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Newly elected PGSS executives celebrated their victories last Friday. Not pictured: MSO Lungu. (Alexandra Allaire / McGill Tribune)

New PGSS executive to tackle case against Canadian Federation of Students

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Uncontested candidate Juan Camilo Pinto was elected as secretary-general for the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) last Friday with 61.3 per cent of the vote.

The remaining six executives for the 2014-15 academic year will be Jennifer Murray, Julien Ouellet, Nikki Meadows, Ge Sa, and Brighita Lungu.

Five of the six executive positions were uncontested. The only contested position was academic affairs officer, where Murray ousted competitor Behrang Sharif with 76.18 per cent of the vote.

Murray attributed her victory to her platform and campaign strategies.

“I tried to raise awareness about my campaign [and] tried to be clear about my platform,” Murray said. “One of the first things I did before running was [making] sure that I understood student needs […] and what they wanted to do in the future.”

Given the number of positions that were unopposed, many of the executives had the opportunity to work with each other prior to their election. According to Pinto, they were able to forge bonds and recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

“They’re all very competent, they all have impressive CVs and they have been involved with the [PGSS] for a very long time,” Pinto said. “I think they’re awesome, they’re intelligent, and they’re hard-working. I’ve already talked to them about how we’re all going to manage our resources and projects.”

Incoming Internal Affairs Officer, Sa, expressed excitement at the official results.

“I didn’t know some of the members of our slate before this election but we have grown to understand each other a lot more,” Sa said. “We’ve already began working together and we will continue to work with each other until June when we take office. We’ll continue to work together as a team.”

Many of the new executives cited their primary concern as the looming legal battle with the Canadian Federation for Students (CFS), an organization that the PGSS has been trying to leave for the past seven years but has been unable to exit despite a successful referendum. For Meadows, the next financial affairs officer, the ability to move past the CFS will allow her to readjust the budget to better cater toward student interests.

“It’s such a huge drain of our resources, and if we can get out of it we will have so many more opportunities,” Meadows said. “It’ll really broaden my portfolio because there will be less money going to a specific place.”

Incoming External Affairs Officer Ouellet said his goal will be to lobby both the provincial and federal Government for assistance in the CFS case.

“I have a plan as to how I want to start the lobbying process […] but in the next year or the next two years we are going to see a major breakthrough in that case,” Ouellet said. “It’s clear that the CFS has a very weak case against us.”

Saturday also marked the end of the PGSS Winter 2014 referendum period. Members voted against an increase of the PGSS membership fee, as well as against both the McGill Athletics Building Fund and the Graduate Fee Application fee.

The Midnight Kitchen Fee Levy passed with 61.21 per cent of the vote. Students also voted to increase the PGSS grants program fee, decrease the Needs-Based Bursary fee, and renew the PGSS Health and Dental Plan for the next three years.

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