Students’ Union election candidates answer questions at Open Forum and Town Hall

Photo by Paige Bush

The 2017 campaign season continues as candidates for the Wilfrid Laurier University Senate and Board of Governors, as well as for the Students’ Union Board of Directors and president, participated in the Waterloo Open Forum on Jan. 18.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Concourse candidates answered questions pertaining numerous topics, such as the Students’ Union structure and programs, their candidate platforms and everything in between.

The first group of candidates running for the Board of Governors, both of which are acclaimed, kicked off the Open Forum. During the morning period, candidates for the last remaining Senate position and Wilfrid Laurier University Student Publication’s candidates for president and Board of Directors took questions from both the audience and on Twitter.

During the afternoon period, three groups of candidates running for the Students’ Union Board of Directors took the mic to discuss their platforms and answer questions about the role of director.

Three candidates, including retuning director, Tarique Plummer, as well as Anthony Zambito and Klaudia Wojtanowski, hinted or confirmed their stance on running for chair of the board if elected on Jan. 26.

Candidates Ricky Liu, Darshil Shah, Ilana Roitman and Dana Toameh were absent throughout the Open Forum.

Kanwar Brar, the lone presidential candidate, took the mic at 3:30 p.m. to answer questions from students and members of the Students’ Union. The questions allowed the presidential candidate to dig into his platform and address any last minute concerns from students before voting begins on Jan. 24.

“I thought [the Open Forum] was great,” Elizabeth Thompson, assistant chief returning officer for the Students’ Union said. “We had lots of engagement from Twitter and from students asking questions in the audience, which I thought was awesome because it’s always good to get a face-to-face answer versus face-to-computer.”

While the candidates were able to clear up any questions or concerns from students, the audience turnout was low in numbers throughout the day. The same was witnessed at the All-Candidates Meeting, which took place on Jan. 9.

“A lot more people could have been here and engage in the process and I think that’s not a problem which is only exclusive to this year but it’s been happening for the past couple of years and it’s a pattern and there’s no one solution to it. It’s about working together and see how we can actually tackle that, so definitely something to work on in future years,” Brar said.

“Audience turnout could’ve been better. It was really great for the first set of directors and for the president but obviously people have class so we can’t commit them to sitting all day. I wish they could but obviously they can’t,” Thompson said.

The Waterloo Town Hall meeting took place the next day. Similar to the Open Forum, Brar was able to answer questions and concerns from audience members and those on Twitter.

During the meeting, Brar answered last minute questions to the Waterloo students about his platform, how he would handle student engagement as president and how he would work with the university to report student concerns and issues.

“I really liked it and I think the best thing I like about [it] was that the questions were very targeted and specific which gave me an opportunity to answer them adequately and in more detail and I think that was something which didn’t happen at the Open Forum and I fully understand that we had a short amount of time, but this was very nice because I actually got to see students in person and interact with them, so I really enjoyed it,” Brar said.

Similar to the Open Forum, the Waterloo Town Hall meeting, which was again held in the Concourse, had a low turnout rate. Last year saw a higher turnout for the Waterloo presidential debate, which had current Students’ Union president, Tyler Van Herzele and his opponent Tyler Murdock answering questions on various issues on campus.

“Turnout could’ve been greater, there were a lot of seats which were empty … but I think there were challenges in regards to the late timing of it on a Thursday night … and I know it’s always something to improve on, but yeah, the turnout could’ve been much greater,” Brar said.

The next Town Hall meeting will be held on the Brantford campus on Monday evening, also the last day of campaigning for candidates. The voting polls will open from Tuesday to Thursday both in-booth and online.


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