Like many students, I am not a fan of election season. I am not a fan of being stopped in the halls and being actively told to vote for this or that, or seeing our once-pristine halls strewn with yes–or-no propaganda. This year has been particularly disappointing for me, as we have seen two referenda run under Schedule A, which allows UTMSU to run questions without first requiring proven student support for the question (in the form of petitions from students), and also partially subverts requirements for identifying in advance members of the yes committee and campaign materials. It also allows referenda to be run at any time of the year, drastically increasing their costs to students due to the requirement of additional poll clerks and other staff.
What really frustrates me is the that the union is not impartial on these referenda, and in fact cannot be due to the nature of the Referenda Charter, which requires them to take a supportive stance on referenda run under Schedule A. In my mind, this is a serious problem. Who is running the referenda? UTMSU. Who is running the yes campaign? UTMSU. Who is the yes campaign accountable to? UTMSU.
Don’t get me wrong; I support the U-Pass, but not a U-Pass referendum run by and accountable to UTMSU, when their opinion is clearly one-sided. And where members of the Elections and Referenda committee (EaRC) voted to endorse and are still publicly endorsing and campaigning, despite holding seats that require impartiality. After the controversy surrounding the EaRC committee during last year’s executive bi-election I would have hoped that UTMSU would know better by now, but this strikes me as on par with making 67 demerit points disappear.
Next Monday, November 29, is the Annual General Meeting for UTMSU and one of the few opportunities given to students to hold the union’s policy accountable. If any part of my letter stoked your interest I hope to see you there.