UMGSA candidates discuss priorities

Candidates for next week’s University of Manitoba Graduate Students’ Association (UMGSA) general election fielded questions and outlined priorities in the organization’s annual election forum Wednesday.

With the withdrawal of Danielle Milln as a candidate for vice-president academic, only the position of president is in contention, with two independent candidates and a candidate from the Change slate. Independent  presidential candidate Gift Amadi was absent due to a “work arrangement.”

In the wake of the city’s proposed budget that will cut the U-Pass, many questions from the audience were related to the pass. When asked how they planned to have an effective relationship with the city and the provincial government, independent presidential candidate Saeideh Mirzaei cited a lack of any clear lines of communication as a major issue.

“They stopped the U-Pass, they added per-semester passes, they added annual passes for $905,” she said. “They clearly knew what their plan was. he only point is that they didn’t let us know. So, we should have built a route: for any decision you are making that is going to affect students, you have to give us a notice of at least three months or two months.”

William Dowie, senatorial candidate for Change, answered that both the city and province must be addressed individually by forming political relationships with each, independent of each other.

“It’s a political issue that you’re speaking of. It’s not something that you would go to the legislative assistant to talk to. You need to have some sort of direct communication.”

Asked how the candidates would continue advocacy for the U-Pass, Mirzaei affirmed her plan to continue fighting for the pass.

“We have to show them what the effect of the U-Pass [is],” she said. “It’s not all about money, maybe we can afford $200 more, but it’s not fair — at the least, they should have told us in advance.”

Change presidential candidate Silvia Sekander said she is “hopeful” about the future of the U-Pass if students make their voices heard.

“It is all dependent on ourselves, how we protest,” said Sekander. She suggested students continue protesting not just for the pass, but for future issues they care about as well.

Voting for the 2020-21 UMGSA general election takes place March 16 and 17.