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UTGSU November council meeting discusses 2021 budget, elections committee report

Motion passes to create supplementary report on April 2020 executive elections
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The UTGSU held its November general council meeting on November 17. MICHAEL PHOON/THE VARSITY
The UTGSU held its November general council meeting on November 17. MICHAEL PHOON/THE VARSITY

The University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) General Council met on November 17 to discuss the proposed budget for the 2021 fiscal year and the Executive Elections Investigations Committee (EEIC) report, as well as to approve the draft financial statements and surplus report for the 2020 fiscal year. 

Budget for the 2021 fiscal year 

General Council members discussed the proposed executive honoraria budget, which increased to $118,000 from last year’s $110,000. Lwanga Musisi, University Governance Commissioner and Finance Committee Vice-Chair claimed that the honorarium increase was because executive honaria was tied to the cost of living. 

According to the UTGSU policy, however, Musisi’s claim is incorrect: honoraria increases must be approved by the General Council, and the UTGSU’s policy does not indicate that executive honoraria is tied to cost of living. 

At the meeting, a concern was raised with Musisi’s explanation, pointing out that the UTGSU approved an honoraria ‘freeze’ in April 2019. UTGSU executives wrote in an email to The Varsity that, despite the higher amount budgeted for honoraria, the amount received by executives has not actually increased since last year. The UTGSU executives did not respond to a question from The Varsity as to why this discrepancy exists.

The General Council passed both the motion to approve the proposed budget and the draft financial statements and surplus report from 2019–2020.

Elections investigation report 

According to the UTGSU executive, the EEIC was “created to provide a neutral review of the 2020 UTGSU general election,” following allegations of defamation and an appeal of election results from two unsuccessful candidates

The EEIC’s report found that the 2020 executive elections were valid and that there was no interference from UTGSU bodies. The report also made some recommendations to improve elections for the future, such as changing the appointment process for the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) and requiring the CRO to approve campaign materials.

At the November meeting, council member Robert Prazeres motioned to have the council refer the report to the Policy and Operations Committee to consider and implement its recommendations. Prazeres’ motion passed with oppositions and abstentions.

Council member Adam Hill, one of the two candidates who alleged defamation, put forward two motions after claiming that the EEIC report did not fulfil the committee’s first two mandates, which were to “investigate the impact UTGSU bodies may have had on the fairness and legitimacy of the election” and to “report on the impartiality of the 2020 Elections.” 

Hill claimed that the EEIC never contacted the CRO, the deputy CRO, or any candidates running in the election. The Varsity cannot independently verify Hill’s allegations. 

In response to a question about Hill’s claims, the UTGSU executives wrote in an email to The Varsity, “It’s inappropriate for those who ran in the election to influence or alter the neutrality and independent review by the EEIC.”

Hill motioned for “the UTGSU Executive Director [to] request that the previous [EEIC] members return to the committee to develop a supplemental report regarding the April 2020 Executive Elections.” 

If the original members are unable to return, he also motioned for the UTGSU to “discuss the striking of a new ad hoc Executive Elections Investigation Committee” at the January council meeting. Hill’s motions passed with oppositions and abstentions, meaning the supplemental report will be created. 

Concern raised about elections report

External Commissioner Jacqui Spencer reported that an anonymous member of the general council has expressed concern with the EEIC report. The UTGSU executive confirmed in an email that the member’s claims pertained to “sexist and homophobic statements made during the 2020/2021 election cycle by specific unsuccessful candidates” that were not acknowledged in the EEIC report.

Spencer motioned that the Equity & Advocacy Committee investigate the claims made in the member’s email, and provide a report and recommendations on its findings. The motion carried unanimously. 

“The UTGSU does take any violation of our equity policy very seriously and will perform a thorough investigation of these claims to ensure that UTGSU is a safer space for all members,” wrote a UTGSU executive. 

Editor’s Note (November 23): This article has been updated to correct an inaccurate claim that the union’s executive honoraria increase is linked to cost of living, to describe the union’s 2019 honoraria freeze, and to describe the discrepancy between the budgeted honoraria and the actually paid out honoraria.