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New PGSS VP considers dissolving lobby group

It’s time to change the provincial lobbying strategy of the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS), according to VP External & Governmental Affairs-elect Adrian Kaats.

Kaats – elected over opponent Melanee Thomas by only 13 votes out of the 1,050 cast, according to results released Wednesday morning – was dissatisfied with PGSS’s current interaction with the provincial government.

“We don’t engage the provincial government or lobbying groups,” he said.

PGSS is currently part of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), and therefore automatically part of the federation’s Quebec section, CFS-Q. This year’s and next year’s executive have considered dissolving CFS-Q in order to afford membership in la Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ).

With fees 30 per cent lower than CFS-Q and 16 members throughout the province, Kaats pointed out the advantages of joining FEUQ.

“[FEUQ] is the most powerful [provincial] lobby in the country. The main element is how many people are involved, how widely it covers the province, and the diversity of the membership,” he said.

John Ashley Burgoyne was elected PGSS President, winning over opponent Roland Nassim by only 53 votes. Burgoyne thought plans to dissolve CFS-Q were premature, but looked forward to working with the executive to come to a decision on the issue.

“The entire executive and the graduate student body as a whole are implicated in the process. Over the next few months, we’ll be building an executive team to make an important decision about that,” he said.

The PGSS currently pays $45,000 annually to CFS and $22,500 to CFS-Q. The PGSS cannot withdraw from CFS-Q while maintaining membership in CFS.

Pleased with the performance of CFS in federal lobbying, Kaats explained that the only way to escape financial responsibility toward CFS-Q is to dissolve it as a component of the CFS.

Nassim, the current PGSS VP External, hoped to discuss the dissolution of CFS-Q during a CFS meeting in May.

Nassim said that CFS-Q’s limited membership base of just four anglophone Montreal student unions puts the organization at a disadvantage during negotiations with the Quebec government.

“Four is a small number, and the members are local – specific in their constituencies in Montreal, which prevents your ability to lobby,” he said.

The Concordia Student Union, the Graduate Students’ Association of Concordia University, and the Dawson Student Union are the other three members of CFS-Q.

Kaats stressed the decision to dissolve CFS-Q in order to financially accommodate membership in FEUQ would ultimately come from a student referendum.

“I didn’t say that we were going to secure membership with the FEUQ. I just think it’s a possibility,” he said.

Out of the five positions on the PGSS executive, only President and VP External were decided through an election. Eric Pollanen was acclaimed as VP Finance and Alexander DeGuise acclaimed as VP Academic. No one ran for VP Internal, so the position will be appointed by Council on Wednesday.

The election turnout was 16 per cent of the PGSS membership, with 6,555 eligible to vote.