I voted for the spending on the Administration building renovations.
I was the Student-at-Large on the Board of Governors, serving as a representative of over 27,000 students from 2012-2013. The vote was held in early December 2012 and construction began in January 2013.
I voted for the spending before the 9-point drop in promised funding for the University of Calgary. It was before the Redford Conservatives trashed their election promise of stable funding for post-secondary education. And when the construction began in January the money was allocated and the building was being upgraded for the first time in over 50 years.
So let me tell you why I voted for the renovations. Let’s talk about trust.
Trust in our institutions and in our politicians are key to any well functioning, efficient, and accountable system. As one key example that sticks with me to this day is how when the province made a commitment to fund disability programs on campus. Except when they didn’t for one year. So now every year the university collects as part of the Mandatory Non-Instructional Fee a fee that supports disabled students on campus with resources… that has had its provincial funding restored. But the institution is still collecting it as a part of its fees. So, in the end, we have a fee that is collected for a service already paid for by the province, and double dipping on students and tax-payers, just in the case that the Conservatives pull away that funding again.
The relationship between university and government is fundamentally broken. You cannot trust the Redford Conservatives. When you elect conservatives you will receive conservative government and conservative governments cut education. They make education more expensive and reduce its quality. It is just what they do. They’re not Liberals.
This causes damage. When that crunch came from this conservative government, not just this time but many times before, there is no place to turn to but industry and charity to fund programs, chairs, institutes, and buildings. Obviously, donors don’t care to have their name appended to executive offices or anything administrative, and justifiably so. Donors want to see their dollars directly impacting students, like in the Taylor Family Digital Library, Schulich School of Engineering, Haskayne’s business faculty, and the Weklund School of Education. Donors don’t care about administrative buildings that students rarely go to. So the oldest building on campus doesn’t get upgraded for half a century.
If an institution can’t rely on government or on industry to renovate the oldest building on campus it doesn’t happen. So it hasn’t happened for 50 years. It’s deplorable how long we’ve left that one building, alongside so many other buildings and facilities on campus. We’re quickly on our way to breaking $500 million in deffered maintenance at the UofC — a 30% jump over the last half decade. [Pg 71]
The community at large and students ought to be angry. We expect more. Students are right to be enraged about duck-taped carpeting in Sciences A. Students are right to be angry about not having enough study space. Students are right to be angry about never finding a seat in the TFDL. Having some of the most expensive tuition in Canada is something we as Albertans ought to be ashamed of. And taxpayers ought to be angry at everything that’s done in this province.
As a student and as an angry citizen I did something. As student representative of the Arts faculty (2010-2011) I drafted and pushed forward the Arts Faculty Lounge: a study space and presentation space for the Arts faculty. It pulled together $110,000 for a space for students in the Arts faculty — a faculty just created and no separate space just for their students. You can read about the lounge here and here. Study and community space has always been a priority for me, alongside space for culture, the arts, and building a basic sense of community on campus.
When on the board I voiced my concern over deffered maintenance and the state of funding for the University of Calgary. (And… I haven’t stopped since as you can tell by the resolution I submitted — and passed — at the Alberta Liberal Party’s policy General Meeting in September on tuition and a deffered maintenance package.)
It’s ridiculous that we have our administration and their executives between three different buildings across campus. It’s ridiculous that we expect donor programs to run out of a building being kept together by string and bubble gum, un-upgraded since the 1960s, with water stains on the ceiling and furniture from the 1970s. It’s ridiculous that we have nearly $500 million in deferred maintenance at the UofC campus alone. It’s ridiculous to expect efficient operations in a billion dollar institution when we have spurts and stoppages in funding, and a government that doesn’t have education on its list of priorities.
Administrators have a purpose on campus and, just like professors and students, need facilities to fulfill that purpose. One purpose of administrators is the need to work with and for the community: that requires a building that isn’t from the 1960s and never once been seriously upgraded, that isn’t across four buildings in every nook and cranny, and that has a meeting space. The university community ought to expect that administration be worked to the bone, tirelessly, and be held to a golden standard. That requires resources.
Also, on the spending on the president’s bathroom: when President Cannon leaves a meeting at 4:50 on campus and needs to be downtown to hobnob with industry at 5:25 PM there is no time to jet home for a shower. It’s infinitely practical. The placement of facilities beside her office allows her to execute her brutal agenda of meeting industry leaders, campus meetings, ambassadors, other university presidents, prime ministers, premiers, and community leaders. Getting that efficiency in her agenda and ability to go across Calgary to a function at a single moment is invaluable, especially since it is being done for students and in support of a public institution.
