Runyowa Law releases election report
author: kristian ferguson & john loeppky | news editor & editor-in-chief
Leads to Wiskar’s confirmation as president
After a long and drawn out process Shawn Wiskar has been named URSU president. This follows an election that has been marred by two investigations, one by the chief returning officer and another by a law firm, Runyowa Law.
The report, freely available on the URSU website, details the issues brought forward throughout the election process.
“The CRO [Amber Smale] received a total of 19 complaints about possible by-election violations. The CRO identified the following complaint categories:
- Participating in media interviews prior to the campaign period;
- Placement of posters;
- Attendance at events on campus;
- Intentional misrepresentation of facts;
- Attempts to discredit candidates;
- Interference with the administration of the election and the voting process;
- Use of intimidation tactics and threats against voters;
- Use of electronic devices to facilitate, influence, or coerce members’ votes;
- Interference with voters’ freedom of choice and right to vote.
The CRO received all complaints in writing, in addition to various forms of evidence. Some complaints identified specific accused and witnesses, and some complaints included evidence such as audio recordings, video, and photos.”
The findings of the report suggested that no one involved in the process acted in “bad faith” and that the board had the legal standing to disqualify Sukhdeep Brar, while laying out how a successful overturning of the election committee’s decision should be run.
The University of Regina Students’ Union released a statement about the ratification on Dec. 17. Interim President Jermain McKenzie acknowledged that the lengthy delay had an effect on students.
“’We recognize that the delay in the ratification of President has caused concerns for many students. It is our hope that our membership recognizes the due diligence we took to ensure that the electoral and investigative process of URSU was as fair and just as possible,’ said Jermain McKenzie, Vice-President of Student Affairs. ‘Thanks to the reports of both the CRO and Runyowa Law, we will be able to improve our constitution and electoral process to avoid further similar situations in the future.'”
“‘Mr. Shawn Wiskar will begin his role as President of URSU as of December 17th, 2018. URSU would like to wish Mr. Wiskar all the best in his new role. URSU has made significant improvements in recent years to serve students better, and we hope that Mr. Wiskar is able to build on the work that has been done so far.”
“The aforementioned changes suggested by Runyowa law include shifts on multiple fronts
“To enshrine the Membership in General and Special Meeting as the ultimate governing body of the URSU. Enshrining the membership as the supreme governing body helps to limit the possibility of a Board majority politically interfering in Union election results and will help to instil confidence in the membership of the URSU’s democratic processes. Accordingly, any Board decision to overturn an Elections Committee decision could itself be overturned at a General or Special Meeting of Members.
“To require that any resolution before the Board of Directors to overturn an Elections Committee decision require a two-thirds majority to be carried, and that any such resolution specifically reference bad-faith or incompetent conduct, on the part of one ormore Election Committee members, as the basis for the resolution.”
“The Bylaw should be amended to include the ways in which the Board’s powers are limited, relative to Elections Committee decisions and the CRO report to the Board. The Bylaw shouldspecify that the Board may only intervene in a decision of the Elections Committee or the CRO in the cases of perceived bad-faith conduct or incompetence on the part of one or more Elections Committee members.”
“The Board may also resort to referring the questions discussed herein to the Courts for an authoritative determination of the Board’s powers and limits. Potential mechanisms exist for the Board and the disputants to request such determinations. In our view, it would be best for the
Board to take this step as a neutral arbiter. The final result will not only be authoritative, but also less likely to be challenged by the disputants. Further, if the Board takes the initiative on this front, it prevents situation where the disputants are forced to spend money in a legal dispute,potentially making this a battle of the financially equipped rather than of the merits.”
The CRO’s report, available on the URSU website detailed a number of the complaints made throughout the election. Those include complaints about posters, improper campaigning that includes dogs, and interference by a third party in the election. This refers back to the election committee’s report on the orginal decision, which reads as follows.
“The Elections Committee found Mr. Brar’s evidence was not compelling. He was evasive and denied connections to individuals that were clearly connected to him or his campaign. His evidence changed a number of times throughout the Election Committee’s interview with him. As such, his evidence was not given as much weight, and theevidence of the complainants was preferred.”
“Based on the severity of the complaints, the evidence provided, and the hearing of Mr. Brar, the Committee reasonably concludes that Mr. Sukhdeep Brar did know theindividuals acting on his behalf, was aware of the activities of his friends during theElection and didn’t take steps to prevent their actions. These activities are intentional interferences with the administration of the Election and voting processes, a serious violation of the Election and Referendum Bylaw. Penalties assessed will be in line withthe severity of the incidents reported.”
“In review of Mr. Wiskar’s evidence, we found his story credible and consistent with his behaviour throughout the election. He identified the individuals at issue and described his limited involvement with them. He was proactive throughout the election campaign period on clearing potential issues with the CRO and complying with her instructions. He appears to have been a candidate involved in a dispute between two opposing groups of students without any direct or indirect instruction to have them campaign on his behalf. We do not find him responsible for interference, if any,complained of.”
The final decision of the election committee was to fine Mr. Brar, along with those accused of interfering in the election, prevent him from standing in another election for a year, and the loss of his voting privileges for a period of one year. The full election report is also available on the URSU website.
This decision comes at the tail end of a lengthy investigative process that started back in October. URSU was silent on the reasonings why Wiskar was not ratified until the Dec. 17 report and would only mention that there was an ongoing investigation.
With an upcoming winter election, the Carillon will keep an eye on how URSU implements the recommendations of the law firm and learns from the CRO investigation.