The “Voting For our Future” panel aims to inform and empower students during the 2021 election
Bridget Stringer-Holden // News Editor
On Sept. 14th at 11am, Vice President External Aryanna Chartrand will be moderating a discussion about the upcoming election between panelists from the Political Science department, Early Childhood Education, Business and Professional Studies and Indigenous Affairs. She hopes that students will recognize their power as voters and that the panel will help highlight the relevant issues affecting them and their fields. “I really hope to ask them tough questions, and I really hope the panelists will look at it through the lens of their field, because when you think about it, they all have very different approaches and perspectives on things.”
As VP External of the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU), Aryanna Chartrand manages relationships with the municipal, provincial and federal government. She also deals with the TransLink and U-Pass negotiations and runs major campaigns and other advocacy initiatives—often in collaboration with other student alliances across the country. One of these initiatives is the Get Out The Vote campaign, which is held by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) in an effort to empower and encourage students to vote. “Our biggest concern is having students know that there is an election,” said Chartrand, “and addressing the biggest questions for first time voters—like where do I vote?”
The challenge in persuading the CapU population to participate in the voting process lies mainly in one thing—students, staff and faculty are no longer simply gathered together on campus. “That’s not the traditional student anymore—we work, we have lives, we are activists outside of campus. Really, we want students to vote, but we also want people to vote, and they happen to be students. We kind of took a step backwards when we removed [on-campus polling stations] this year,” said Chartrand, encouraging students to vote by mail.
As an Early Childhood Education student, Chartrand is passionate about universal and affordable childcare initiatives, something she has advocated for alongside the ten dollars a day childcare plan. “Students with children are paying up to a thousand dollars a month for childcare as an expense, which is just an absurd amount—especially considering there’s bills and tuition to pay.” As the recently elected Chairperson of the Alliance of BC Students (ABCS), which represents multiple universities across the province, she was able to get both the ABCS and the CSU on board with the ten dollars a day childcare initiative.
“It’s really about how many voices you’re presenting when you’re lobbying, and when you’re advocating,” explains Chartrand. “We go from 7,000 with the CSU, you add the other four members of the [ABCS] and now you have 80,000.” These numbers don’t include partnerships, which can garner up to thousands of students. “When you have 250,000 students all sort of saying the same thing, it’s a lot harder to ignore—it is an effective way to make change happen.”
Working in kindergarten classrooms, Chartrand acknowledges how it’s sometimes difficult to see the relevance of politics in everyday life. “I think it’s very evident that it is a political matter, so I’m really hoping that these people that we’ve chosen from various fields will be able to make those connections [between politicians and resource/funding allocation],” she says. “I’m not a business student, I don’t have the business perspective, but I do want students to know that it exists and to have a chance to ask questions about it.”
Another issue being addressed during the 2021 election is student loan interest. “Throughout the pandemic, they stopped charging interest,” explained Chartrand, “but we’re hearing that they might resume student loan interest in general, which impacts students depending on who becomes the presiding government.”
Coming from Manitoba, the B.C. political sphere is new to her, however she still feels that all students—domestic and international—need to come together and recognize what this means for a unified and united voice. “When you think of yourself as one person, it can seem really overwhelming, but when you have students across the province, and across Turtle Island saying the same thing, that’s hundreds of thousands of people,” she said.“If each of those people thought their vote didn’t matter, the number would just decrease significantly.”
Chartrand also explained the importance of being allies to international students who can’t vote but are still affected by the results of our elections. “The opportunity to represent around 80,000 students has been very cool,” she said, noting that she especially enjoys being able to work to address barriers to postsecondary. “One of my own personal beliefs is that not being political is quite a privilege because everyone is influenced by politics and if you don’t notice that, that’s just that’s due to being in a privileged position. I think that students […] don’t really recognize that their vote is just another person getting a say in how the nation is run.”
Students can RSVP in advance on Eventbrite.