VP finance candidates discuss transparency, communication in second debate

At Friday’s VP finance debate, candidates agreed on pursuing financial accountability and student engagement, but diverged on how they would implement their plans.

At the debate, the candidates — AMS Governance and Strategy Lead Kamil Kanji, Associate VP Funds Lawrence Liu and the Arts Student Centre (represented by Arts Councilor Mathew Ho) — discussed the AMS's financial transparency and outreach strategy to clubs, constituencies and the student body.

In response to a question on improving financial transparency considering the lack of preliminary budget and unexplained changes to the budget last June, Kanji committed to producing a preliminary budget, and said there was a need to keep AMS council “consistently” in the loop. 

The ASC said it believes that the AMS could approach conveying information like quarterly reports the finance office produces differently. It said the information could be better allocated to more public outlets such as the AMS website. Kanji agreed that the information could be presented in a more “easily digestible” manner. 

On the budget, Liu said his priority would be “starting the work earlier” to make sure the Finance Committee had time with budget materials. 

In response to a question about transitioning to  the new AMS financial system, candidates had similar goals in improving communication across AMS clubs and constituencies with slightly different approaches.

Liu expressed the need to close the gap between individual club treasurers and the VP finance office in the form of town hall meetings and “creating as many resources” as possible such as Canvas modules with video tutorials and workshops. 

Kanji emphasized the need to establish a solid timeline for reimbursements, and said he would engage frequently with the VP finances of undergraduate constituencies.

The ASC said that actively checking on data about issues that clubs might be having with the system and establishing a faster response time is a better approach than relying on caucus meetings.

An audience member questioned candidates on their communication strategies, asking how they would up communications output with the department already “extremely busy.” 

The ASC said that it is not opposed to adding staff to the communications department to meet need.

“Some people think there’s a need to cut services … the ASC isn’t opposed to having more people in the communications department to do this more effectively,” it said.  

Liu said that social media communication could come from the VP finance office itself, in addition to utilizing its connection with other student organizations to disseminate financial information. 

Kanji agreed with Liu on the need to work with clubs and constituencies, but expressed a need for “reshuffling priorities” in communication. 

“I think there are a lot of things that the communications department is working on right now related to various events and initiatives, but I think it's about making sure that we are finding the time for this,” Kanji said.

During closing statements, candidates summarized the main goals of their campaigns.

Liu said he believes his platform is realistic considering he would only be in office until May of next year. Kanji emphasized the detail in his platform, saying he had thorough plans. The ASC finished the debate saying that while it's running as a joke, that doesn't mean it's platform is unserious.

Voting will be open from Monday, September 26 at 12:01 a.m. to Thursday, September 29 at 5 p.m.