Heated exchanges dominate discussion despite common goals at VP finance Great Debate

VP finance candidates Mohkam Singh Malik (ਮੋਹਕਮ) and Gavin Fung-Quon engaged in heated exchanges while agreeing on some priorities during the Great Debate on Thursday.

Malik suggested Fung-Quon’s experience in the VP finance portfolio is not an asset as the office experienced overspending, failure to reimburse clubs and lack of deficit management.

“This isn't experience. It's a record of failure. And no matter how much lipstick you put on this pig, it still won't be pretty,” said Malik.

Fung-Quon disagreed with Malik and said that over the last two years the VP finance office has worked to introduce new systems that reimburse students more efficiently. He also said that AMS businesses revenues have improved and are “doing well.”

An audience question asked Malik how an executive salary cut of 10 per cent proposed in his platform would successfully address food insecurity on campus. Malik responded that the pay cut is not his only strategy but “one thing out of [his] five page policy platform.”

Another audience question asked Malik how this cut would play out logistically. He said that all executives would need to unanimously agree to the salary cut.

“I believe that we shouldn't be, as the leaders of our student union, making more while students have less. And, if 40 per cent of students are food insecure, we shouldn't be giving ourselves a raise,” said Malik.

Fung-Quon was asked about how his plan to transition to a new deposit system was different from past efforts to revamp the AMS financial system. He responded his plan includes complete automation of the system and will prevent future bottlenecking and malfunctioning.

“I'm fighting for you and making sure this deposit system is going to work,” said Fung-Quon.

Candidates were asked about how they would approach and possibly implement a rejected referendum item that looked to increase pharmaceutical coverage for contraceptives and gender affirming care under the AMS/GSS Health & Dental Plan.

Fung-Quon said he hopes to increase communication with the student body and make sure that the proposed referendum items don't break AMS bylaws.

“It's about … making sure that we can communicate with students … so that referendum items are actually clear for students and they work directly for what students want,” said Fung-Quon.

Malik said he would re-introduce this referendum item onto the ballot next year, but ensure that there is no overlap with the federal government's new PharmaCare plan.

When asked about financial literacy education, both candidates agreed the current financial literacy workshops held by the AMS should be continued and expanded.

“Financial sustainability of AMS doesn't just mean the institution, it means the students as well. I really look forward to increasing this and making sure we have more and more of these events,” said Fung-Quon.

On increasing the profitability and competitiveness of AMS businesses, Malik plans to launch a review of all businesses and create “comprehensive and updated business plans” for each. After consulting students-at-large, he also wants to introduce more food options that account for students with dietary restrictions.

“We have to take a holistic approach … we have to work with the businesses and the students as well,” said Malik.

Fung-Quon agreed that business reviews are necessary, however, noted AMS businesses profits have been steadily increasing in the last quarter.

“We were expecting more profits, so it seems slower. But in terms of the revenue generated from them we're actually positive in almost all of our businesses,” said Fung-Quon. “But we really need to make sure that we're financially sustainable and all our businesses are moving forward.”

When asked about the recent failed student-petitioned referendum that called upon UBC to divest from companies involved in Palestinian human rights violations, candidates agreed that student consultation is key.

“It's not our job to say whether we agree or disagree, but it is our job to help them through that process,” said Malik.

Malik also added he plans to publicly publish the AMS’s investments.

Voting opens March 1 at 8 a.m. and ends at 8 p.m. on March 8.

This article is part of our 2024 AMS Elections coverage. Follow us at @UbysseyNews on X (formerly Twitter) and follow our election coverage starting February 27.