As if the workload of homework and exams was not enough, one University of Saskatchewan student wants to add on the duties of a city councillor.
Justin Lasnier, a fourth year public administration student, is vying for a council seat in the Oct. 28 election. This is no easy task, considering Lasnier will be running against Glen Penner, Saskatoon’s longest running councillor and a retired U of S professor, pitting teacher against student in Ward 8.
“I really picked my ward well, huh?” said Lasnier.
The ward runs along 8th Street, encompassing College Park, Brevoort Park, Greystone Heights and Briarwood.
Running for city council is not something that normally falls onto a student’s list of priorities, but when Anna Hunter, a U of S political studies professor, offered to pay his $100 nomination fee, he readily jumped into campaign mode.
For his part, Lasnier has begun attending city council meetings and attending as many public events as possible — usually sporting a suit and a smile, handing out handmade business cards.
“I distributed 6,000 flyers this weekend and will be finishing off the ward tonight. Every house will have received a flyer with my platform,” said Lasnier.
Lasnier says he wants to make city council more representative of Saskatoon’s population.
“During the school year, there are approximately 20,000 students on campus. That represents a significant portion of the population,” he said.
He has raised about $700 for his campaign so far and plans on opening a business account to keep track of his campaign finances.
His fundraising strategy thus far has been to ask all the professors he has had to make a donation. He is also putting on a steak night on Oct. 19 at Rodeo’s. Tickets are $16.
Lasnier knows he has a tough battle ahead of him.
He says he has seen a lot of Penner’s campaign materials throughout the ward.
“I’ve heard a lot about Penner,” he said. “I think he’s hard at work; he wants it.”
Still, Lasnier says the response has been positive in Ward 8.
“I’ve been getting a lot of calls from people who get my flyers, saying, ”˜I’m going to vote for you.’ ”
Lasnier is campaigning on the issues of neighbourhood safety and the noise pollution in parts of Ward 8 adjacent to College Drive. He says these are the issues that have come up most often while he is going door-to-door.
Lasnier says he wants to be a progressive voice in council — to a degree.
“I’m not saying I would flip city hall upside down,” he said.
The teacher and the student
Lasnier, 22, is fluent in French and English. He was born in Quebec and raised in North Battleford.
A member of the Moosomin First Nation, Lasnier is also an ambassador for the Aboriginal Students’ Centre. He is in his fourth year of aboriginal public administration and tutors in French and political studies.
Penner has lived in Saskatoon since 1948. He graduated from the U of S with a B. Ed and M. Ed and is now retired after a 38-year career in education.
He has served as teacher, principal, director of education and associate deputy minister of education in the provincial government.
He was first elected to city council in 1972, where he served for four years. After a stint in the provincial legislature, he returned to council from 1979 to 1982, then again from 1988 to 1994.
Penner has served on city council continuously since 2000, where he chairs the administration and finance committee.
photo Rory MacLean