Alberta students plan a different type of party
By Karena Walter
The dream of running a student candidate in Alberta's next provincial election is now closer to reality as the councils of the province's two largest universities are forming a political party.
The University of Calgary's Student Union voted Tuesday night to run a candidate in the yet-to-be announced 1997 election. Results of a survey and plebiscite in the fall found the majority of students were in favour of the idea, along with the launch of an information campaign.
Student Union president Sarath Samarasekera said the candidate will be picked by the student body and the process will begin within the next week. "Once it's all sorted out we'll discuss the planning process," Samarasekera said. Some students have already expressed interest in becoming candidates.
Calgary's decision follows that of the University of Alberta's Student Union who voted 24-4 in November to run president Garett Poston in the upcoming election. Alberta's union also held a plebiscite which found 60 per cent of students favoured running a candidate while 40 per cent were against the idea.
The two student candidates will run in different ridings on the same platform.
The idea to form a student party and bring education issues to the forefront by running candidates was a joint initiative between Poston, Samarasekera and University of Lethbridge's student union president, Jason Shriver.
However, in December, the University of Lethbridge Students' Union turned down a proposal to run a candidate. "It was a minor setback but not a huge blow," Poston said.
"The primary reason was lack of support of the student body," Shriver said. Another minor consideration was concerns brought forth by some students that running a candidate could split the left-wing vote, ensuring a Progressive Conservative victory in the undecided riding.
However, Lethbridge will help the party in terms of policy creation and logistical support, Shriver added.
The promotion of education in the greater community may be easier if students have a candidate, Poston said. "It's attention-grabbing and unique and hopefully will have a greater impact than the same-old same-old."
Although the idea is still in its infancy, the students have been given tremendous press in Alberta. "Winning would be great, the ultimate success, but aside from that we need to get a lot of media coverage and get our message across," Poston said.
The party is now developing a funding plan which will include fund-raising and community support.
Main education issues include funding levels, student debt levels, financial aid, promotion of business in education and co-op opportunities for students.
The students said they are expecting a provincial election to be called in March.