In response to declining advertising revenue and rising production costs, today marks the first day of campaigning for a referendum question initiated by the independent Daily Publications Society. The society, which publishes the McGill Daily and Le Délit, has put forward a referendum question aiming to increase its current, non-opt-outable fee by $1 per semester.
While members of the Post-Graduate Students’ Society currently pay $3.50 and Students’ Society members pay $5 per semester, this increase would only affect SSMU members. This marks the first potential increase in the DPS fees since the 2002-03 year, when the fee was raised from $2.50 to $5.
The DPS’s bylaws stipulate that if the DPS does not appoint a chief electoral officer, then SSMU’s CEO is automatically appointed to coordinate the election. While normally coinciding with the regular SSMU referendum period, Mike Vallo, Elections McGill CEO, stated that this year’s campaign period is occurring a week later out of fairness to referenda following Elections McGill bylaws.
“They wanted to originally run their referendum at the same time [as SSMU referemda] and follow their own electoral by-laws, but I did not feel that it was appropriate for them to be running on one set of rules while the rest of the referenda were running on a different set of rules. So, I requested that they take two separate dates,” said Vallo.
Max Halparin, chair of the Daily Publications Society, stated that the Board of Directors set both “a legitimate and achievable quorum” at five per cent of the SSMU population.
“We are going to try to come out as strongly as we can,” added Stephen Davis, coordinating editor of the Daily. “We are going to stress that, above all, the Daily Publications Society is not just a student newspaper. The DPS answers to students and gives them something tangible. It gives them three newspapers a week, one of which is in French, the only French newspaper on campus. But above all, we are also a student service.”
Additionally, a No Committee has been formed by a coalition of engineering students who feel that the money could be better spent in other under-funded programs, such as engineering design teams.
“Students aren’t benefiting from what the Daily does. Students don’t read the Daily because it doesn’t speak to them – it speaks to a small group of students,” said Allan Cyril, newly elected EUS vice-president internal and chair of the No Committee. Cyril has called the proposed fee increase “hypocritical.”
“The Daily takes a strong stand on free education. How can they be talking about tuition hikes when they are increasing their own fees by charging students? So, the one thing that they control, they are increasing,” said Cyril.
Patrick Diez, VP communications of EUS, said that the “No” Committee is not affiliated with the EUS, but encouraged students to consider what they are voting for.
“I think that a good analogy is that the Daily is to newspapers as Gert’s is to bars,” Diez said. “Students just kind of dismiss it, don’t bother to take a closer look and realize that they are paying.”
If the referendum does not pass, Davis suggested that the DPS would have to try again in the near future, or be obligated to make changes in terms of the paper’s aesthetic layout.
“If the fee did not pass, it might also mean that we have to think about the way that we do advertisements in the newspaper,” he said. “I think that the sort of freedom that we have means that we can put out a paper that is aesthetically very beautiful.”
Davis also fears that without the additional funding, the DPS may have to answer to advertisers in the future as opposed to students.
“We are a democratically run organization,” Davis said. “We answer to students. We don’t answer to advertisers, and I would hate for that to have to change.”
According to Stéphanie Dufresne, Le Délit’s editor-in-chief, the additional money that the referendum question would provide would also make a significant difference for Le Délit.
“Many people assume that the Le Délit is a French translation of the Daily, which is not the case at all. We are two different teams. We produce different content,” Dufresne said. “It is important that we get these resources so that we can continue to do our job.”
After an intense week of SSMU elections, Vallo is worried about the role of voter fatigue in this election.
“The burden is on the Yes and No Committees to get people energized,” he said.
Correction: In the previous version of this article, the headline incorrectly noted that the McGill Daily is seeking a fee hike. In fact, the Daily Publications Society is seeking a fee hike.