Print Edition: March 7, 2012
An Abbotsford-Chilliwack connector bus could become a reality if the candidates for VP east have their way.
Both candidates for VP east Shane Potter and Kyle Wierks attempted to respond to specific needs of more eastwardly students during the SUS all-candidates meeting last Wednesday. The issue is all the more pressing with the opening of UFV’s new Chilliwack campus; the Theatre, Nursing and Agriculture programs are all exclusively offered in Chilliwack.
VP east is one of the few positions (along with VP academic and VP internal) in this year’s SUS elections that are running contested campaigns, in which two or more candidates are gunning for the positions. The goals of the candidates for the VP east position proved to be one of the most interesting to the attendees of Wednesday’s SUS elections all-candidates meeting as candidates Shane Potter and Kyle Wierks inspired discussion about the previously undervalued needs of Chilliwack students. Representative-at-large candidate Debbie Ellis commented that she and current VP east Tristan Gibson are the only two current SUS board members who make regular appearances in the Chilliwack SUS office.
It has been a pipe dream and even an unavailable necessity for some students for many years now, despite previous attempts (petitions, countless SUS board meetings, etc.): a transit bus between Abbotsford and Chilliwack. Current SUS resident representative currently running for VP social Christian Doyle described his personal situation as a UFV student needing to take courses at both Abbotsford and Chilliwack campuses as a part of his degree although he currently has no possible means of transportation out to the Chilliwack campus.
VP academic candidate Mehtab Singh Rai voiced his support for the bus when asked if he was in support of such a project based on the fact that his position would, in large part, be responsible for advocating the needs of students to those beyond the institution. “I know that Tristan and Sam have been keen to solicit a private bus company… It’s really important that the connection happens,” stated Rai.
Many questions were directed towards the candidate for VP finance Samuel Broadfoot, who was asked to speak on the logistical issues surrounding a potential bus to connect Abbotsford and Chilliwack campuses. Broadfoot is the incumbent for VP finance and has worked closely with current VP east Tristan Gibson already during his previous term as VP finance to review the potential SUS budget for an Abbotsford-Chilliwack connector, as well as the costs associated with it.
“We’ve run into some interesting problems [with private bus companies]… We tried to get a private shuttle working between Abbotsford and Chilliwack but as it stands we neither have the budget or money to offer that. The only thing we can really do is encourage private companies to come in and charge students and say ‘You would have an exclusive contract as long as you maintain prices.’
“We’re trying to see who else would be interesting in such a model, but we haven’t seen anyone else.”
Broadfoot also stated that the two largest costs of a bus would be the insurance of the vehicles and the cost of gas.
“If we had about $10,000 we could just throw around, a bus would definitely be a priority,” said Broadfoot.
The VP east is intended to to advocate the specific needs of Chilliwack students. Hence, VP east candidate Shane Potter had a noticeably strong opinion on the bus issue as well as most of his campaign built up on the need for viable transit between Abbotsford and Chilliwack for students.
“I respect that Sam works hard on budget, but this is an issue of absolute priority. We don’t understand that if we do not get a bus before the new [Chilliwack] campus is totally up and running we have students going into their second, third and fourth year who will be unable to go to class at all. They won’t be able to finish their education here,” Potter said.
“So, I know it’s not in our budget and I know we’re working hard on the issue… There has to be a way. And if we have to look at other issues and giving up others things. Unfortunately, students getting to their classes and finishing their classes is top priority, especially for Chilliwack.”