author: john loeppky | editor-in-chief
CRO delivers report as O’Watch resigns
On Nov. 2 an URSU board meeting was held and revealed much about the results of the URSU election.
In her report, URSU Chief Returning Officer Amber Smale highlighted a number of issues with the election, including the voting system, and brought forward the recommendation made by herself and the election committee to disqualify winner Sukhdeep Brar and install the candidate with the second-most votes, Shawn Wiskar. The turnout was below ten percent prompting Smale to give the board some advice
“There’s probably some engagement work you could do to help people understand what your role is as a board, as a corporation and how they can get involved.”
“The official results were released, pending investigation, and those investigations have concluded. There’s about nineteen complaints received overall for the election and it started out really good and then on election day it got a little bit goofy.” Smale was referencing a previous interview where she had said that people get “silly” as elections near.
There were a number of areas of concern from candidates in terms of complaints, according to Smale.
“The themes [were] anywhere from media interviews prior to the campaign period, placement of posters is always a common election issue, attendance at events on campus, misrepresentation of facts, attempts to discredit candidates, interference with the administration of the election voting process, use of intimidation tactics and threats.”
“Things gradually progressed, and I think that’s because the longer you have an election, the more adrenaline gets pumping and people get competitive and that’s when you start to have real problems.”
“Based on the complaints and the nature of the complaints and the seriousness of some of them, one of the recommendations I have is that you work with the Regina Police Service. There is a university liaison officer for the University of Regina and in conjunction with Campus Security you need to start thinking about the safety of your students and their ability to put forward a complaint without fear. There is some very serious incidents that are concerning and that’s part of the reason why we are not releasing a lot of the details around the evidence and the complainants.”
Smale said that this was different from her previous experiences overseeing elections.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like that, and again I think that’s from the progression of having too long of a voting period”
Smale also suggested that URSU move away from the current voting model.
“This particular method is flawed; the reason for that is it’s set up under UR Self Service, as basically an online survey that doesn’t give us a lot of ability to restrict who can vote for who, who has to abstain, it’s all based on the honour system.”
Smale pointed that as a former student, the system would have allowed her to vote. She put forward that future elections be by a supervised paper ballot.
Interim president Jermain McKenzie took issue with the CRO’s report.
“I don’t know about most people, but I think a disqualification in a democratic electoral process is a huge deal and it’s not something that can be just taken lightly. I got the impression that what was written seemed as if we were dealing with some backwater republic. This is a very, very serious issue. You are asking us to make a decision to completely deny the 470 students who voted for the winning candidate in this election. and you’re asking us to do that without providing us with any meaningful evidence as to what your investigation made its decision on.”
Smale clarified then the board’s role before they entered into an in-camera session, barring anyone not on the board from appearing. Though the board’s minutes have not appeared online since August, in-camera sessions have been a regular fixture at URSU board meetings this semester.
“Your bylaw is very clear that decision of the election’s committee is final, the job and role of the board after election is to confirm the results, it’s not to make a decision based on what the election committee decided.”
The session concluded with the board deciding that a committee would be created to create a movement forward for the organization in regard to the CRO, because there were concerns raised about the “neutrality of the CRO” and “similar concerns of another candidate.”
The Nov. 2 meeting also revealed that VP of External Affairs, Heather O’Watch, had resigned. The decision to accept the resignation was not initially made public, but the information was made so during the meeting by two board members. McKenzie made an impromptu statement about O’Watch’s resignation.
“We did accept the resignation of one of our executives and we are sad to see her go. We hope that in whatever she chooses to move on to that she will have great success at it and we appreciate the time, and effort, and dedication that she gave to the students’ union while she was with us.”
Board chair Juliet Bushi reiterated that sentiment.
“We want to again thank her for her tremendous job and effort in her position and we understand and respectfully accept her decision, and wish her all the best.”
On Nov. 6, a press release was provided, which did not clarify the reason for the resignation, but did make mention of her previous work, along with what will happen now.
“URSU thanks Ms. O’Watch for her leadership and significant contributions to the University of Regina’s campus community. A general election will be held in March to fill this and other vacancies of the URSU Board of Directors.”
The committee meant to be consulting on what to do next in regard to the elections, as mandated by the board after an in-camera session on Nov. 2, met on Nov. 8 in the URSU board room. Of the members meant to be there, only two were present: Jacq Brasseur and Barzany Ridha. According to the rules governing such a procedure, the committee could vote on a model of consensus. Their decision was to consult with URSU’s legal counsel. Further meetings have been held, but no further information was made available by press time. We will continue to update this story as it develops.