Correction appended March 13
Clubs and Services Councillor Maggie Knight won the 2011 SSMU presidential election in a landslide victory over Speaker of Council Cathal Rooney-Céspedes on Friday night. Knight won with 67.2 per cent of the student vote, with Rooney-Céspedes pulling in 25.8 per cent.
Only 21 per cent of undergraduates – or 4,172 students – voted in the elections.
“It’s good to feel that I won by a decent margin. I’m really excited by the team, a lot of the races were really close,” said Knight. “I think a lot of the other candidates will do a good job too, but I’m incredibly excited about this team going forward.”
“Maggie’s going to do an incredible job – I wish her the best of luck. The only downfall of next year’s executive is that they can’t have both Maggie and I working for them,” said Rooney-Céspedes.
Acclaimed candidate Joël Pedneault won VP External with an approval of 80.3 per cent of the student vote. Current VP External Myriam Zaidi was elated with the result.
“I’m really glad that Joël will have a team that supports him on many of them have campaigns against tuition hikes, and I know that he won’t be alone next year. What I really like about the team is that they’re all progressive people – and that’s good because that’s what our generation should be,” she said.
Carol Fraser, Midnight Kitchen volunteer coordinator and the only SSMU outsider to be elected, was shocked by the results in the closest race, in which she won VP Clubs and Services by a margin of 0.7 per cent – or just 29 votes.
“I’m looking forward to working with all the people that got elected, I think we’ll have a really solid team. I’m genuinely pleasantly surprised – it was a really close race, my opponent ran a really good race and was just as good a candidate as I, but I’m really happy to win,” she said. “I’m happy to work for students. SSMU has given so much to me and I’m excited to give back that much more.”
Current VP Clubs and Services Anushay Khan stressed that the transition month between this year’s and next year’s executive was of paramount importance to the position.
“There’s a lot to learn in this position, a lot of institutional memory, with the politics of opt-outs and student space. No matter what candidate won tonight, the most emphasis should be placed on that month,” said Khan.
Current SSMU Equity Committee member and AUS VP External Todd Plummer also won by a tight margin, winning with 25.4 per cent of the vote and edging out Education Councillor and former Daily editor Kady Paterson by 45 votes for the position of VP Internal. SSMU outsider Natalie Talmi pulled a close third at 24 per cent of the vote.
SSMU Funding Coordinator Shyam Patel had a clear-cut victory over last-minute addition to the election, U2 Management student Stefan Zuba Prokopetz.
Equity Commissioner Emily Clare beat Science Councillor Lauren Hudak by an 11.8 per cent margin, and expressed excitement over the incoming Senate caucus. It will comprise Matt Crawford and Jason Leung for Arts, and Max Luke and Annie Ma for Science. Single seats went to Daily editor Tom Acker for Management, Usman bin Shahid for Engineering, and Sameer Apte for Medicine. Emil Briones, Ian Clarke, Haley Dinel, and Ryan Hirsch ran unopposed, and were approved to represent Music, Law, Religious Studies, and Dentistry, respectively.
“I think the group will be good – but honestly, before I make any kind of judgment, I want to meet with them and see how they interact with one another, see how they feel,” said Clare. “What matters more is how Senate caucus interacts with each other than how I feel about them.”
All referenda questions passed, including increases for the ambassador and Midnight Kitchen fees, renewed funding for Nightline, Queer McGill, and the Union for Gender Empowerment, and the creation of a McGill International Student Network fee. TVMcGill will receive an extra $1.00 per year.
TVMcGill president Carter Li explained that the increase was vital to the existence of the service.
“If we didn’t get this referendum again after just a year [of having the opt-outable fee], we would have to go back to our usual SSMU-provided budget of $4 to 5,000 a year, which barely covers anything to repair our equipment, let alone get anything new,” said Li. “We’re a service and we provide a service to the McGill community – that’s why it was so important for us, it essentially dictates our existence.”
Carol Fraser indicated that the creation of an opt-outable Midnight Kitchen fee was similarly essential to the continued existence of the volunteer-run lunch collective.
Chief Electoral Officer Tais McNeill explained that voter turnout was slightly lower than the previous year, when 28 per cent of students voted, but said that he was “pretty happy” overall.
“I was looking back at some of the records of previous elections, it really seems to be the contentiousness of the race that drives turnout,” said McNeill. “Considering we had a very civil campaign period and no referenda campaigns that were tense, I think that it was a really good turnout.”