News | QPIRG “Yes” vote endorsement fails at SSMU Council

Original vote reconsidered following concerns of campaign violations

Last Thursday, SSMU Legislative Council voted not to endorse a ‘yes’ vote for the QPIRG existence referendum.

In addition to endorsing a ‘yes’ vote to QPIRG’s referendum question, the motion sought to send a special listserv encouraging students to vote in the elections.

The original vote, in which the motion passed, was reconsidered because of concerns of campaign violations, specifically related to VP Finance and Operations Shyam Patel’s involvement in the QPIRG ‘yes’ Committee and his ability to vote on the motion.

SSMU President Maggie Knight explained to The Daily that although members of Council had originally decided to allow Patel to vote, this was reconsidered in accordance with SSMU Chief Electoral Officer Hubie Yu’s interpretation of the election bylaws.

“Council had decided that there was no conflict of interest, but because the CEO’s way of enforcing things was to require that no campaign committee member can vote; once we became aware of that, we had to revise it,” said Knight.

“It is the CEO’s ultimate interpretation of how he or she wants to enforce [election bylaws]… and one of the principles in the bylaws is that you can’t use your position on any given body to forward your campaigning efforts if you’re part of ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ campaign, but that has been enforced in different ways in the past,” she added.

A second debate session and vote was held without the participation of Patel. The motion ultimately failed with 9 councillors voting in favour, 9 against and 1 abstention.

The debate in Council centred on whether it was appropriate for the SSMU to actively endorse a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum.

Law representative Ian Clarke expressed that “it is not in the SSMU’s role and place to speak out on a referendum”

“I find it disingenuous that SSMU offers to listen to students but then in an email say: ‘You know what we really want [is for] you to vote this way,’” said Clarke.

Education representative Kady Paterson also stated that “the EdUS [Education Undergraduate Society] told me to vote no… It is not that the EdUS doesn’t endorse the existence of QPIRG, but they don’t endorse the SSMU endorsing QPIRG,”

Clubs and Services representative Sahil Chaini explained that she supported the motion because of collaboration between SSMU and QPIRG.

“SSMU collaborates a lot with [QPIRG] with Culture Shock, Social Justice Days, and a lot of different clubs do collaborations with QPIRG; as well, they also support a lot of new SSMU clubs and services,” said Chaini.

Voting on QPIRG’s referendum question ends tomorrow night. The group is running its second referendum campaign this year after the results of its fall referendum question were declared invalid by the SSMU Judicial Board, who cited the question as unconstitutional on the grounds that it “deals with two issues, instead of one.”