Battle 2014: Team Belman vs. Team Helfand

January 29, 2014 1 Comment »

TEAM BELMAN

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Courtesy of teambelman.com

Team Belman’s platform is divided into six specific sections of focus — advocacy, action, a better USC, bursting the Western bubble, past projects, and outreach.

The platform gives a sense that all three members of the campaign team collaborated heavily across their portfolios to produce it. That said, its presentation is wanting in a few areas. Each section includes a number of headings that highlight platform points, but they lack consistency in the level of detail and specificity provided.

Take, for example, this point: “We have kiosks placed around the UCC — let’s actually use them!” Under Advocacy Awareness, “We will bring advocacy out of the shadows and make sure students know what we’re fighting for every day.” There are a lot of initiatives under the Belman platform, but a lack of elaboration on some ambitious ones was a little frustrating to read as an analyst.

This was a general issue throughout the platform, but it shouldn’t take away from the fact that the Belman team hit the nail on the head on a lot of important issues, such as mental health.

A theme of service expansion and improvement is evident in the Belman policy package, and nowhere is this more sorely needed than in the area of mental health on campus. Belman’s team makes it clear that they would like to see increased availability of mental health services, and perhaps just as importantly they want to increase awareness of them. Points include lobbying the administration to create a high-profile position to oversee the health and wellness of students, and advocacy for centralizing and simplifying mental health services into a centre, among others. Mental health support and advocacy is not lost on the Helfand team, but Belman’s slate has a more holistic and complete vision on their platform in this area.

Online presence would also receive a boost. A Western Wikipedia page that’s comprehensive and detailed may be tough to pull off, but compiling council history into a searchable online database is a very welcome idea for journalists — ahem — and USC wonks alike.

In terms of financial aid, affordability and advocacy, the Belman team has some overlap with Helfand’s. Their aim to lobby for the elimination of deductions on financial aid for working students on the basis that they shouldn’t be punished for taking on extra responsibly is the type of student advocacy that captures attention. Advocating for more work-integrated learning is also an intriguing, if difficult, focus.

There’s a lot more on the Belman platform, and despite its occasional lack of detail the team’s focus on improved services, particularly mental health, and ambitious advocacy is clear. The vice-president candidates have strong experience in their portfolios, and it’s evident in the platform.


TEAM HELFAND

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Courtesy of teamhelfand.com

While Belman’s team seems to emphasize USC service expansion and improvement, Helfand’s slate makes no secret of its main priority: A better deal for students. That’s to say that the team wants to make sure every student is getting their money’s worth out of the USC and what it provides. As one would expect, service review promises are in abundance in the Helfand slate platform, which seems to point to a vision of a USC that is accountable to students. Fiscal accountability is no light theme, and riding on it has the potential to be a real boon to Helfand’s team down the road.

Helfand’s platform is broken down by portfolio, preceded by a general Team Advocacy section. Each section appears to be primarily constructed and written by the respective vice-presidential candidate, which does raise questions as to how much cross-portfolio cooperation went into the platform. A frustration was the numerous typos in the platform, which really shouldn’t be there considering the high profile of the positions sought.

Nevertheless, Helfand’s team is a little more consistent with regard to detail on platform points, and the slate has specific ideas on what it wants to get done. Highlights include a freeze to the USC base fee — the $77.46 USC fee that is not tied to a specific service — notwithstanding inflation. In a sense, the whole vision feels like a “new deal” between the USC and students.

Helfand has some other intriguing proposals as well, brought to light in his own section. These include a harder look at commercial marketing in the UCC, a Wave/Spoke partnership with Western Athletics at select home games, and decentralized budgets for entertainment programming, supposedly to protect against “massive losses” (read: One Love). As a whole, they fit well into the general theme of the platform.

With regards to the external portfolio, a municipal concentration is very evident. Carter wants a focus on municipal advocacy, and it seems in particular lobbying for improved LTC service on campus. A lot of the lobbying points federally and provincially overlap with points on Belman’s platform, including tax credit restructuring and removing financial aid penalties on students who work. All of that is well and good, but as mentioned the focus on city-student relations is clear.

The internal portfolio has some interesting ideas, too. A decentralized bus pass pick-up system and more microwaves may seem minor, but Addison provides convincing rationale for both. The real weakness is a lack of mentioning some big issues this year — in particular, the role of the Peer Support Centre. It would be naïve to assume that Addison won’t address issues like that in-depth, but some mention of them would have been nice in the platform.

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