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Students to vote on three referendums in mid-February elections

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) 2016 general election will take place on Feb. 9-10 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Feb. 11 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The SFUO has seen a tumultuous year with two sudden resignations from the executives, and a failed health-care referendum.

Voter turnout for the SFUO general election has hovered at around 12 per cent over the past few years. The February 2014 election had a voter turnout of 11.6 per cent, while 2015 had 11.47 per cent. Official by-election voter turnout results from October 2015 have yet to be disclosed. The SFUO’s Board of Administration has considered implementing online voting, it’s currently being reviewed by the election committee.

The SFUO has yet to announce where polling stations will be located.

But the most pressing issue remains the uncertainty of a health-care plan after the failure to pass the referendum question during the October by-election. The SFUO may be forced to gut the plan—which currently covers prescription medication and medical items, professional services, vision care, emergency transportation, travel insurance, and dental servicesif the referendum fails a second time.

What are the positions up for election?

The positions for election range from the six executive positions, Board of Administration representatives (BOA) , Board of Governor (BOG) representatives and seats on the University of Ottawa Senate.

The deadline to submit official nominations was Jan. 15, but it was extended to Jan. 19 for BOG and Senate positions. The official list of candidates will be published on Jan. 29.

The “faces” of the SFUO are the executive positions. These include the president, vice-president services and communications, equity, social, finance and university affairs.

The BOA elects a predetermined number of students from each faculty, while the Senate elects one undergraduate candidate from each faculty and the BOG currently has one position for an undergraduate representative.

As for the referendum questions, the SFUO has added two new ones and adjusted the previous health-care question.

Summer U-Pass referendum

Included in the new referendum questions is the SFUO’s proposition to enact a summer-session U-pass for full-time students. The pass would run from May 1 to Aug. 31, beginning May 2016.

However, vice-president of university affairs Vanessa Dorimain said that this pass would only be available to students attending summer classes full-time and not to students registered full-time during the regular academic year. The proposed cost of this pass is $192.70 with a maximum increase of 2.5 per cent per year. The levee would also only be subtracted from summer students.

Refugee funding referendum

Another new referendum question, which was proposed at the Dec. 6 BOA meeting, asks for an increase in the levy to support an additional refugee student.

Currently, undergraduate students pay a levy of $1.38 per semester to sponsor two refugee students to attend the U of O annually. The proposed increase would be $0.50 per semester, bringing the levy to $1.88, to support another refugee student.

Healthcare referendum

The previous healthcare question asked students whether they agreed “to increase the Health and Dental Plan levy by $35 and authorize the SFUO Board of Administration to increase the fee up to 8% per year to enhance benefits as needed?”.

However the referendum failed with a 52 per cent no to 48 per cent yes vote. SFUO president Roméo Ahimakin said he believes the referendum didn’t pass because not all students were completely informed.

In a previous interview with the Fulcrum, Ahimakin said the SFUO conducted focus groups and the results from the surveys would determine whether another referendum question on healthcare would take place.

The new referendum question remains largely the same as the previous one, although the proposed increase is now $29 instead of $35.  This would bring the total annual healthcare cost up from $180 to $209.

The current question also specifies several key points that the previous question did not, including “to ensure financial sustainability of the plan” as the reason for the increase and clarifies to students that the current benefit levels would remain the same. Also added in is a reminder that students have “the option to opt-out with full reimbursement”.