The Toronto chapter of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), based at U of T, will continue to receive its optional $0.50 levy from full-time undergraduates after the referendum to remove its funding failed to meet quorum.
On November 23, the results of the OPIRG referendum were released, showing that of the total electors, 1.6 per cent abstained. Of those who did not abstain, 40.1 per cent voted ‘yes’ to remove the levy, and 59.9 per cent voted ‘no.’ Only 3.1 per cent of students, or 1,165, who were eligible to vote participated. A quorum of 7.5 per cent was needed to make the results binding.
Daman Singh, Vice-President Internal of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), stated that “an inquorate referendum is effectively a survey.”
In an email, Chris Dryden, the head of the committee that campaigned for a ‘yes’ vote, mentioned that he “could foresee that there was [going to be] a very low chance of reaching quorum.” He added, “Considering this was a referendum with no adjunct election it was an average turnout.”
Dryden had previously expressed concern that a UTSU error resulted in a delayed voting period for the referendum, describing the situation as a “double-edged sword.”
Before the voting period, Dyrden said he knew “that [the UTSU] wanted to be able to bring forward the petition.” He conceded that students at UTSG are generally apathetic toward elections, which may explain the inquorate results.
“The majority of people vote only when it’s election season,” said Dryden. “So, if a petition is set during an election season, I think that there would be a much greater turnout.” The turnout at the most recent UTSU election this past spring was 11.8 per cent of the membership, which is relatively high. Dryden said that previous records indicate “the only way to reach quorum is to have a referendum in the spring.”
“Three percent of people voting isn’t very indicative of the overall student view of campus,” said Dryden. According to him, this poses a conundrum because students who “are the most apathetic to voting are less likely to know that they are paying these fees.”
Nevertheless, Dryden believes that, regardless of the referendum results, “considering that levy [groups] do not often have their funding questioned, it will put more pressure on funding groups to have more accountability with their spending.”
OPIRG did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment on the results of the referendum.