SFSS politics will be interesting this coming year

Two bitter opponents must find a way to work together

The Simon Fraser Students Society executive election winners are now posted. This could be an interesting year.

Joe Paling, who cast himself as the strongest proponent of independence from the Canadian Federation of Students, is the preliminary winner of the presidency.

Natalie Bocking, who is one of the primary (if not the primary) leaders of the CFSers at Simon Fraser, has won the position of External Relations Officer.

These two are like oil and water.

Bocking earned the endorsement of Xenia Menzies. I have a great deal of respect for Menzies. This leads me to believe that Bocking is able to work in the interests of SFU students and not allow herself to have divided loyalties in the case of a lawsuit by the CFS against SFSS.

Menzies questioned the CFS in the days when CFSers held firm control of the SFSS. (As she put it, “when it wasn’t cool.”)

It was her endorsement that allowed people I know at SFSS to put aside Bocking’s unwavering support of the CFS to vote for her. (Contrary to what I am hearing in Ontario, there is no conspiracy against CFS supporters in BC.)

Her strong win shows the strength of that endorsement.

Paling has shown poor judgment over the campaign period. It seems he has learned his lesson, and will hopefully be exercising better judgment as SFSS President. His poor judgment resulted in his small margin (30 votes) of victory.

Bocking and Paling have reasons to distrust and undermine each other. Both have a history of opposing each other and both have thrown negative comments at each other.

They must realize that it is in their own interest to find a way to work with the other.

Paling needs to prove himself to his critics. He is a polarizing figure in SFSS politics. During the Presidential debate, this was clear with many questions directed to Paling’s character and the other candidates often yelling at him.

Polarizing is alright when it refers to one’s opinion – not when it applies to one’s behaviour. One who is polarizing based upon opinion usually has a strong grasp of the issues. One who is polarizing based upon behaviour tends to alienate both supporters and distracters. Without a base of supporters, no leader can achieve their goals.

He must work to regain the confidence of his student body and reach out to the supporters of the other candidates. His promise to refrain from “social alcohol consumption” is a good start. His promise that he will be “seeking counselling” will definitely help. In short, he admitted to exercising poor judgement. I believe Paling can do a good job as SFSS President, he must work hard to prove this to his sceptics.

Bocking faces her own challenges. There are people who see her as too heavily aligned to the CFS. However, as evidenced by the endorse of Menzies, she has proven herself as a member-at-large of the SFSS.

Bocking must accept the decision of the student body to withdraw from the CFS, to do otherwise would be to dismiss the clear mandate given by students to leave.

The election debate for the External Relations Officer focused greatly on what she would do in the event of a vote to leave the CFS. It is clear that this is an issue which is important to the student body. It is clear that she has a base of opponents, she must reach out to them to be effective.

Both candidates have been on the opposite side of issues. Both Paling and Bocking have the power to destroy each other. They both have a finger on the button, and neither one will survive if either button is pressed.

Both of them are bright individuals, we will see if they are smart enough to realize they can only succeed working together.

If they don’t work together, an impeachment scandal makes for a great story.