Results announced Feb. 13; follow the Fulcrum online for further coveragePhoto by Marc Jan
The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) elections raised a number of talking points among candidates as one slate was penalized, another raised some concern about vacation use, and the General Assembly (GA) referendum took on more forceful opposition.
The SFUO elections conclude Feb. 13 with the results to be announced late that night. This year’s election contained three slates — Student Action, 1Campus, and the new Super Party — and two independent candidates. The candidate debates brought students out to SITE on Feb. 4 and the UCU Agora on Feb. 5.
Candidates sanctioned for elections misconduct
Chief electoral officer Melanie Large said the elections office has “given out a number of sanctions” to almost all candidates and affiliations.
“I wouldn’t be able to give you a firm list of every single sanction that has been given,” Large said.
“In the cases of 1Campus and Student Action, these major infractions have been against both individual candidates as well as the affiliation as a whole,” she added, in an email to the Fulcrum. “In the case of Super Party, these have been towards an individual candidate on the affiliation and not the affiliation as a whole.”
Anne-Marie Roy, who is currently the SFUO president and running for re-election, called the Student Action infractions “very minor.”
“It happens, right. Posters go up on the wrong walls by accident, or online stuff goes up that isn’t 100 per cent perfectly billingual,” Roy said.
She added that she does not know of any other sanctions against her individual slate members, nor the slate as a whole.
Super Party slate members said they were also unaware of any sanctions filed against their slate.
The 1Campus slate was penalized for pre-campaigning and misplacements of posters in residence. Both sanctions were appealed.
The slate’s Facebook page and website were discovered by the elections office the week preceding the campaign period. 1Campus was notified of the infractions on Jan. 30 and they were made official Feb. 1. The infraction barred the slate from putting up candidate posters on campus for 4.5 hours after the campaign period began. The election office’s decision was upheld in the appeal.
Hanna Fazal, an official representative for 1Campus, said the time penalty was “really unfortunate” and “unfair.” According to Fazal, no one previously affiliated with 1Campus was running in the general elections.
She said the name 1Campus was created in October for the by-elections. The slate attempted to take down the website, but the site’s administrator didn’t know how. While no one affiliated with the original 1Campus slate is re-running, Fazal and Thomas Simpson, another 1Campus representative, were a part of the slate the first time around.
Large said the elections office became aware of “a number of searchable webpages,” including 1Campus.ca, and social mediathat “offered information about 1Campus’ platform and their point of view” after the list of official candidate’s list had been posted.
Fazal said she was under the impression the original Facebook page was taken down. She added that while she was an administrator on the page, she didn’t have the authority to remove it.
Additionally, vp university affairs candidate Kaitlynne-Rae Landry claimed 1Campus’ posters were approved and tacked in residence by the Residence Resource Centre, but the slate was later penalized for poster misplacement.
She said the slate had to hand in 50 of their posters in consequence, and they were barred from posting on social media until 4 p.m. on Feb. 11.
“Given that the infraction is under appeal with the elections committee, I wouldn’t be able to comment on it until they’ve made a decision,” Large said.
Student Action takes vacation days to campaign
Members of the current executive, running as the Student Action slate, took vacation days to campaign and avoid penalties for campaigning while in office. Katya Moussatova, a Board of Administration member for the Faculty of Social Sciences, said the move was “really clever,” and that it’s ultimately their vacation, and they’re entitled to take it whenever they like.
“Where I don’t agree is that we’re smack in the middle of a school year right now,” she said. “There are things that need to get signed, events need to get planned, the world doesn’t stop because elections are happening. They can take their vacation whenever they like, I just don’t think a stall should be put on the functions of the university for just the elections.”
Roy said that while she took vacation days to run for re-election, she is working on SFUO tasks when she is not campaigning.
“We did take some vacation days to be able to invest a lot of time in campaigning,” she said. “We’ve also set up mechanisms at the office to make sure our staff’s needs while we’re away campaigning are also met.
“I still have to go to the office and sign cheques and try to keep up with my emails as much as possible,” she added.
Campaign against GAs mobilizes efforts
The question of whether to establish GAs as the highest governing body at the undergraduate level on campus, a role currently held by the BOA, will again go to referendum in the elections. Unlike the by-election campaign, the “no” campaign has mobilized efforts in time for the general elections.
Last fall, the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM), formerly called the Marxist Students’ Association petitioned and obtained more than 1,700 signatures to hold the referendum. The referendum failed in the by-elections due to low voter turnout.
Jean-Philippe Ouellet, spokesperson for the RSM, said during the Feb. 4 debate in the SITE building that the lack of student awareness on the topic is what caused the referendum to not meet quorum.
Alex Boettger, BOA member for the Faculty of Arts, is against GAs and is part of the now official “no” campaign. Boettger said members of the campaign will visit smaller classrooms to sway votes and educate students about the GA. He added that they are using posters tacked up on campus and a website.
Boettger said he is against GAs because he believes 400 people still don’t represent the other approximately 34,000 students at the U of O.
“(There are) better ways than a General Assembly as the highest defending body,” he said. “I would have been OK if (we had) General Assemblies to just share information because that was already in the constitution. It was just never respected.”
Boettger said the feasibility and fiscal costs of holding GAs are also a concern.
“It’ll be hard to mobilize students and there aren’t that many spaces that can accommodate these students,” he said. “If we don’t get quorum, everything just gets moved. In terms of legal reasons, you need to have your audits passed and have things done as per the Corporations Act and these will not take place.”
Although Roy doesn’t think it’s going to be “a walk in the park,” she is in favour of GAs and doesn’t think “logistics should get in the way of direct democracy.”
“I think with technology, with access to several rooms, with the Convention Centre not too far from campus, I think there are many options we can look into to make sure as many students as possible can participate in the General Assemblies,” she said.
Roy said the debate is about the SFUO’s willingness to make sure students are satisfied with the democratic process currently in place.
“I’m ready to go far,” she said. “I’m ready to overcome the logistical challenges that might be ahead if GAs are adopted to the SFUO.”