Fact-checking the first 2017 AMS debate

The first 2017 AMS Elections debate took place Monday afternoon, marking the first time candidates for President, VP Academic and VP External have faced off in an official forum. 

Now that it's done, The Ubyssey has had some time to fact-check some of what the candidates have said. Claims are preceded by who made them. 

Note: Daniel Lam is the only candidate for VP Academic, and did not say anything that particularly needed to be fact-checked.


James Cohen: One per cent of UBC students have attempted suicide.

Reality: Mostly true. According to the 2013 National College Health Assessment Survey, 0.9 per cent of Canadian students — not specifically at UBC — reported having attempted suicide since 2012.

Cohen: You can’t use Safewalk if you’re noticeably intoxicated.

Reality: Mostly true. Drivers can refuse service if you “appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and cannot care for yourself or consciously consent to a ride.”

Cohen: The AMS runs 11 businesses...

Reality: False. The AMS runs nine restaurants and no other businesses.

... and is “soon to be running many more.”

Reality: False. There are 12 new restaurants scheduled to open on campus in 2017, but none of them will be run by the AMS. There are no plans to open new businesses in the near future.

Cohen: At its peak, 15,000 people attended Arts County Fair (ACF).

Reality: True. A Ubyssey article from 2004 says ACF drew about 11,000 people per year. But that number grew to 15,000 by the last ACF in 2007 according to Jeremy McElroy, who was social coordinator for the AUS that year.

Hooton: About 15,000 people came out for Homecoming in recent years.

Speaking about how to get more students to Block Party, Hooton said, “We could employ the same sort of method for promoting awareness of the event that was employed for Homecoming — the first football game of the year — for the past few years, which was very successful. I believe 15,000 people came out to those events.”

Reality: True, but only if he's combining the past two attendance numbers. This year, 7,834 people attended Homecoming, according to UBC Athletics. Last year, it was 6,950.

Cohen: Block Party loses money every year.

Reality: True. Block Party is budgeted at a deficit largely to keep student ticket prices down. Last year, it was supposed to cost students $53,474, but the AMS ended up over $200,000 in the hole. This year, they're scaling the party back to avoid another surprise.

Cohen: Students would pay over $100 per ticket if Block Party is held in a place with a 6,000-person attendance and sells out.

Reality: False, unless prices quintuple next year. The 2017 Block Party will be held in front of the Nest — a location with a 6,000 person limit. Tickets are $20-40 and prices are not subject to change if it sells out. In 2015 — when Block Party sold out a parking lot that held 4,800 people — the going rate for secondhand tickets was around $25 when regular prices were $15-30.

Cohen: In his Facebook event, Cohen states that he held the position of Creative Director for AMS Events.

Reality: False. AMS Programming and Events Manager Asad Ali spoke up during the debate to say that such a position never existed. Cohen said that it was an “‘official unofficial’ title” given to him by former AMS Marketing and Event Coordinator Jenna Earnshaw.

In a Facebook message to The Ubyssey, Earnshaw said, “Creative Director is a stretch. He was given creative lead on some individual events.”

Hooton: Door-to-door campaigning isn’t allowed at UBC.

Reality: True, in most residences. According to a 2013 document from Student Housing and Hospitality Services, door-to-door soliciting is only allowed in Acadia Park.

Cohen: You need to wait two to three weeks to see a counsellor at UBC unless you’re a suicide risk.

Reality: True (it’s two weeks).

VP External

Dario Garousian: The 99-S bus used to have non-stop service to UBC.

Reality: True. The 99 Special operated from 2004–2005. It brought students directly to UBC during morning and evening peak hours in 2004, but added a few stops in 2005. It was discontinued in 2006 when the 84 was created.

Sally Lin: University bookstores can’t buy textbooks from outside Canada.

Reality: True, with some exceptions. Canadian booksellers can sometimes import books directly, for example, if the publisher is out of stock for an extended time or if there is no Canadian distributor.

Lin: The UBC Bookstore sells less than half of the textbooks it buys.

Reality: Almost true. According to the managing director of the Bookstore, Debbie Harvie, the Bookstore will return 45 per cent of the new books they purchased from publishers this year.  

“The courses materials’ space is changing rapidly, and is affected by the number of used books we can obtain, our rental program and the move to open or ‘free’ materials. Our buyers continue to try and order the ‘right’ number of books for each course, but we do see increasing returns of new books to the publishers,” wrote Harvie in an email.

—With files from Hana Golightly, Sruthi Tadepalli, Moira Wyton and Jonas Ordman