A motion to censure SSMU VP External Joël Pedneault failed Thursday night during SSMU Legislative Council.
The final vote count – conducted by secret ballot – was 11 for, 11 against, and one abstention.
Councillors Raphael Uribe Arango, Isabelle Bi, Haley Dinel, Meredith Driesberg, Joshua Fagen, Justin Fletcher, Hector Hernandez, Julia Kryluk, and Kady Paterson moved the motion. It cited claims of “SSMU money being used for printing and publishing propaganda used to influence the AUS GA results” and “students being granted after-hours access to the SSMU office” as some of the reasons to censure Pedneault.
The motion also referred to the five-day ban from campus imposed on Pedneault by Associate Dean of Arts André Costopoulos.
Pedneault spoke to campus media soon after the decision was made. He stated that he believed the motion was unwarranted.
“I still think the motion to censure was unwarranted; it was a sad day in the history of SSMU. People went way beyond the pale and moved for something that involved me personally in a very serious way,” said Pedneault.
“I don’t think people raised issues in the right way,” he continued.
Before the motion was moved, several members of the gallery addressed Pedneault during question period.
One of these students was Brendan Steven, a U2 Political Science student involved with the McGill Moderate Political Action Committee (ModPAC).
Steven explained to The Daily what the intention of this was “to lay out step by step the abuses that have happened in the [External] portfolio this year.”
“The way he’s gone about his portfolio has been extremely divisive and I think tonight is a clear indication of where that has gone,” said Steven.
A ModPAC press release stated that “a motion to censure SSMU VP External Joel Pednault [sic] for abuse of office tied 11 – 11. The result of the vote sends a strong message that the VP External has politicized his office, subsidizing and benefiting Mob Squad activists on the student dime.”
Kady Paterson, Education representative to SSMU and former Daily Production and Design editor, said that the motion arose as result of constituents’ concerns.
“I think we tried to get our voices heard. I don’t think we really got to in a full extent, [because] we had a difficult gallery,” said Paterson.
Around twenty students were present in the gallery for debate on the motion, many of whom were visibly upset at comments made by Council. Councillors suggested multiple times that members of the gallery compose themselves, and the option of moving the discussion to an in-camera session was voted down by a narrow margin.
“I am pleased with the way the vote went, I guess it’s the best we could have hoped for. We have no hard feelings against [Pedneault] at all, it’s just the actions, not the person,” Paterson added.
President Maggie Knight spoke against the motion during Council, expressing her disagreement with the way issues were brought forth.
“I’m not sure it is appropriate to wait until this point of the year and then have a personal motion to censure. There should have been a motion saying we want you not to do this,” said Knight.
Knight supported Pedneault after she stated that he was acting under the SSMU mandates and was not breaching SSMU procedures.
“If a student activist is involved in supporting a SSMU campaign that is affiliated with the SSMU mandate, it is appropriate for the student to have access to be printing,” said Knight, referring to one of the accusations in the motion.
Athletics representative Hector Hernandez spoke for the motion to censure Pedneault.
“Coming from The [United] States, and having paid a lot of money to go to school, [tuition hikes] don’t affect me a lot. And I feel like there are a lot of people on campus that are in the same boat,” said Hernandez.
“Being a public figure you cannot impose your own agenda on people that have different agendas,” he continued.
Clubs and Services representative Adam Winer spoke against censuring Pedneault, and addressed Hernandez’s comments.
“I think that this evening I have seen unwarranted attacks on VP Pedneault specifically. [Hernandez] said he was imposing an agenda, if people were uncomfortable with his platform when he ran, then perhaps people should have run against him,” said Winer, referencing Pedneault’s acclaimed candidacy in last year’s SSMU elections.
Pedneault stated he will not cease to support the strike against tuition hikes.
“I’ll continue supporting the strike in all the ways that I can with respect to SSMU mandates,” he said.