Content warning: This article includes brief mentions of death.
On February 17, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) held its monthly board meeting. Board members passed amendments to the Referendum Charter and approved questions for two referenda that UTM students will vote on in the upcoming UTMSU elections. The union also approved emergency donations toward relief organizations in Türkiye and Syria.
In advance of the spring 2023 elections, the union has also clarified the language of the Electoral Procedure code, delineating specific rules for virtual and in-person campaigning.
Amendments to the Referendum Charter
During the meeting, the board approved a new version of the Referendum Charter, which governs how the UTMSU presents questions to the membership. The last time the board amended the Referendum Charter was in 2007.
The amendments to the Referendum Charter include eliminating monetary penalties for petitioners that violate the Referendum Charter. “We do not want to attach financial penalties to people who break the rules,” said Felipe Nagata, executive director of the UTMSU. Instead, the UTMSU will only use the current demerit point system; if the petitioner accumulates a certain number of demerit points, the union will disqualify the referendum. The union displays the demerit points attributed to each party on a “wall of transparency” located in the Student Center and on the UTMSU website.
In addition, the UTMSU will no longer require petitioners to provide their date of birth or report all individuals associated with their campaign.
The board decided to provide $1,000 in emergency donations to the Turkish Students Association and the UTM Syrian Students’ Association, which will donate the funds to charities providing physical and financial aid to areas in Türkiye and Syria affected by the February 6 earthquake and its aftershocks. The earthquake left 5.3 million Syrians and 1.5 million Turkish people homeless and caused the deaths of 41,000 in Türkiye and 5,800 in Syria as of February 20.
At the meeting, the board discussed a referendum question submitted by Housing Our University Students Equitably (HOUSE) Canada, a national organization working to create affordable housing for students. The referendum proposes a $5 levy for full-time students and a $2.50 levy for part-time students, which would increase or decrease annually based on inflation as measured by the Toronto consumer price index (CPI). The CPI is a general approximation of how much a Canadian household spends on consumer goods and services in terms of an average market basket.
According to its website, HOUSE will devote this money towards working with the UTMSU and UTM students to design and begin developing “affordable, sustainable, and community-led” housing for students.
UTM Regenesis — a UTMSU recognized student group promoting sustainability initiatives — also proposed a referendum asking students to approve a $5 levy for full-time students and a $2.50 levy for part-time students, indexed to the Toronto CPI.
The board approved both referendum questions, which will appear in the upcoming spring elections.