From the latest issue of The Sheaf (U of Sask Newspaper) ONLY PDF VERSION ONLINE
These are the articles on the CFS referendum at U of Sask. CFS has been distributing their materials at McMaster during this term and have an quiet but active campaign to try to get McMaster into the CFS. We are worth at least $285,000 dollars a year from students in just the regular fees let alone all the extra charges they have like the $5,000 fee to see the By-Laws!
As one will see in these articles, the CFS did a really sloppy job of stealing this referendum. Of course, they are not used to a mobilized NO campaign that forces them to change the rules as they go to try to “win” the referendum. I see this going to court, and I wish the NO campaign the best. The CFS has a large legal budget and are constantly in court suing students. It is a nice change to see that students will be taking the CFS to court.
Opponents looking to overturn results before ratification
After two weeks of campaigning, over 1,900 students at the U of S voted in favour of joining the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). USSU president Gavin Gardener was pleased with the result, calling it an extremely important victory for students. “I think students made the right decision,he says, we are effectively united for the first time in over twelve years and this gives us enormous power in a time when that power is needed more than ever before.”
Unification may have to wait, however. Robin Mowat, a former USSU president, is a key organizer for the NO campaign and he plans to challenge the results. “I’m not convinced that the outcome was a fair assessment of what U of S students actually want,” he says.
Mowat is challenging the results of the referendum, claiming the entire process was in fact in violation of both USSU and CFS bylaws. He is asking the Referendum Oversight Committee to nullify the results because of “constitutional infractions” that occurred during the referendum process.
Most notable among the alleged infractions is the verification of the referendum question itself. Both organizations, CFS and the USSU, require University Student Council to verify the question appearing on the ballot at least two weeks in advance of the first voting day. The question must also be given to the Chief Returning Officer in the same timeframe.
Council did not ratify the question until the Thursday before referendum and students did not see the question before entering the ballot box. This is in violation of both USSU and CFS bylaws and therefore the results of the referendum are illegal, says Mowat.
He also says this particular infraction was beneficial for the YES side, allowing them to get a head start on their campaign.
The Referendum Oversight Committee, the body mandated to run the referendum and monitor the campaigns, will decide whether or not to approve the results this week. Then the Elections Board needs to ratify that decision to make the results official. Mowat says he has no problem taking legal action if neither election body overturns the results.
It is unclear what action CFS or the USSU will take in response to these allegations. CFS Saskatchewan Chairperson Hillary Akinin insists that the referendum was conducted in good faith, and with the interests of students at heart. “This was a fair referendum and these results are in fact a reflection of what the majority of U of S students want,” she says.
Gardener believes the infractions can be found on the other side of the debate as well, claiming the NO side “did students a disservice by basing their campaign solely on mistruths,” insisting that “had [the NO campaign] been based on substance alone and on the issues that are at hand we would have seen a much smaller NO side.”
Gardener says the election process was a fair one. “We are dealing with two autonomous organizations, the CFS is independent and autonomous and the USSU is independent and autonomous. I think it is unfair to say that this was a process dominated by the CFS, or that it was a process that was set up by the CFS. It was conducted with the interests of the USSU in mind as well. It went through all the legitimate hoops.”
Another infraction Mowat points to is the lack of notification of the new fee for students that comes with membership on the ballot itself,something Mowat says has been long been USSU policy. Because Mowat insists stating any increase in fees on the ballot is standard USSU policy, failure to do so could be grounds for nullifying the results.
“When you add up all these procedural flaws that are built in because of CFS policies, you are bound to get a biased outcome,” Mowat says.
About 18 percent of the student population cast ballots in the referendum over the October 4-6 voting period. 55.4% of students voted in favour of the membership, while 44.6% were opposed.
In for the long haul
Amid confusion, referendum results far from final
In a heated political situation such as what we saw with the recent Canadian Federation of Students referendum, complaints arising from the campaign process are not uncommon. Professional student politician Robin Mowat, lead organizer for the NO campaign, is planning on contesting the referendum results based on technicalities found in both the USSU and CFS constitutions (see page A2). This all but guarantees several more weeks of CFS referendum coverage in the Sheaf, among other things. No doubt this week’s council meeting will deal with all the fallout from the referendum.
