The 2014 UTSU election is off to a rocky start. Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Alex Flor has blocked Team Unite from putting up posters, or posting its website — citing concerns over one part of their platform.
“There were initially some concerns that the CRO had that were brought to our attention,” said Vip Vigneswaran, campaign manager for Unite. “Namely, the issue was that our platform states that students annually pay $345.48 to the union.”
According to Vigneswaran, the CRO called this statement a misrepresentation, and rejected the platform as a result. Unite was therefore only allowed to publish its social media profile pictures and cover photos. It is not allowed to publish its website, or any other materials advertising its platform. Vigneswaran explained the conflict: “She says that it’s false that students pay $345 to the union annually. She says that only $17 per semester are paid to the union.”
The difference between the two sums, he said, is that much of the $345 goes to the health and dental insurance plans funded by the UTSU. Ye Huang, Unite’s candidate for president, said this makes the platform true. “We give UTSU $345.48 to deploy. So they collect this amount of money from us, and then they use it,” said Huang. He said that this number is the result of simply adding the four line items on the Repository Of Student Information’s (ROSI) invoice that reference the UTSU.
According to ROSI members of the UTSU pay $124.34 for dental insurance, $14.90 for the student commons, $68.24 for a fee labeled “UTSU”, and $138 for health insurance.
The four line items total $345.48 annually.
The CRO stated that if Unite were to publish this statement, it would receive demerit points, said Huang. As of press time, approximately 10 hours after campaigning began, Flor had requested that Unite make further revisions to its platform, which it has submitted. Unite are still not permitted to publish it. Vigneswaran says that this request came after multiple attempts to reach the CRO. “We brought it to the attention of the DROs [Deputy Returning Officer]; the DROs are the only representatives of the CRO on campus right now,” said Vigneswaran, “but they don’t have the power or the authority to approve campaign materials.”
In the interim, Flor made a statement to The Varsity: “At this point, almost all candidates have had inaccuracies in their submitted campaign materials, and prior to gaining approval to use the materials for campaigning, these inaccuracies need to be resolved,” she said. “In regards to the statement made by Unite that students pay $345.49 [sic] to UTSU, I have requested a change due to the fact that the statement as phrased on the campaign material is misleading.”
“I think next time when they recruit a CRO,” said Huang, “they should recruit someone who is available for the whole day, every day during the campaign and voting period, rather than hiring someone with a second job.”
The CRO is responsible for administering the election. She is responsible for scrutinizing vote counting, approving campaign materials and expenses, and assigning demerit points for conduct during the campaign.