The 36 members of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council held their first meeting of the year on September 11. Council discussed the impending review of SSMU’s electoral bylaws, the upcoming Shatner building fee Fall referendum question, and the recent changes to food provision services at McGill.
Review of electoral bylaws
SSMU’s returning Chief Electoral Officer Ben Fung spoke before Council to present recommended changes to SSMU’s electoral bylaws, which he has been researching throughout the summer since last year’s electoral outcome. Among Fung’s suggestions were the introduction of a new demerit system, a shortening of the polling period, a switch to a preferential ballot voting system, and the creation of an elections review board.
The demerit system would create more transparency in judging campaigns for infractions – such as the exceeding of candidates’ campaign budgets and the hanging posters in prohibited locations – and imposing sanctions.
A change in the polling period from five to three days, Fung said, would “decrease the amount of overlap between campaigning and polling, as voters at the beginning of the voting period [wouldn’t] have less information about the candidates compared to voters who are voting at the end of the voting period.”
Fung also hopes to implement a preferential ballot voting system for future SSMU elections, which would allow for the transfer of a vote for a losing candidate to the voter’s second choice. Fung claimed this would be a better system than the current first-past-the-post system, which he called “not the most democratic or representative way of voting.” The change would have to be approved at a SSMU General Assembly, the first of which will be on October 22.
Motivated by feedback from students, Fung also stated that he wished to implement an elections review committee, to be convened “in very difficult judgement decisions in elections.” Fung indicated that he is unsure if the committee should be made up of councillors or of a pool of “unbiased members-at-large” of SSMU’s constituency.
In consideration of Fung’s investigation into the proposed bylaw changes, Council approved a motion for the creation of an ad hoc bylaw review committee to formalize the proposed changes.
“A number of changes need to be made,” said SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa.
Following last year’s loss of the Sustainability Coordinator position, Council also created an ad hoc Sustainability Committee, with the permanent institutionalization of the committee to be explored by the end of Winter 2015.
Building fee and changes to food provision
Council passed a motion for the creation of a ‘yes’ campaign committee for the Shatner building fee question on the first Fall referendum, to be held starting September 24. The referendum question will propose the creation of a fee levy of $5.78 per semester for full-time students to pay for the increased rent and utilities cost in the recently signed lease agreement between SSMU and the administration. The fee was previously rejected by students in the Winter 2014 referendum, and last year’s executive has been criticized for not having campaigned for the fee.
In her report to Council, VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan shared her plans to act regarding the diminishing amount of accessible food options on campus. “I’m aware that people are mad about the Tim Hortons,” Stewart-Kanigan said, referring to the replacement of the Tim Hortons in the Redpath library basement with the more expensive Première Moisson.
Stewart-Kanigan indicated that she will continue to meet with the Libraries in order to express student discontent with the changes. She cited the lack of student consultation as unacceptable, since the library is a space that is “virtually exclusively used by students.” While the Tim Hortons outlet is not likely to return to the basement of the Redpath Library, “cheaper options are a future possibility,” she said.