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Live animals, demerits, and appeals

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UTSU elections are much more than speeches, debates, and posters. Candidates must follow a long list of rules, and face electoral and financial penalties for breaching them. Here’s a primer on the rules of this election and the people who enforce them.

Candidates and supervisors

The most visible electoral positions are the five executive spots: the UTSU president and vice-presidents. There are also four spots for at-large director candidates: students who represent multiple faculties collectively. There are two positions for each of these spots: professional faculties (e.g., education, nursing, pharmacy) and the Faculty of Arts and Science. The remaining 28 director spots represent colleges and faculties proportionally.

The nine-day nominations period ended last Thursday. Campaigning starts today and runs until March 10; voting takes place March 8–10. Results will be officially announced March 22, but are published online shortly after polls close.

The election is run by the Elections and Referenda Committee, a group of UTSU executives and directors who determine candidate eligibility, appoint a chief returning officer, and hear appeals to CRO rulings.

As per UTSU procedure, the ERC was formed at the beginning of the semester. Although the committee is to include UTSU’s president, VP internal and services, and VP university affairs, they are often replaced by other executives when planning to campaign or run in the election.

Candidates who unsuccessfully contest CRO rulings to the ERC can appeal to the Election and Referenda Appeals Committee, which consists of one staff or executive of the Graduate Students’ Union, ASSU, and a GTA university student union. ERC Chair Maria Galvez said one of the appointed members of the ERAC is ASSU President Gavin Nowlan.

“I got a call [from Galvez] saying we need someone,” said Nowlan. “I have no clue what’s going on at the moment. I think I’m on the committee but I haven’t received an email or a call or anything.”


Candidates are subject to the Elections Procedure Code, a 20-page document outlining everything from candidate eligibility to campaigning rules.

Candidates can be disqualified for breaching serious rules — soliciting student account PINs, or interfering in election processes — but most rule-breaking results in demerit points.

Demerit points are issued to candidates who violate the code, and points can lead to disqualification. Candidates who rack up more than 10 demerit points pay for each subsequent point.

The heaviest penalty possible is for “failure to comply with the spirit and purpose of the elections.” Other high-point violations include pre-campaigning, “gross misrepresentation of facts,” and “malicious or intentional violation” of the code.

Candidates must produce receipts for all campaign materials to prove they don’t exceed allotted spending limits. Candidates for executive positions are reimbursed for their materials based on the vote they receive. If an executive candidate amasses 25 per cent or more of all votes, they can be reimbursed $1,200 — the maximum amount they’re allowed to campaign with.

Some rules are meticulously detailed. Posters must be recyclable and can’t be laminated or high-gloss. “Live animals” cannot be used for campaigning.

Under the code, candidates can be issued demerit points for the actions of “non-arm’s-length parties,” defined as “an individual or group that a candidate know, or reasonably ought to have known, would assist that candidate in his/her campaign.” In past years, demerit points have been issued after friends of candidates were accused of intimidating other candidates.

The code was updated last February. Among the more controversial changes was a fair play policy that forbids “any attempt to undermine the authority of the CRO” or the ERC. Another change forbids “campaigning where alcohol is served.”

The current CRO’s second ruling surrounded a complaint after Danielle Sandhu, who is running for president, was collecting signatures at Sammy’s Student Exchange, where alcohol is served. The CRO ruled that collecting signatures does not count as campaigning.

Meet the CRO

This year’s CRO is Daniel Lo. Lo graduated from UTM in 2007 before studying and working in the UK.

In an email, UTSU University Affairs VP Maria Galvez said the position was advertised on both UTSU’s website and for a month. She says Lo was the most qualified of three applicants.

“He is not a member of the union, is a recent graduate from law school, and worked as a poll clerk in the union’s fall by-election, where he has familiarized himself with the union’s bylaws, policy, and Elections Procedure Code.”

Lo, whose term started on January 25, told The Varsity in an email that he feels “excited and confident” about his term as CRO. He believes his work and education will help with the job.

“I have had experience with project and personnel management through the operation of a franchise business. My legal education and legal work experiences have contributed towards my ability to interpret legislation, and draft fair and justified rulings.”

Lo said he has never been part of any political movement.