The Varsity has learned that the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) elections, Bridgette Dalima, has ties to We the Students Presidential candidate Andre Fast.
Dalima worked at the constituency office of the NDP MP Craig Scott when he represented Toronto—Danforth until his defeat in the 2015 federal elections, while Fast was involved in the Toronto—Danforth NDP Riding Association.
Fast was a volunteer for Scott during the time in which Dalima was his Constituency Assistant (Outreach). They are pictured in the same 2012 brochure, released after Scott’s election. Fast volunteered for Scott up until the 2015 federal election — Dalima was still the Constituency Assistant (Outreach) at that time.
In a July 2012 post on Fast’s Facebook timeline, Dalima wrote: “Heads up Andre–Imma give you birthday high fives tomorrow.” An April 2013 post on his timeline from Dalima reads “Andre Fast for Prime Minister!” and is attached with a speech from Scott.
Dalima told The Varsity that her only past connection to Fast was in her capacity as an employee to a Member of Parliament. “Andre Fast was a volunteer for this MP, and my relationship to him was the same as my relationship to the hundreds of other volunteers I had come in to contact,” Dalima said. “I did not have, nor do I have, a personal relationship with Andre Fast. “
At least one Demand Better executive candidate and one Whomst’d’ve executive candidate went on background to say that Dalima confirmed at the March 8 all candidates meeting that she did not know any of the candidates before the campaign period.
“At the All-Candidates meeting, I said that I did not know any of the candidates because quite honestly I believed I did not,” Dalima said. “My statement at the meeting was in no way to meant to mislead anyone.”
Fast told The Varsity that, “prior to handing in my nomination form on March 3, 2017, I had no knowledge of Ms. Dalima being appointed as CRO,” and that he does “not have a personal relationship with Ms. Dalima that extends beyond shared membership in the NDP.”
Fast clarified that the reference to “Andre Fast for Prime Minister” was because of the video that Dalima shared to his timeline. It was a speech from Scott in the House of Commons in which he quoted Fast.
Dalima notes that she has “acted impartially in my capacity as CRO, and will continue to administer the Elections Procedures Code with integrity.”
The Chair of the Elections and Referenda Committee, Vice-President Professional Faculties Ryan Gomes, told The Varsity that hiring for the CRO was conducted in January/February. Gomes says that it would be impossible to vet CRO candidates for connections to candidates due to how early the CRO has to be hired — well before candidates even pick up their nomination packages.
The connection between Dalima and Fast “would not violate the EPC,” Gomes said. “The ERC doesn’t feel that this would preclude her from being an impartial CRO.”
Minutes of the January 20 ERC meeting reveal that Dalima was the second choice for the position of CRO. In the minutes, Executive Director Tka Pinnock explained that the position was initially offered to another candidate who declined the role. Gomes, in the minutes, stated that he believed that Dalima was qualified for the position, and that her experience in politics would lend to her success in the role.
Editors’ note: A previous version of the article mistakenly said Fast worked at Craig Scott’s constituency office. In fact, Fast was a volunteer for Scott’s campaign but was not employed at his constituency office.