I expect councilors from Medicine and Vet Med, for example, would raise the issue of why their colleges weren’t deemed worthy of polling stations in their buildings. Councilors should also bring up the ambiguity of some referendum policies. The lack of clarification over spending limits for the YES and NO campaigns is one the more of egregious instances of policy grey areas.
First, according to the referendum policy distributed by the Referendum Oversight Committee (ROC), there was no rule on how much CFS or any other group could spend on their campaign.
Once people started campaigning and dropping big-time cash on full-page ads in the Sheaf, the ROC decided to put a cap on spending at $1,000. Both YES and NO campaigns blew their $1,000 wads on these large colour ads in this very paper, and they still had posters, pamphlets, buttons, candy and tshirts to declare.
Then ten days later in the Manitoban, the U of M student rag, CFS national chairperson George Soule was quoted as saying there are “no limits on spending” during the referendum.
NOTE THIS IS MY COMMENTARY HERE (outside of the blockquote): A little bit of a Freudian slip in the ‘Toban eh CFS? Come on, it is not free to fly in tons of CFS staff with their hotels, cars, food, and other misc expenses. Not to mention all the other CFS schools who pay for their executive to do the same thing. Plus all the CFS material that is distributed as “services to members” you are easy looking at over ten thousand dollars of student money being spent by CFS to secure more money for CFS. Nice way to waste the over $10 million dollars a year you take from students. Actually, I should become a CFS crony, there is a lot of money and free trips at other students expense in it for me if I do!
Indeed, that is only one example of the debris flying around in the ROC hurricane. Charged with running and monitoring the referendum, the ROC consists of two CFS representatives and two USSU reps, the Chief Returning Officer and the Assistant Returning Officer.
After a few threats with a broken gin bottle, I finally came into possession of a copy of the minutes from ROC meetings, and the problems during the shit-storm known as the CFS referendum became clear.
Four days into campaigning CRO Dorinda Stahl felt “the ship was sinking,” speaking to the state of the referendum. It’s not hard to understand why. From the beginning the ROC seemed to be playing things by ear when it came to constitutional conflicts and campaign violations. They made rushed decisions and were unprepared for the referendum, but it wasn’t by choice. USSU incompetence and CFS political games played a part in handicapping the ROC.
We’ve been prospective CFS members since last November, and University Student Council tried to deal with issues similar to what were dealt with in the past several weeks when the constitutional conundrums and the referendum process were debated at five hour council meetings.
With the decision to postpone the referendum to fall, instead of voting that spring, and with the new bylaw requiring council to meet at least once per summer month, the new USSU executive and new student councilors had roughly four months to set up the referendum.
They should have solved the constitutional crisis over how the USSU and CFS constitutions would deal with their different, or non-existent, referendum policies. But that wouldn’t have been complicated enough, which is how USC prefers to handle issues confronting them.
The legal opinion from the USSU solicitor, the basis for the lengthy and often heated debates last year, was stated in a letter and indicated the USSU and CFS constitutions needed to mesh and be in agreement in order for any referendum results to be legally recognized.
Written in large letters in the ROC minutes from September 18, the day before campaigning began, a big problem was stated: “AT NO TIME WERE THE CRO NOR THE ACRO MADE AWARE OF THIS LETTER FROM ANY REPRESENTIVE OR MEMBER OF THE USSU HAVING ONLY LEARNED OF IT ON THIS DAY”. It goes on to say this letter was of critical importance and the referendum could not be held as scheduled. In the end we kept that schedule, despite these problems.
It was five days later that “the ship was sinking” and it didn’t look like the coast guard was coming to the rescue.
Lucy Watson, one of the CFS reps on the ROC, at that same meeting, in a great ignorance is bliss moment, disagreed there were problems setting up the referendum last year and stated this year’s process “of establishing rules to govern the referendum campaign had been unfolding the way it should be”.
Things appeared to heat up on the ROC when discussing CASA’s involvement in a referendum campaign and the objectivity of Watson and Angela Reigner, the other CFS rep, was questioned by CRO Stahl, a fair question since Watson is a paid CFS staff member and both were heavily involved in the YES campaign. Stahl stated “she did not know that the [R]OC could work through its difference”.
Many students became aware of the referendum when YES campaigners and CFS reps visited classrooms to put forward their solidarity message. Questions were raised about the legality of campaigning in classrooms during lectures. It was clarified that campaigning could only take place before class, not during, but it’s not hard to find a student who can verify campaigners went well into class time with their spiels.
