No elections necessary

With Feds election campaigns well underway, this year’s student council will be composed entirely of acclaimed or empty seats.

Over a third of student council seats will be empty, and four constituencies will not be represented at all: the faculty of AHS (two seats), the satellite campuses of Cambridge and Kitchener (one seat each), and St. Jerome’s University College (one seat). The rest of the seats will not be decided by a student vote as they have  already been acclaimed.

To be nominated for any of the council seats, students must collect 25 signatures from their constituency. When less nominations than seats are received, the candidates in that constituency are automatically acclaimed.

This presents a challenge for Feds, as their mandate includes the representation of students. With all of the council seats acclaimed or empty, the council’s ability to represent students accurately is called into question.

This issue is part of a larger problem that Feds faces as the corporation struggles with low voter turnout in its elections. Danielle Burt, Feds president said, “It is still a democratic process.

“If they are acclaimed, those people may have won if there was more people.”

Last year, the council had 27 seats: six acclaimed seats, 14 contested seats, and seven empty seats after the general election.

Three seats have been added to the council since the last election: one math, one engineering, and a seat for the Stratford satellite campus.

“Why it changed since last year? I’m unsure,” said director and councillor Doug Turner.

“It might have been poor advertising; it might have been a whole combination of things.”

When Burt was asked about communications for the election, she spoke of the overall communications strategy of council: “The councillors now believe that the most important part was them going and getting the opinion of students from their constituents, not necessarily getting 50 people in the gallery on a Sunday for four hours.”

Anne Marie Hayman, the Feds elections officer, added &ldquo;We did have councillors going out and promoting the election.&rdquo;<br />

Turner said that there are many students who want to get involved with council but aren&rsquo;t necessarily aware of how to do so or do not know these types of opportunities are available.<br />

When asked whether or not apathy played a role in the lack of participation, Turner said, &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think so ... but apathy may have played a role.&rdquo;<br />

Councillor Khadija Hamidzai, who disagrees with acclaimed seats, said she doesn&rsquo;t think the lack of interest to run for council is necessarily a reflection of the council&rsquo;s actions or performance over the last year.

&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think council as a whole did anything,&rdquo; Hamidzai said. &ldquo;I think the role that councillors have is not specified enough; there is no sort of guidelines, there is nothing for them to have to do to stay effective, to be accountable.

&ldquo;[In] council you can do the bare minimum and you can still stand&nbsp; ... At a certain point people realize they&rsquo;re not really doing anything there. You can do reports, you can show up to meetings ... but there&rsquo;s nobody there to keep you in check,&rdquo; Hamidzai said.

According to Turner, it&rsquo;s unfortunate all seats are acclaimed, but that shouldn&rsquo;t affect the ability of council to function.

&ldquo;In some ways it&rsquo;s really tough to make that claim because they weren&rsquo;t elected by students,&rdquo; Turner said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s on the councillors that have been acclaimed now to represent students and do the job to the best of their abilities still, even though they weren&rsquo;t officially &lsquo;elected&rsquo; by students.&rdquo;

Turner, however, believes that just because councillors weren&rsquo;t elected ... doesn&rsquo;t mean council as a body can&rsquo;t represent students.<br />

&ldquo;It falls down on how well they do their jobs,&rdquo; Turner added. &ldquo;Councillors can still represent their students. The onus is on them to really do that job now, and prove that even though they weren&rsquo;t elected they still can do it.&rdquo;

Whether or not council holds legitimacy without elected councillors, Turner said it&rsquo;s too early to tell, but believes the legitimacy of council can be proven through their performance and ability to function. When Burt and Hayman were asked if they were concerned by the number of seats that were acclaimed, they answered with a simple &ldquo;no.&rdquo;

Before ending the interview, Hayman mentioned the fact that byelections could be called after the general election, and that there&rsquo;s already been interest expressed in some of the vacant seats.