There is a reason we have her on that level of communication with the community. Being tied to community and being accountable as an institution rebuilds trust. It means putting a human face on a massive, faceless, and withdrawn organization. Aside from financial benefits — scholarship for students, support in the community for public institutions, and donors — to push the university out into the community means that there is that very basic connection that creates those ties of trust, communication, and positive momentum for the university community.
And having Cannon on this scheduling pays dividends. The goals of the UofC is to be one of the premier leading institutions on the planet. The UofC is already a top 50 under 50 institution and its Eyes High goals are well in reach of being fulfilled. We are an international, cosmopolitan city with a leading university. And with some effort and predictable funding the university community can do so much more.
So that is why I voted for the Administration building renovations. Nearly half of the $8.1 million being spent is on bringing that building into decent shape — the first serious upgrades in over half a century — and the other half for making it a building that can be part of the face of the institution, so we can do more.
The Harper Conservatives are a direct threat to Canada’s economy and Alberta’s well being.
We need to invest in our energy infrastructure. Without proper investment, regulations, and energy, our resources wont go abroad, wont be securely transferred, and will not continue to be the economic engine of our country. And Harper has undermined that very basic tenet of trust that is so core to the ability of our nation to trade and to work with the world.
Harper has gone out of his way to harm Canada’s international stature and trade. Ex-Conservative Prime Minister Joe Clark has taken Harper to task over the inability of Harper’s government to engage with the world. Conservative commentator Andrew Coyne knows that Harper is making Canada’s investment policy as it goes along. At home and abroad Harper’s economic policy has been one of inconsistency and harm.
The Harper Conservatives spent the majority of their mandate thumbing their nose at China, losing on one of the key areas of investment the world has seen in the last half century. Just recently they’ve changed their tune… and at a point when everyone had already reaped the benefits of investing in China. The golden opportunity has past with investors in the USA and Britain getting there first.
Again, the inability of the Harper government to understand the core need for environmental protections has been a barrier to trade. Oil sands development can be done right, with the proper regulations, inspections, and safeguards. With the demonstrable lacking leadership of Harper has done we now rely more now than every before on rail to transport bitumen — a more dangerous path than that of pipelines. Additionally, the opposition to Keystone from American progressives is based solely on the demonstrable lack of trust Americans have in Harper’s ability to safeguard the environment.
In a time and place where there has been tremendous growth in our economy — 100% over the last 30 years! — median income families only increased 14%. Our middle class hasn’t had a real raise in thirty years. And Harper’s policies, lack of leadership, and a lack of vision has trampled any chance to build the middle class.
With property regulations and environmental safeguards Keystone XL is a good proposal that builds both Alberta and Canada. It secure our partnership with the United States and builds the middle class in Canada.
I’ve made an impact this election.
This municipal election I helped some 50,000 Calgarians make up their mind on who to vote for. Over the election more 46,533 pairs of eyeballs looked at my list of candidates running in the 2013 municipal election.
To share information during an election is critical. It is at the core of democracy to make choice and to make choices requires knowledge and a critical sense of what is happening. To assist thousands of Calgarians with their ballot and with their choices has been an awe-inspiring experience.
Furthermore, to be part of the Nenshi’s and Lord’s Ask me Anything threads on the /r/calgary subreddit as a moderator was equally amazing. Calgarians want to interact with their elected officials and be informed. Our city can boast of a strong sense of civic duty and civic awareness. More than 600 comments were made on that one thread with more than 20,000 pageviews viewing it over the whole day. Calgarians care about their city.
On top of this candidate list and /r/calgary I also took on the role of campaign manager for Judy Hehr. Judy was a candidate for Wards 8 and 9 for Public School Trustee and, on election night, won a little less than 16,000 votes — nearly 10,000 over her nearest competition. We raised more funds than her opponents, involved more Calgarians than ever before in the School Trustee race, and won every debate for the Trusteeship. In some areas, like Mt. Royal, Acadia, Bridgeland, or Scarboro, we had more signs on lawns than the combined signage of Nenshi, Mar, Woolley, and Newman! We involved more Calgarians in a race that has rarely seen as much attention or interest.
I shared my deeply held concern over Calgarians not being involved in the CBE. In fact, I even wrote a blog post in May earlier this year. A lot of the time people find that they are without a voice or place to push their support to get the change they sought: and most of the time it just takes one candidate, a group of people, and a lot of hard work to get some form of change. We have a duty to be informed as citizens and we ought to be engaged. This calls upon all of us to be civic minded, read the newspaper, and ask the pertinent questions when they need to be asked. It also behooves us as citizens to seek out candidates and support those who run.
I feel I have adequately exercised my duty as a citizen of Calgary. You can expect me to keep on fighting for what I believe in preparation for the upcoming federal (2015) and provincial elections (2016).
See you on the campaign trail.
There have been more than 20,000 pageviews of my candidate list for the 2013 municipal election.