Thoughts on the CFS referendum at uGuelph

Students at the University of Guelph will vote starting later today on their membership in the Canadian Federation of Students. The vote follows a court order which was required after the Canadian Federation of Students stonewalled students at Guelph in order to prevent the vote from occurring.

A couple of things jump out at me about this vote and the precedents they set in CFS referendums.

  1. The vote is being held, as per the court order, over three days.

This overrides the CFS preference for two days of voting and is advantageous towards the NO (non-CFS) side in the vote. The CFS has a virtually unlimited budget and parachutes full-time campaigners into local referendums, whereas the non-CFS side must rely on grassroots students to volunteerarly man their campaign. With dozens of full-time non-student campaigners, the CFS is being able to mobilize their votes in a short period of time whereas the grassroots campaign must content with volunteers unable to skip academic requirements to mobilize votes. The more time the volunteers have to spread their message, the more likely they will fully mobilize their voters.

The fact the court ordered a three-day campaign sets a precedent which can be used against the CFS in the future.

  1. Online voting

A major issue in the Canadian Federation of Students referendum at the University of Saskatchewan was online voting. The Canadian Federation of Students would not allow an online voting option for students at USask. Online voting at USask is primarily used by professional programs such as nursing and engineering. Students in these programs are often attending off-campus placements and unable to vote on-campus.

With an entire court-ordered vote being conducted using online voting, the CFS is unlikely to be able to stop future online voting from occurring in a manner determined by local need.

  1. The court order itself

The courts are clearly willing to step in to ensure fairness in the process of CFS referendums and have ignored CFS bylaw six. Case law is being built that clearly favours the rights of students to conduct votes on CFS membership provided they follow the concepts of natural justice.