The CFS members on the ROC agreed both campaigns should not be going into classrooms during class time but the reality shows otherwise. It might be that the two CFSers weren’t aware of the infractions; nonetheless it remains true that people from YES and NO campaigns were cutting into lecture.
It’s clear the ROC was unprepared for the referendum, which wasn’t entirely their fault, and in the constant state of confusion was unable to properly address the concerns and issues arising during the campaign. Could this lead to the overturning of the referendum results when they go to the Elections Board for ratification? Who knows; Robin Mowat’s complaints mixed with those undoubtedly coming from councilors should put pressure on those involved with approving the results to seriously look at how the referendum was conducted.
Nice, CFS campaigners running the Elections. I do not know of any other election (expect dictatorship “elections”) where the elections board was allowed to be biased. If I had joined the MSU elections committee, I could not express any opinion on any potential election issue! I sure could not be out there campaigning if I was on the election committee. If any side accepts help from anyone on the committee, they are disqualified.
CFS is a little busy being crooked and immoral. It is immoral to rig an election in your favour CFS. Maybe instead of rigging elections and writting news releases cheering on the Ontario NDP who cannot be trusted with tuition, the CFS could… lets see, maybe work on the International Students file…. of course, there is no money for CFS in that.
Just think of all the fun we will have if CFS is successful in their underground campaign to get us into “prospective membership”. Then we can watch as CFS flies staff in from all over the country to make sure to drown the voices of McMaster Students. Then once they have rigged things that we are forced to pay them tons of money, they can take our money and waste it on forcing more students into paying them money. At least OUSA is actually working for us.
Top Ten things overheard during the CFS referendum
- I don’t really care who wins. What’s a CASA anyway?
- Fuck CFS and CASA, I voted for John Travolta!
- I’m too informed about the referendum, so I’m not going to vote.
- Wait a second, doesn’t CASA stand for the Central American Student Alliance?
MY COMMENTARY: I love it, they did at CFS’s
B.C.BS excuse for violating CIRA rules and cypersquating.
- I don’t really care who wins. What’s a CFS anyway?
- When did Mormons stop wearing suits and start caring about student politics?
- Wow, for a bunch of supposed communists CFS sure loves the capitalist tradition of suing the pants of people.
MY COMMENTARY: Love that line! CFS is the largest suer of students in Canada. Yeah, they represent students and how dare students try representing themselves cause CFS will sue them for that!
- Man I hope the results are overturned so I can read about CFS and CASA in the Sheaf for another month.
- “Liar!” “No, you’re lying”. “I don’t think so, you’re the liar”. “Stop lying!”. common discussion between YES and NO campaigners.
- CFS? Does that stand for Cum-Filled Socks?
The ending on that sucked but it was funny at points.
Letter to the Editor
Last week, students had their chance to voice their views on whether or not they felt the USSU should join the Canadian Federation of Students. An overwhelming majority of students sent the message that they could care less, and yet even though a majority of students did not vote in the referendum, we will be joining CFS.
What kind of message does it send when a majority of students do not vote to join an organization we know nothing about? Thankfully, some have pointed out in the Sheaf
that in order to see the constitution of CFS, we must first pay. An organization which talks about trying to lower student fees, is charging our students union $5,000 just to see their constitution? Something smells wrong there. CFS has had such a great record of democracy that they have taken legal action against universities that have simply done what they felt was best for their students and tried to withdraw from CFS. There is also the referendum that happened at the U of T in 2003, where the U of
T administrators felt the need to do an investigation into the referendum after CFS won the vote. The record of CFS is not a very good one. I know CFS says it’s for tuition
freezes, and tuition freezes do sound so nice, but without the provincial and federal government there to increase funding for the university, all we will see is increased university fees once the tuition freeze is gone. CFS likes to claim it took part in the current tuition freeze, but that is far from reality. I would like to think that joining CFS would be a good thing, but I know it’s not. Though it does bring me some comfort to know that the majority of students did not elect the past USSU executive who voted in favour of paying $5,000 in order to simply see the constitution of CFS, and to know that a majority of students did not support the U of S joining CFS. I wish that elections here at the U of S would require a majority of students voting in order for the results to be official, or else we will always have decisions made by the minority for the majority.