Opinion

The Tribune’s 2010 winter referendum endorsements

Eight referenda and a plebiscite question appear on the Students’ Society winter electoral ballot. After careful deliberation, the Tribune editorial board has endorsed a position on each of the questions. Our candidate endorsements appear on pages 10 & 11. Even if you choose to ignore our reccommendations, make sure you vote between now and Thursday at ovs.ssmu.mcgill.ca.

Tribune Independence

Nebulous Elections’ McGill bylaws prevent the Tribune from endorsing its own referendum question, but you can read letters from former editors on pages 8 & 15. A “yes” vote on this question would establish the Tribune as an independent newspaper, while a “no” vote jeopardizes the future of the newspaper you’re holding.

Policies on matters external to the Society: YES

This is the third consecutive year in which GA reform has been on the referendum ballot. This year’s question seeks to make it harder to consider motions external to SSMU’s normal activities, requiring a 500-person quorum and a two-thirds majority vote before an external issue can be debated at a GA. This is clearly aimed at preventing motions similar to the “Israel motions” introduced at the last two winter GAs.The Tribune feels that this motion is a step in the right direction. GAs are most useful when they set internal policy, rather than when they attempt to pass symbolic motions on divisive external issues. If we’re going to keep the GA, let’s use it for setting achievable policy directives. The Tribune is also in favour of the 500-person quorum, which would help prevent fringe groups from passing motions unrepresentative of the general student body.

Bodily Sovereignty in the SSMU Constitution: NO

While the Tribune is pro-human dignity and bodily sovereignty, we question the need for this change to the preamble. Our reasons for opposing this question are strictly in regards to concerns over vagueness and misinterpretation in the future. While changing the preamble of the Constitution in the short term might seem like a good idea, we are concerned that a ‘yes’ vote could restrict pro-life groups from exercising their right to respectful free speech. Is advocating a pro-life position fundamentally incompatible with bodily sovereignty? If so, then this change would stifle a legitimate viewpoint. SSMU proved that the current model for dealing with pro-life groups works, giving Choose Life the right to form, and then correctly taking away their club status when they acted inappropriately – so why try to fix something that isn’t broken?

Environment Fee Renewal: YES

This question seeks to renew the $1.25 per semester (opt-outable) SSMU Environment Fee, which expires at the end of this year. The Tribune strongly endorses a “yes” vote for renewal, as the funds from this fee go towards a number of student-run green services, including the Plate Club, Gorilla Composting, and a number of sustainability conferences and events. It’s also important to note that the new Sustainability Projects Fund – into which students pay $7.50 per semester – doesn’t make the Environment Fee redundant. The SSMU Green Fund can prioritize student projects that try to make day-to-day SSMU operations more environmentally friendly, while the SPF focusses on large-scale, campus-wide initiatives.

TVMcGill Funding: YES

TVMcGil’s opt-outable 50-cent fee would allow them to continue to provide resources and training for students interested in media and audio-visual production, acquire more much-needed equipment, and to produce additional content. The Tribune would like to see them continue to make strides in their programming quality and scope. We therefore endorse this fee.

QPIRG Bylaw Changes: YES

No matter how you feel about the Quebec Public Interest Research Group’s policies and politics, a “yes” vote is the only sensible choice on this referendum question. QPIRG is asking that they be able to change their bylaws at Annual General Meetings, rather than through campus-wide referendum. This is standard practice for not-for-profit organizations, and eliminates the unfair current system where students who opt-out of QPIRG’s fee can still have a say in the group’s bylaws.

WUSC Scholarship Fund: YES

The World University Service Committee receives 50-cents per semester from undergraduates to provide financial aid to refugees attending McGill. This referendum, if passed, would allow WUSC to provide financial support to students from developing countries if there are no eligible refugee students. While in an ideal world there would be more eligible refugees attending McGill, it makes no sense for this money to sit unused while there are deserving recipients who could use the assistance.

Plebiscite question: Funding the TaCEQ: YESThe Table de Concertation Étudiant du Québec is a lobby group co-founded by SSMU in 2009. While still in its infancy, TaCEQ seems to be preferable to bloated organizations like La Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), of which SSMU used to be a member. The Tribune encourages a “yes” vote so that TaCEQ can lobby to receive the provincial funding it deserves, instead of levying a student fee to finance its operations.

Constitution Section III: Yes

Students’ Society President Ivan Neilson has made restructuring SSMU committees a personal focus throughout the academic year. In keeping with this practice, this referendum would transfer Section III of the SSMU constitution – which describes the role of the Constitutional Review Committee, the Financial Ethics Research Committee, and the Nominating Committee – into the bylaws. Since all the duties of all other committees of council are found in the bylaws – which are easier to alter than the constitution – it is unclear why these committees were included in the constitution. The Tribune, therefore, unanimously urges you to vote yes on this initiative. Student Life: Yes Currently, unspent money from student fees intended for clubs and services, or unspent surpluses from those clubs or services, is automatically placed in a capital expenditures fund – which can only be used to acquire or upgrade physical assets, such as the Shatner building, furniture, or equipment. Should it pass, this referendum would reallocate money earmarked for clubs and services into a fund that can be accessed in future years to finance student projects. There is no reason that these surpluses should not go toward worthy causes including McGill First Aid Service, Drivesafe, the Sexual Assault Centre of McGill Students’ Society, the Green Fund, and other valued services. The Tribune unanimously supports this referendum.

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