Personality conflicts turn Electoral Reform Committee into bust
There’s nothing like a good political spat around election time.
At last year’s University of Regina Students’ Union’s annual general meeting, then-presidential candidate Kent Peterson proposed the organization create an Electoral Reform Committee (ERC), which would present suggestions for changes at this year’s AGM for the upcoming elections.
Once the current URSU executive and board took over in May 2011, they struck up a committee consisting of six representatives: new president Peterson as chairperson, Sonia Stanger, Kyle Addison, Mike Burton, and Rhiannon Ward as students-at-large, and Jordan Palmer and Shayna Glass in the board positions. There were meetings scheduled before the fall semester started and there were discussions on what changes might be recommended.
However, from here things seem to get a little blurry and stories begin to conflict. Several meetings wound up cancelled, no recommendation was submitted to the AGM, and the details from each side of the story don’t quite match.
According to Kent Peterson, this was due to coincidence and little effort on the part of his committee members. Peterson said he continually tried to organize a time for the ERC to meet and that his committee members simply did not reorganize their schedules. In Peterson’s minutes for the first ERC meetings, there is a note that outlines the responsibilities for each person.
“It was mutually decided that, on the list of suggestions and recommendations was typed, members should research their own suggestions more fully, but also feel free to research other members’ topics as well,” Peterson said.
He claims that “ERC members did largely no research work.”
Peterson’s reason for asking for recommendations ahead of time was so he could pass the suggestions along to all the board members, which ensured everyone could make an informed and thoughtful decision on which recommendations to present at the AGM.
In one of his emails to the committee, Peterson wrote, “We will deal only with motions submitted in advance … It will give everyone an opportunity to read the motions … It will enable us to streamline, should several motions be submitted from different people that that deal with the same section of the constitution or bylaws.”
However, for every meeting that was scheduled, only one recommendation was ever submitted.
Jordan Palmer, one of the board members in the committee, suggested a few reasons that this happened. He said Peterson made his committee members feel uncomfortable when they made suggestions, so he did not wish to send in his recommendations ahead of time.
”This semester, there were hardly any meetings, which was ridiculous,” Palmer said. “Kent said ‘Forward all your ideas,’ which I didn’t feel comfortable with. No one can trust Kent. The majority of the board members can’t trust Kent. It’s either conform to what the chair or executive wants, or be ignored.”
Peterson cancelled several meetings due to time issues and the lack of content for meetings.
“The meeting was postponed, which allowed more time to submit recommendations,” he said. “Still, no recommendations were submitted.”
“In an attempt to start conversation – and to get the ERC members to do work – I submitted example recommendations,” Peterson said.
However, when asked, Palmer said no sample recommendations were ever given to the ERC members.
“There was a lot of miscommunication – whether deliberate or not, that remains to be seen. Kent would call the meetings and only some of us would get the email. That’s happened to Kyle (Addison), Mike (Burton) and myself,” Palmer said. “In one email, I did kind of go off on Kent, saying, ‘It’s more important to get a time that works for the majority of members at the meeting, not just the chairperson.”
Despite the few meetings and recommendations, Peterson still submitted some recommendations at the AGM on Feb. 8.
“I don’t know if the other committee members know, but I presented the suggestions from our first meeting and Mike Burton’s recommendation, which was the only one submitted to me,” he said.
Palmer said he would have preferred if there were other changes suggested for the electoral process.
“I think if there’s 50 votes between something, there should be a by-election,” he said. “And we should just clarify which areas are campaign spaces.”
However, these ideas were not suggested at this year’s AGM, as the meetings were never held. Palmer has a theory as to why.
“It was organization, planning, and just the fact that personal egos got in the way,” he said. “Yeah, personal egos got in the way.”