Vote Hirji, vote often

Monday, 7 March 2005 — 6:06pm | Studentpolitik

Preferential balloting is a godsend, though it really is a pity that when it was first being implemented over a year ago, Students’ Council didn’t have the basic mathematical common sense to realize that None Of The Above should not be eliminated as if it were any other candidate. However, the dreaded NOTA still has its more symbolic uses, and I see myself putting it ahead of a lot of contenders in this year’s Students’ Union election.

Without further ado, let us proceed to whom I will be selecting to lead next year’s SU and, if we are lucky, fall prey to the occasional nefarious prank.

President: It should be obvious from the title of this post that I endorse Mustafa Hirji. Out of all the candidates, he had the most credibility going into the campaign and the most raw matter coming out of it. He has the ambition to overhaul the SU in such a way that it can vie for long-term results. His breadth of knowledge concerning how the system works is unparalleled amongst his opponents. He has a plan, and he has a clue.

Coming second, third and fourth on my ballot in a permutation I have yet to decide are None Of The Above, Spanky the Wonder Elf and Alex Abboud. None Of The Above has run a strong and convincing campaign for President this year, especially given what most of the contenders ended up offering. Spanky, which only a few days ago I dubbed a joke campaign with an almost inimitable lameness, vindicated himself with a strong Myer Horowitz performance that reminded me of the Myer-only campaign for George W. Bushwhacker two years ago. (The lamest joke campaign this year is actually that of one Graham Lettner, but I’ll get to that.)

As for the rest of the non-Hirji candidates, most of whom have real initiatives but none of whom pose any meaningful change to the system itself, Alex Abboud is clearly the most credible. If we imagined for a moment that Mustafa were not running and I had to choose a status quo President with short-term ideas, Abboud would be the man. It does not surprise me that Wayne Poon’s campaign is all about outreach, student services, computers, and more computers; the frightening similarity to how Orientation tends to depict the SU’s focus cannot be accidental. A valiant effort, but limited in scope; on the other hand, that didn’t stop Mat Brechtel. Then there’s Danny Bennett, who doesn’t seem to know what the Students’ Union even does.

And then there’s Lettner, who has run an incredible campaign full of theatrics… and nothing else. Whether it be videos where he thinks he’s Rick Mercer, or crowd-pleasing wisecracks about Steve Smith Gateway letters at the Myer forum, Lettner has established an indisputable talent for talking a lot and saying absolutely nothing. If the Myer Horowitz were a public speech competition at a CUSID debate tournament, his performance would place. Clearly, he has an awesome campaign manager, and clearly, that campaign manager is working for the wrong guy. But if this is all Lettner has to offer, I have no qualms about putting him last, especially given that Bennett’s going to be out after the first ballot anyhow.

Dear reader – and I say this with the knowledge that this plea of mine is ultimately futile given that my regular audience originates primarily from the already decided hack circle – if you are considering voting Lettner in this election, I implore you to rethink. I implore you to remember that style without substance only goes as far as to get a lot of attention whilst achieving absolutely nothing tangible. Somewhere in a closet there’s a chicken suit that can attest to this.

VP Academic: I endorse None Of The Above, even though it is virtually impossible for Mathieu Johnson to lose an acclamation race given that you can expect uninformed voters to rubber-stamp him through. This was a tough decision. On one hand, Johnson is not incompetent in such a way that electing him will hurt students; on the other, bad posters and an incomprehensible one-point platform concerning Faculty Associations just don’t cut it. I think we can do better.

VP External: I would endorse Sara Katz, but she pulled out before campaigning started. It should send a message that I would endorse her without having even seen a platform. This is because the choice before me is either a rank incompetent who knows almost as little about his portfolio as Danny Bennett, or a woman full of knowledge, experience and ideas with whom I disagree about almost everything on a basic philosophical level and has a history of pushing the overly adversarial activism that the SU would do well to perform in moderation at most. In either case, I hope for a strong President to guide the VPX in the right direction next year, and that President is Mustafa Hirji. I am putting None Of The Above first, but given how it will likely be eliminated on the first ballot, I will err on the side of competence and begrudgingly endorse Samantha Power as my second pick. I cannot justify giving Tim Smith the dignity of anything higher than third.

VP Operations/Finance: Never mind that Jason Tobias is running uncontested – he’s proven himself to be a worthy candidate for this position, opposed or not. I wholeheartedly support him for this position with little further deliberation.

VP Student Life: Because Wayne Poon is running for President instead of here where he belongs, I am voting for Justin Kehoe without hesitation. He has the background, vision and enthusiasm to bring some life into what is rightly generally considered the odd man out of the five Executive positions. Carolyn Nowry can try again when she has those same traits at her disposal; unlike Smith and Bennett, she is a credible candidate who has done her homework, but she has the misfortune of running against a much better one.

Board of Governors Representative: Roman Kotovych is a hard double-act to follow, and neither of the candidates do the trick. However, both of them are competent and knowledgeable in their own ways, and this is not a race worth weeping about should I not get my way. That said, my vote is going to Shawna Pandya. As much as I admire Adam Cook’s record and what he brings to the Board, so much that I endorsed him for President last year, it worries me that the best reason he can come up with to vote for him over Shawna is that he’s better at “schmoozing”. While his performance as a coherent orator in this year’s campaign is a tremendous improvement on his implosion back in his Presidential run, this just isn’t good enough.

Health Plan Referendum: I will be voting No, thanks to the overwhelming evidence that the Health Plan basically amounts to paying a lot of money for nothing, and potentially paying more than that with each successive year. I’m frankly amazed that such a bad idea made it this far, but the blame for that lies squarely on an ineffective Students’ Council that lacked the sense to defeat it from the start.

The best moment of the Myer Horowitz forum, for those keeping score, was Chris Jones’ question to the Yes side of the referendum, which was something along the lines of: “Do you not agree that the alternative of catastrophic insurance coverage is better than your unsustainable, unaffordable, and unnecessary health plan?” Naturally, it was dodged.

Overall, I must agree with the prevalent sentiments that this year’s campaigns turned out to be terribly mediocre and didn’t live up to the expectations of the original candidates’ announcement – which, given fiascos like Johnson’s late entry in the VPA race, was already not that high a bar. But on Wednesday and Thursday, you still have a chance to draw something good from the experience and, metaphorically speaking, save Christmas. How? Vote Hirji.

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