UTSU has decided to reschedule its spring elections after a dispute over the dates with UTMSU.
Following UTMSU’s online and in-print announcement of its spring elections date to be held from March 7 to 9, UTSU’s VP professional faculties Ryan Gomes sent an email to UTMSU’s president Nour Alideeb on January 28 to discuss the dates, saying that it was not what the two unions had agreed on.
The discussion between the two union representatives over the Spring elections date emerged by January 18. In a set of emails provided to The Medium by Gomes, Alideeb messaged Gomes on January 18 saying, “[…] we were hoping to have our voting days from March 21st to the 23rd.” She added that with additional student elections taking place, the beginning of March would be difficult for UTMSU elections. She asked Gomes if UTSU would be able to schedule their elections for an earlier date.
On January 19, Gomes responded by telling Alideeb that UTSU also ran into difficulty with scheduling their elections due to “conflicting elections and events from other societies in March.” He added, “I think it would be best for us to move our election dates[…]specifically March 28th-30th, so that you can still utilize the March 21st – 23rd dates.”
On January 24, Alideeb sent an email to Gomes requesting a phone call to “finalize the details” of the election dates. Gomes responded on January 25 by letting Alideeb know that “I did set the dates that I mentioned earlier (March 28th – 30th) at our ERC meeting last Friday,” to which Alideeb responded the following day with, “Okay not a problem—I just wanted to confirm dates.”
On January 28, Gomes reached out to Alideeb to question the election dates set by UTMSU. “You can imagine my shock and frustration to learn yesterday that the election dates UTMSU has set are not what was communicated to us,” Gomes wrote to Alideeb. “[…] I am unsure as to why you communicated such a blatant lie to us, and I am forced to conclude that this was done in bad faith.”
Alideeb wrote to Gomes on January 30 regarding the timing of the election. “At no point in the emails I sent did I confirm the UTMSU election dates. I made a recommendation. You emailed me on Thursday, January 19th, when you knew I would have limited access to my email because I was away for the CFS Ontario General Meeting,” she wrote. “[…] I emailed you on Tuesday, January 24th asking to discuss this matter over the phone, before confirming them with my own EARC. But to my surprise and with no confirmation whatsoever, you proceeded to approve the following voting dates (March 28th-30th) for the UTSU elections.
“I do not understand why you went ahead with so much haste considering that you would have been able to present the dates to your Board of Directors and still submit notice in February,” she added. “Now, your dates have already been ratified at your January board meeting which took place at UTM on January 27th. Had you waited for a confirmation from me, I would have explained a number of concerns I have with the timing of the elections.”
Alideeb, this year’s Election and Referenda Committee chair, emailed The Medium saying that she and Gomes did not “consult effectively,” which resulted in voting dates being set a few weeks apart.
“For my part, I was trying to consult with Ryan in order to find dates that would avoid voter fatigue and maximize voter turnout at both elections,” Alideeb told The Medium. “Ryan and I did not consult effectively, and the voting dates got set a few weeks apart, with both parties perceiving that they were blindsided by the dates set by the other for their respective elections.”
In Alideeb’s January 30 response to Gomes, she expressed her concerns regarding the timing of the election. Her concerns included “numerous elections and events taking place in the month of March,” “Club and Academic Society elections take place throughout the entire month as we have over 100 clubs and 19 academic societies,” and “To avoid voter fatigue and to ensure maximum participation in both the UTMSU and UTSU elections, the UTMSU EARC proceeded with the voting dates listed on the flyer you sent me.”
According to Alideeb, Gomes proceeded to confirm the dates with UTSU’s Elections and Referenda Committee prior to confirming the dates with her.
In the email on January 30, Gomes wrote to Alideeb, “I’ll note that the onus was on you to ensure that you gave me feedback in a timely fashion.
“The Bylaws note consultation only with you [Alideeb], the UTMSU’s EARC chair, and not anyone else,” Gomes continued. “If you were able to provide misleading feedback initially and then backtracked without informing me, that is your responsibility.
“You provided me with dates and I followed through on that—to change them afterwards is deception, plain and simple,” he added. “These elections affect all of our 55,000 members, and I have to take all of them into account while honouring the Associate Agreement. I suggest you do the same now and moving forward.”
When asked why UTMSU decided on these dates, Alideeb told The Medium that the early date would allow students “a break” in between the UTMSU and UTSU elections.
“When speaking with UTM students, a number of individuals complained that last year’s [elections] were overwhelming because the UTMSU elections and UTSU elections were right after another,” Alideeb said. “Both elections are of utmost importance, and they must be as accessible, open, and democratic as possible. We wanted to minimize voter fatigue and increase voter turnout.”
UTSU held an emergency board meeting on February 3, in which they amended the date of their elections so that the physical and electronic campaign period will take place from March 6 to March 14 and 16, respectively, and the voting period will take place from March 14 to March 16.
Alideeb told The Medium that UTMSU expressed its concerns regarding the dates UTSU selected, which she said would “negatively impact” the “over 13,500 [UTM members].” She also stated that UTMSU suggested another timeline for UTSU’s nomination period, but “the UTSU board decided to ignore that and voted to proceed with the dates that our UTM representatives spoke against.”
Alideeb added that the UTSU does not consider UTMSU in regards to elections and participation.
“It’s a shame that we were and continue to be ignored. The EARCs for both unions must work towards that instead of obfuscating UTM students and creating confusion,” Alideeb said. “What it seems to us is that Ryan Gomes does not want UTM students to actively participate in the UTSU elections. He went around the Elections and Referenda Committee of the UTSU to change the dates as he saw fit.”
According to Article 1.4 of the Associate Membership Agreement between UTSU and UTMSU, each union has to agree to use its “best efforts to ensure that their respective annual general elections and by-elections are held concurrently.”
“By setting your dates contrary to what was communicated, you appear to have violated this agreement by falling far short of best efforts,” Gomes wrote to Alideeb on January 28. “I am not a part of the management committee, but this is most certainly the basis for a potential grievance.”
Gomes told The Medium that UTSU will be filing a grievance against UTMSU for breaching the agreement, but Alideeb stated that UTMSU hasn’t heard about it, as of press time.