Federation of Students. How do you think she did in that?
EF: Very poorly.
PR: She made a gaffe. She said no one on the campus supports the CFS campaign, which obviously I don’t think she meant to claim, and so she had to backpedal. If this were a more sophisticated campaign we could get a viral video of just that clip again and again.
EF: Even at a deeper level, I think she had a hard time actually defending her involvement in CFS. She didn’t seem to have a sound philosophical underpinning for this and why this is a good thing for the student union to be involved in.
PR: This is a great debating mistake, is assuming your audience agrees with you. So she sort of assumed everyone thought the CFS is worthwhile, and that it’s worthwhile to have her work for the CFS. Why do you have these two jobs that may be conflicting, with UTSU and the CFS, but she didn’t feel the need to explain that.
GT: But in all honesty, for all that she slipped up there pretty bad, I would have liked Jason to jump on any one of those faults.He hit it a little bit by saying we’d be focusing on U of T issues first and foremost.
TV: Unlike Sandy, Jason was a whole lot more hesitant to have UTSU take any action on anything that’s not directly and locally affecting students. Which one do you think will appeal more to students?
GT: I think Sandy will be more appealing to those who have voted in the past, because that’s usually the group who gets out and votes.
But to the non-involved majority of U of T students, [Jason is] saying we’re going to spend your money on something that directly relates to you. I think he did a great job. This is his one highlight of his whole speech, where he said when you take a highly contentious political issue, and you fund it, your going to alienate certain students who disagree.
TV: How do you think they fared in talking about clubs?
EF: Jason’s ROCSI idea [Repository of Campus Space Information for student groups to be able to access complete room-booking information in an online system comparable to ROSI.] was a good point.GT: The kind of thing a new person should be coming in with.
EF: But he should have had more of that throughout.
TV: And of course, there was the funding question.
EF: Here is the incumbency advantage. Sandy said, “Guys, they’re going to cut auditing, you can’t do that.” And so she definitely won that point.PR: I think that Jason should have been more familiar with his budget. If his best example of trimming the fat is executive salaries, to me that doesn’t translate into a familiarity with how the union works.
TV: Talking about the salary cut itself, do you think it’s something that would win over some voters?
GT: I’m not swayed by salary cuts.
EF: Oh it’s charming in that I’m-going-to-take-one-for-the-team way, but Sandy came back with, you becomee a part-time student [when you take on office]. That’s $400 more in OSAP that you’re going to be paying.TV: He briefly mentioned that you could reduce budget on campaigns, but do you think he was too vague about that?
GT: Yes, again, I think that’s something he could have hit very hard on. I know a lot of students at U of T who are just thinking there’s a campaign every weekend, I don’t even know what these campaigns are for. There are a lot of signs everywhere. All these people’s faces that seem very angry.
PR: Yeah he didn’t say which [campaigns]. TV: Sandy was again in the difficult position of having to defend the decision at the Annual General Meeting of not putting minutes online. How convincing was she?EF: Very, very unconvincing.
PR: I think this is an example of when she was very, very process-heavy. Instead of just telling us straight-out whether or not she wanted to have the minutes online, it’s “well there’s a working group looking into that.”
And we’re talking about copy-pasting a word document onto a blog, this is not difficult. And so she—incumbents do it all the time—tried to rely on process.
GT: Pulled a Mackenzie King.
TV: She has talked about political feasibility of putting up campaign strategies.GT: The line’s been saying, what I’ve heard in the past, the administration is this strange spy organization, or fascist government that is going to infiltrate their minutes online and use it against them to undermine student government, and make sure we don’t have fun and enjoy ourselves at university, because that would be bad for them.
TV: Are you sold on their priorities?GT: Wonderful bywords. Open governments, inclusivity, and vibrant campus life vs. access, equity, agency and engagement.PR: I think that Jason can speak to openness, whereas the other five are just designed to evoke positive feelings.
TV: The winner?
PR: Sandy.EF: Sandy.
TV: If one of you were to take Jason’s side, what would you give him?GT: Jason’s points about the political issues was very strong, and his focus on the need for clubs to be the main aspect of what UTSU should be doing, focusing on regional and local events.
His CFS talk, the idea that we should be focusing on U of T first.
Making sure clubs are funded, that they have space, making sure we deal with them first and foremost.
Israeli apartheid, Afghanistan—those are campaign you can bring to your MP, your MPP, we [Slate Change] just want to give you a good time on campus, that’s our job.
EF: It was good that he said, “we will alienate people if we take stances on these issues.”GT: Exactly, where he finally put up a kind of bulwark—“I’ll stand here for a few moments in defense.” And then he fell.