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Referendum voting opens without official opposition

The fall referendum period continues this week, with questions that put the ongoing existence of QPIRG McGill and CKUT in jeopardy. This semester’s referendum questions are on whether the groups should continue to receive student funds and if said fees should cease to be opt-outable via Minerva and instead be refundable directly through each organization. The referendum period opened last Friday with steady campaigning by QPIRG and CKUT’s respective ‘Yes’ committees and was marked by the absence of campaigns by opposing ‘No’ committees.

Rebecca Tacoma, CEO of Elections McGill, noted that several students had expressed interest in forming a ‘No’ committee but that none had followed the steps to create one.

“I was kind of surprised—I was expecting ‘No’ committees,” Tacoma said. “We’re all aware of the opt-out campaigns, especially [against] QPIRG, that went on during the fall. It seemed there are some people who are willing to take the effort on getting the word out that they don’t agree, so I was surprised that there [aren’t] any.”

Opposing students may have decided to avoid campaigning as a strategic move, noted Alexandre Meterissian, board member of Conservative McGill, CEO of the Prince Arthur Herald, and participant of past opt-out campaigns.

“A lot of [Conservative McGill] members believe that if we fight this referendum, we will push QPIRG and CKUT to get their numbers out and they will be able to hit the quorum level that they need,” Meterissian said. “Ultimately if we vote, the ‘yes’ will probably win … so we think that strategically it would be much more intelligent if we just did not campaign.”

In a recent email, Tacoma addressed instances of illegal campaigning from students who support a ‘No’ answer to the referendum questions. Meterissian said he was surprised to hear of such campaigning and reiterated that members of Conservative McGill are abstaining from campaigning. Tacoma explained that the illegal campaigning consisted of a few Facebook groups that have now been closed.

“We wanted to make students aware that Elections McGill was not able to ensure that any of the information there is correct, or we aren’t able to ensure that they were campaigning in a fair spirit,” she said.

The groups posing the questions have mixed reactions towards the lack of official ‘No’ committees. Adam Wheeler and Camillia Elachqar, co-chairs of the QPIRG ‘Yes’ committee noted their disappointment with the illegal campaigning, but Niko Block, co-chair of the CKUT ‘Yes’ committee, emphasized the lack of official opposition as validation for CKUT.

“Ultimately, I think the fact that there is no ‘No’ committee is kind of demonstrative of the fact that students by and large recognize that even if they don’t listen to CKUT every day, it does offer an incredibly important service to the McGill and Montreal community,” Block said.

Last Thursday, at SSMU Council, many gallery members voiced their support for QPIRG and CKUT, and after much debate on the referenda’s intended changes to the opt-out system, SSMU voted to endorse QPIRG and CKUT.

Wheeler and Elachqar expressed their satisfaction at the SSMU endorsement and with student support at council.

“We’re so excited. We’re glad that students value [our] work and want to see it continue in the future,” Wheeler said. “That, to me, is more of a sign that we’re doing things right.”

The quorum for the fall referendum is 15 per cent of the students represented by SSMU, or 3,200 students. If quorum is not reached, both organizations may have to pose the question again in the winter referendum. Wheeler and Elachqar said they were confident quorum would be reached, but Block noted quorum was his “main concern.”

Tacoma encouraged all students to vote in the elections.

“It’s your school and you should have your say. It’s your student groups and your student fees, so I think it’s important to take the one minute that it takes to vote,” she said. “If [quorum] doesn’t reach 15 per cent, it doesn’t matter if the majority of people voted yes or no, it doesn’t count.”

 

Students can vote at https://ovs.ssmu.mcgill.ca/  Results will be announced on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 6:30 p.m. in Gerts.

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