campaign speech for chair of canadian federation of students-ontario

by erinohsays

Last week I campaigned for the position of Chair for the Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario – the Ontario section of the national union that represents 500,000 university students in Canada – at the Semi-Annual General Meeting of the CFS-O in Markham, Ontario. Approximately 30 university student unions from across Ontario participated in the meeting and voted in the election. One other student, Alastair Woods from York University, also campaigned for the position of Chair so a debate was held in which we each delivered a speech stating why we were running for the position. The majority of student unions voted in favour of electing Woods, who will now serve as Chair of CFS-O from May 2013-14. Below is the speech I delivered as well as a photo of the campaign debate.

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Hi everyone. My name is Erin Oldynski, I am the External Commissioner at the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union and a graduate student in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education.

I’m happy to accept the nomination as chair of the Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario and I’d like to tell you about the experience and hopes that I would bring to this position.

Over the past five years I’ve had the opportunity to work in a number of areas in the public sector. My first experience working for the public was with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in the Public Consultations Division. In my role as a consultations officer it was my job to seek public input on Canada’s international trade agreements and bring this input back to government officials for consideration. In large part, public input wasn’t considered, and that’s one of the reasons I got into union organizing. After working for the government, I had an internship with the Writers Guild of America in New York as a union organizer for writers working in the film and television industry. Each week I met with non-unionized writers at different production companies to document their workplace concerns, and then we developed a mobilization strategy for unionizing their workplaces. More recently, I worked as the Volunteer and Programming Coordinator for the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, which is a non-profit social justice organization that is funded and run by university students. In this role, I organized conferences and film festivals, I developed workshops on anti-oppression and consensus decision-making, and I worked with hundreds of university students every semester to develop campaigns on issues such as Reproductive Justice, Food Sovereignty, and Indigenous Solidarity.

In terms of the opportunities that I see for the Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario, I believe that, particularly in light of the Quebec student movement, we are positioned in an important moment in student union organizing. We have learned a lot about what makes a student movement succeed or fail and we can use these lessons to inform our own student union organizing. My vision as chair would be to facilitate decision-making structures that are membership driven and that have a proven track record of success. In the Campaigns and Government Relations Meeting yesterday we dedicated time to developing campaigns and strategies that are specific to our locals and then we took note of the themes we saw emerging from these collective goals. This is the kind of organizing that has proven successful in other student movements and it is my hope that we can continue this approach to developing provincial and national campaigns.

The Canadian Federation of Students has won many victories for students. Just a few years ago, the CFS successfully lobbied to create a national system of grants, and a few years before that, the CFS succeeded in achieving a 2-year tuition freeze. This track record shows that with dedication and a clear vision of where we’re going, we can significantly improve our conditions of study in this province. Looking forward, I hope to continue this important work by facilitating the decision-making structures required to make these gains, and above all, I look forward to continue taking direction from our membership toward this end.

Thank you.

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