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Why slates were removed from URSU politics

Looking at the controversial former political rule

Down with slates!  / Brett Nielsen
Down with slates! / Brett Nielsen

In previous University of Regina Students’ Union’s elections, teams of candidates could band together to create what was called a slate. However, starting with the 2014 election, candidates were not allowed to run with a slate.

Slates harnessed collective power to ensure that their candidates would get elected and would not have to campaign separately. Bart Soroka, former URSU LGBTQ Students’ director and U of R alumni, says “the issue was that people who tried to campaign without a slate were at an extreme disadvantage.”

In the 2010 election, former president and former board chair Kyle Addison ran a slate that swept 20 of 25 URSU positions, which current URSU President Devon Peters says, created a “Yes game.” This pattern of running slates that won a majority of executive and board positions continued until the 2014 election. “What you see in these elections is that in any position a slate ran, a slate won. The slates never lost,” Peters said.

Tyler Gray, URSU business administration director, added, “Slates of 20 like-minded people can’t represent the broader population of the university.”

Peters went on to say that slates “confused a nonpartisan organization with a government, and that is not what URSU is; it is a non-for-profit service organization.”

In 2011, Kent Peterson, former URSU President, turned URSU into an “activist group, and that’s not all URSU is supposed to be. The financial side suffered and no progress was made on the Owl.” In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, URSU lost $202,000. Slates led to massive changes in URSU policy as slates “focused on one part of what URSU is and ignored other parts, which was entirely to URSU’s detriment and is entirely unsustainable,” said Peters.

As well, these years saw a drop in board participation. Peters says it’s no wonder.

“When you already know that your voice doesn’t matter you don’t show up.”

During these years of majority, spanning from 2010 to 2014, URSU decreased its assets from $1,615,014 to $847,833, according to recent audits. This led many students to question the efficacy of the slate system and URSU as a whole.

At the annual general meeting of April 10, 2013, multiple proposals to amend and remove slates were introduced.

In the end, Gray’s proposal to completely disallow slates was voted on and implemented.

“Taking away slates really forced URSU to decide whether it was a junior government that fed into provincial politics or whether it was a student representative body, and I think it’s to our benefit that the organization at least has a framework for it to be a representative body,” says Gray.

In the 2014 election, all four of the former executives did not seek reelection, and those who ran would not be allowed to run with a slate. Voter turnout was 13.6 per cent in 2014, a slight rebound from 2013 at 11 per cent. From 2009 to 2010 voter turnout dropped from 25.6 per cent to 13.6 per cent. It’s important to note that since 2009, the student population has increased.

The 2014-2015 year has been the most divided URSU executive in recent memory, but also a decently successful year for URSU. The operating budget has been reduced, the Owl has seen its fortunes improve, board participation is up, and “URSU is ready to start increasing its assets,” said general manager Amanda Smytaniuk in a recent URSU board meeting.

Addressing the slate system has led to internal accountability and has made URSU “absolutely stronger,” according to Peters. Soroka also says that this year has been a “great year for URSU.”

This year, as with the 2014 election, all candidates will run independent campaigns. More on the 2015 election will be covered by the Carillon.

About Derek Cameron

One comment

  1. Hi Derek,

    I enjoyed your article and completely agree with you. I am the CRO for the University of Windsor Student Alliance (UWSA) and I also work for Elections Ontario. The UWSA has had two elections with out slates. It has been a tough ride, when so many students are so use to slating. I am happy to report we had a 19% turnout this last General Election. I was wondering if you can send me your Election Policy, I am interested in reviewing your rules if people slate “underground”. I am also interested in your Voting procedures and timeline.
    Thank you, April