The recent vote on the Graduate Students’ Union’s (GSU) continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the CFS-Ontario (CFS-O) did not reach quorum, according to referendum Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Stephen Littley.
The quorum requirement for the vote was 10 per cent of eligible voters.
The referendum question asked: “Are you in favour of continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Student and the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario?”
According to sources involved in the campaigns, over 66 per cent of voting members voted “No.”
“[T]he total number of eligible voters was 16,056 putting quorum at 1,606. The total number of votes cast was 1,599,” reads a message posted on the CRO’s website.
“The vote, therefore, was not quorate,” the message continues.
As of press time, the final results could not be released until administration confirmed double enveloped ballots that will then be counted.
Alastair Woods, CFS-O chairperson, confirmed the CRO’s message. “According to the Chief Returning Officer, the referendum did not quorate, and so the referendum process has completed,” Woods says.
Members of the GSU have been fighting for the chance to decertify from the CFS since at least September 2013, when a petition was submitted to the CFS.
The petition was rejected just weeks before the referendum to vote was scheduled to take place. A GSU Litigation Committee reached a settlement with the CFS in October.
The GSU has no formal position on its status as a member of the CFS, nationally or provincially.
Brad Evoy, an organizer with the “No” Campaign, contends that, in the campaign’s view, they have met the needed threshold for quorum.
Evoy says that the next stages will be to have CFS and CFS-O recognize the will of members.
“The claims of the Federation are statistically insignificant, and derived from questionable numbers and suspect processes. However illegitimate, the CFS is doing (and will do) whatever it can to deny the democratic will of students,” Evoy says.
“This vote is the single strongest mandate the UTGSU has had — in terms of voters engaged — in the past decade and that mandate is to leave the CFS,” he adds.
“Now will be decision-time on a lot of issues at UTGSU and the future of the union rests on this question,” Evoy says, adding: “For me, what I’d like to see is a GSU that takes this mandate as a charge to build new bridges, to take charge on lobbying and on broader strategies of action.”
Voting was held between Monday, November 24 and Friday, November 28.
Graduate full-time enrolment in Ontario in 2012–2013 was 56,188 students.
A number of University of Toronto divisions, including the Engineering Society, the Trinity College Meeting, and Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC), passed referenda in favour of fee diversion from the CFS-affiliated University of Toronto Students’ Union in March 2013.