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Student levies funding CFS campaign against Fair Elections Act

How would you feel if you were involuntarily forced to fund political activities you disagreed with? For university students, this situation is a reality — one that we have passively accepted for far too long.

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), which receives funding from student levies from the student federations of the University of Ottawa and other Canadian universities, has joined forces with advocacy groups Leadnow and the Council of Canadians to produce an advertisement criticizing the Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act.

The advertisement claims that “Bill C-23 will bring US-style voter suppression to Canada,” and nicknames the bill, “the [Un]fair Elections Act.”

The CFS website encourages students to oppose the bill, lamenting that “the Conservative government has attempted to make these changes with zero public consultation.” Ironically, I don’t remember being consulted when the CFS decided to spend my money on an ad that criticizes a policy I happen to support.

A friend of mine was appalled to see this clip as an in-stream advertisement on a YouTube music video. The fact that the producers of this video actually paid for it to be displayed as an advertisement seems like a poor use of funds.

On top of that, the ad contains misleading assertions about the Fair Elections Act. It claims that the provisions strip power from the Elections Commissioner so election criminals “may never be brought to justice.” A few minutes of research will reveal that this claim is a misleading over-simplification of the bill’s intent.

As the Globe and Mail’s Josh Wingrove and Chris Hannay explained in their March 25 article, “Everything you need to know about the Fair Elections Act,” the bill would simply transfer the commissioner “out of Elections Canada and into the officer of the Director of Public Prosecutions,” as a safeguard against potential conflict of interest in cases where the Chief Electoral Officer’s own staff comes under investigation. Contrary to the CFS’s  claims, the bill will not prevent election fraud from being investigated and prosecuted.

But whether you support the Fair Elections Act, do you think it is right for the CFS to use your money to feed you misinformation?

As reported in Julia Riddle’s “Banking on the SFUO” article in the Fulcrum, out of the $87.69 student levy that every U of O student has to pay each semester, around $7.81 per student goes to the CFS. That’s a significant amount of money that could be better used for university services that students can actually access, not self-righteous and futile activism.

Putting money from our student levies towards partisan campaigns does all students a disservice, and we should stand up and demand reform.