Last summer, Alex Bryant managed an entire waterfront’s finances. That experience, he says, will prepare him for the position of financial vice-president in the KSU.
“We had two or three million dollars worth of boats, and about two hundred kids,” he says. “It was a major management project, but also a lot of fun.”
Bryant is a first-year student from Waterloo, Ont. He plans to study contemporary studies at King’s and classics and English at Dalhousie after this year.
Bryant worked all through high school to pay for his university experience, which is another thing he says would make him a good financial vice president.
“It goes two ways,” he says. “I have a lot of practical experience with money, but also with decision making with regard to accounting.”
The Watch: Your campaign message seems to be that we need a direction. What direction is that?
Alex Bryant: As far as money goes, we’re working with a surplus, and we have been for a while. I like the idea of a rainy day fund, but also of getting money out. The Galley is great, the KTS is always in need of something, basically just stuff to accommodate students. We need to look at where the demand actually is, and what people want.
W: You raised some eyebrows at the speeches when you talked about reassessing the Galley’s finances. What did you mean by “reassess”?
AB: I don’t know if I regret the wording, but I do regret the tone with which it came across. I feel strongly about how important the Galley is, and with John (Adams) leaving, we need to make sure we look at stuff. I’m super into the Galley as a project, I’m super pumped that we’ve had it for a year, and that now we can start narrowing in on things we can maybe improve without worrying about losing it.
“Bleeding money” was probably the wrong sentence. I just want to make sure the KSU itself isn’t bleeding money, and if it is, figure out where we can tighten up.
W: Is there anything you might have done differently from how council did it this year?
AB: This is something Haydn Watters is working on as well, but it’ll cross into finance as well, and that’s communication with all union members, getting the opinion of all the people who aren’t actively involved. Figuring out how to incorporate what you want out of union services. We’re supposed to work for a huge number of people, but we’re only surveying a small percentage, and that’s something Haydn is addressing as well, student apathy, or student alienation, which sounds pretentious, but it’s true. We’re a small school, and it drives me crazy. How are we supposed to make decisions when we’re vocalizing the opinion of 200 students? If all the students pay, say, $80,000, but only the people who pay $10,000 of that make the decisions? So you see how it crosses into finance eventually.
W: How do you think the union can be more accountable?
AB: At the first general meeting, I think Quinn did an excellent job laying out the budgets and explaining it properly. It’s available online, but explaining it properly is important as well. That’s something I’d like to continue.
I really want financial committee meetings to be open publicly. Whether or not people show up is different. I just don’t like the idea of being behind closed doors with people the KSU has chosen. The transparency issue there scares me. It’s important to have that open. If we’re rejecting someone, we should at least talk to them.
Ezra Manson said in his candidate speech that he identifies as “a hippy at heart.” That seems unusual for a candidate for the position of financial VP, which involves a large amount of day-to-day financial work. The chief requirements of the position, as listed on the KSU website, include “managing the King’s Students’ Union budget in coordination with KSU Exec” and “being responsible for the care and custody of the funds of, and general financial administration of, the King’s Students’ Union.” Contrary to what one might expect from a self-proclaimed hippy, Manson has extensive financial experience that he says qualifies him for the position.
“I grew up immersed in the business world,” he says. “My dad is in the renewable energy field, and I worked for his company, as well as another private company. I was basically surrounded by budgets and financing.”
A first-year student from Vancouver, Manson is studying business at Dalhousie in addition to the Foundation Year Programme, and plans to continue with it alongside a degree in Contemporary Studies at King’s. In addition to his studies, Manson is involved in Action King’s, and is the first-year representative for the King’s Sustainability Society. He’s also involved in Dalhousie’s management and political science societies.
The Watch: What are some major investments you think the KSU could make?
Ezra Manson: The Galley has been the main investment of the KSU over the last couple years. That should remain the focus, as well as maintaining a sustainable direction.
As for how I’d like to allocate funds: sending students to conferences, if there’s interest from the student body. I think a lot of people are interested. PowerShift was an interesting process. There was a large general meeting, about 70 people. They asked for $3,000 to send a large number of students. The contentious issue was how that money is best spent, and whether decisions should be made by experts vs. the student body. I recognize the value of both, but what was special was when Quinn Harrington showed everyone in attendance his budget. That’s something I’d like to continue. Every councilor and executive member I’ve spoken to has said they want more student engagement. I think these conferences are an excellent first step, and the KSU can facilitate that.
W: You said Thursday at the speeches that you think the Galley will work itself out financially. What are you basing that on?
EM: Quinn Harrington has done a fantastic job working with other members to formulate a financial plan for the Galley, and we should stick to that plan. Looking at the realistic inflow and outflow of KSU finances reflects what the Galley needs for future sustainability.
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W: What is your understanding of the position of financial vice-president?
EM: I think there’s two aspects: strictly financial, that’s writing cheques, keeping books, funding societies, but more important is reaching out to the community. The job goes beyond the numbers. It’s about working with council, with other students, with King’s administration and staff. And I love working with people.
W: What do you think is important for council to focus on?
EM: Increased student involvement in community. I’m passionate about making the KSU more collective and engaged. I would reach out to others, give students more information, more input in decisions.
W: What would be your immediate course of action if you were elected?
EM:The first thing is the budget. Then, as many conversations with current and future executives, including preparation with John Adams, and getting some student input as well.