The voting period for University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) elections begins Monday and will continue until Wednesday, March 28 at 6:00 pm. Candidates have been campaigning since Monday, March 19, including 11 executive hopefuls who participated in the UTSU’s advocacy operations debate and The Varsity’s debate for the President and Vice-President Internal candidates.
This year’s UTSU elections have seen the lowest participation among candidates in recent memory. Only seven races are contested, one more than the six previously reported by The Varsity following the reinstatement of Compass Professional Faculty Director at-large candidate Christopher Dryden. There have been no demerit points awarded to any candidate.
For comparison, last year’s UTSU election featured four slates, three of which ran executive candidates for every position. Over 600 demerit points were awarded.
CRO and ERC rulings
Dryden was previously disqualified for not attending the mandatory All-Candidates Meeting. He informed the elections’ Chief Returning Officer (CRO), Atoofa Arshad, via email that Anne Boucher, Compass’ presidential candidate, would be his representative at the meeting. He did not, however, sign the form provided in his nomination package to authorize Boucher as his representative. The CRO had no record of Dryden’s attendance at the meeting, and he was disqualified from the race.
Arshad’s decision was appealed to the Elections and Referenda Committee, and Dryden was reinstated as a candidate on the basis that, while not submitting the form was “negligent,” he did provide notice to the CRO 24 hours in advance of the meeting.
Other CRO rulings arose from complaints of precampaigning against the Compass slate. A post on the r/UofT subreddit disclosed the names of Compass’ seven executive candidates and encouraged students to vote for them. The post was quickly removed by one of the subreddit’s moderators. The CRO ruled that she had reason to believe the post was created by a third party, and no demerit points were awarded.
Another complaint was made against Boucher, who responded to the aforementioned Reddit post using her own account, which is flaired on the subreddit as “UTSU VP External.” The complaint stated that Boucher had violated P.1 of the Elections and Procedures Code, “Benefits Acquired by Virtue of Office,” by making her campaign seem more legitimate due to the flair. The CRO ruled that the flair did not give Boucher a fair advantage and noted that it has since been changed to “Hopefully Host of Spaghetti Day.”
The CRO also received a complaint against Emmanuela Alimlim, a non-arm’s length party to independent presidential candidate Michelle Mabira. The complaint alleged that Alimlim was seen taking posters, both campaign and non-campaign-related, off of a board in Sidney Smith Hall and replacing them with posters promoting Mabira. Arshad ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to issue demerits.
The Varsity’s President and VP Internal Debate
The Varsity held a debate for President and Vice-President Internal candidates on March 23.
The debate was moderated by The Varsity’s Deputy News Editor, Aidan Currie, and Associate News Editor Josie Kao. The participants included Boucher, Mabira, Compass VP Internal candidate Tyler Biswurm, and ?️oundless VP Internal candidate Alyy Patel.
The debate touched on topics ranging from plans for the Student Commons to board attendance records to the future of UTSU’s relationship with the University of Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU).
When asked about the future of the Student Commons, Biswurm said that he wanted to “caution everyone against thinking that just because we have a plan, that we have a stable future.” He added that it is vital to follow the plan laid out by this year’s UTSU executive and not propose ideas that are “completely fiscally irresponsible,” referencing the example of a bar in the Student Commons, an idea proposed by his opponent, Patel.
In response, Patel noted that U of T student bar Suds has never gone into a deficit, so her plan is feasible. She further challenged Biswurm on his experience. “I think it’s most important to bring someone into office that has experience with budgeting… I noticed in your candidate statement that you oversaw your high school’s budget, and that’s really cute,” she said.
“It’s not about being a candidate on paper,” responded Biswurm. “It’s about being a candidate in person… We’ve seen a past history of executives who are extremely irresponsible despite the number of qualifications they are ‘supposed to have.’”
The presidential debate began with a question on the candidates’ stance on the UTSU’s membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), and whether they would support leaving it. Leaving the CFS is a move that the current UTSU executive has endorsed.
Boucher answered by saying that the CFS is “corrupt” and that it “weaponizes equity.” She maintained her platform point of supporting a move to leave the CFS.
In contrast, Mabira maintained that she would “stay impartial” on the CFS while also supporting a campaign to hold a referendum. When asked about defederation, Mabira said that she would wait to speak to those who are elected about their opinions on the subject.
During the debate, Mabira also brought up concerns that she had about the legitimacy of the UTSU’s financial statements, which she tied to an alleged conflict of interest that occurred in in 2017 between consulting company Kokobi, the UTSU, and previous UTSU staff member Robert Boissonneault.
Boucher called Mabira’s claims a “conspiracy theory,” saying that she had full confidence in the numbers provided by the UTSU.
Mabira rebutted that it was not a conspiracy theory but merely her “connecting the dots.”
“I’m not saying I don’t trust these documents,” said Mabira, “but the thing is these people have interests in it, and sometimes, your interests push you a certain way.”
She proposed hiring a third party to look at these documents, saying, “We might end up getting a third party, and the third party shows up and says the finances are good, but at the end of the day that still needs to happen.”
The debate ended with each presidential candidate being asked to say something they admired about the other.
Mabira said that she admired the slate Boucher put together. “The people that you have, especially the VPs, are very experienced and very dedicated to the work.”
Boucher said that Mabira is a “strong candidate” and “passionate” about her work. She also complimented Mabira on being willing to “stand in front of the UTSU and protest” for the Save Our Services campaign. “You need to be brave to do that,” she said.
Full-time undergraduate students at UTSG and UTM are eligible to vote in UTSU elections. Voting is exclusively online at utsu.simplyvoting.com.