a step in the right direction

I was recently browsing the AMS website recently, and I stumbled upon this press release from the External Affairs office. Emphasis mine.

B.C. Government Ministers Turn Their Backs on Students at UBC

The B.C. Minister of Finance Colin Hansen, has turned down requests for meetings with the Alma Mater Society at UBC Vancouver (AMS), UBC’s students’ union. The B.C. Minister of Transportation Kevin Falcon also declined to meet with the AMS. And on Friday, the B.C. minister of advanced education confirmed that he will not be meeting with the AMS to discuss post-secondary education issues.

Minister Falcon is said be “away on ministerial business,” Minister Hansen is said to be “completely booked until the writ,” and Minister Coell is simply “unable to meet.”

The AMS is trying hard to meet with government ministers in critical pre-election time to talk about the high tuition fees and student loan interest rates. “We had hoped to speak with Minister Falcon about transit and toMinister Hansen regarding Olympic policing on campus,” says AMS VP External Timothy Chu.

I really hope these Ministers are not campaigning for re-election, or just taking a little break, instead of fulfilling their duties as elected officials,” Chu said. “I also hope that this is not a trend with government ministers, and that Minister Linda Reid makes time to meet UBC students because we also have concerns about the lack of affordable childcare in BC.”

I like that the AMS is getting back to it’s roots of backroom lobbying – it’s way more effective than whatever Stef was doing, which was … well, not effective, and severely damaging to the reputation of the AMS, both in Victoria and Ottawa. I bet at least part of the reason these meetings were denied was due to a hesitance on the part of the government to meet with an organization which could be perceived to be crazy. Let’s leave the sound and fury signifying nothing to the other student groups (you know the one I mean), and really get things done for students.

For some reason, the AMS has decided that the best tactic to use in these cases is ‘whining’. This is a very bizarre situation. The AMS has had, in recent memory, one meeting with a Finance Minister. It’s very rare for us to get that kind of access, and then to bitch about it in a press release after not getting that meeting is a dumb idea.

I’d be curious to know when these requests were sent out, and what kind of dialogue went on to get these meetings. Incidentally, I couldn’t imagine what the Minister of Finance might be doing in the run-up to a campaign where the economy is tanking. We would have gotten the meeting. Now, I’d give it 60/40 odds against that External office sees the MinFin this year.

The other thing that I see is that these don’t seem to have a priority attached to them. Aside from a lobby conference, a Minister isn’t going to sit down with you and just chat about your priorities. You have to have a specific proposal, and sometimes getting a meeting isn’t as straightforward as just picking up the phone.

When Tahara and I met with Falcon, it was because we went to what was possibly the gayest sports bar I’ve ever been in where Lorne Mayencourt was having a pub night, chatted with him, asked him who we could speak to in the MinTrans, got a good word put in, got a call for a 15 minute hole in the Ministers schedule, and drove to Victoria the next day. Sometimes it happens like that. In fact, most of the time it happens like that. It’s a funny business, government.

My advice: stop bitching, work slow, massage the contacts, keep criticism strong and policy based, ensure that you have alternatives to current policy, and stop doing things that will hurt you in the long run.


2 Responses to “a step in the right direction”

  1. 1 albert
    June 27, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    I was puzzled by Setf and Blake’s decision to cancel Lobby Days last year, that event has always been successful in getting across the AMS’ message to our elected representatives and is a good experience for up and coming councilors to get acquainted with lobbying (especially those looking to become our next execs…see Tim and Blake)

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