Candidates running in the highly turbulent elections for next year’s UTSU executive positions addressed questions in a packed lecture hall at the Executive Candidates’ Forum last Thursday in the Bahen Centre.
Candidates for five UTSU executive positions, including president, from two competing slates—U of T Voice (incumbent) and Team Unite—spoke about their respective platforms and answered questions from the audience.
An independent candidate, Luis Moreno, running for VP external, announced his decision to withdraw from the election during his opening speech. This left only two candidates for the position, Unite’s Nicky Bhatty and Voice’s Grayce Slobodian, currently UTMSU’s VP campus life.
The issues discussed at the forum included the ongoing defederation drama and financial transparency.
The VP external candidates were asked to discuss UTSU’s future relations with “dissatisfied” divisional societies, with specific reference to the fee diversion issue being discussed at the Undergraduate Student Societies Summit. Bhatty, of Team Unite, advocated for increased collaboration with the heads of divisional colleges and societies, including UTM—which announced its withdrawal from the summit last month—to better understand their needs.
“We don’t want to consider [UTM students] as odd or different. We want to consider everyone as a U of T student in themselves and we want to include everyone in talks,” said Bhatty.
According to an article in the Varsity, UTSU also announced it was leaving the summit in a decision strongly condemned by directors of the union and divisional society leaders.
While both Slobodian and Bhatty said they had little experience with the summit, only Bhatty offered a position on the fee diversion issue.
“We do discourage fee diversion, but at the same time, if a division does hold a referendum and their majority of students do vote in favour of a referendum, we will not prevent them from leaving. And we will also let them come back if they choose to come back,” he said.
Another question concerned the breakdown of UTSU’s finances, including the amounts allotted for members’ salaries. Cameron Wathey, VP internal candidate for the incumbent slate, contended that staff were “unionized” and hence had the right to non-disclosure. The executive team, though, he said, receives $28,870 each. Anna Yin of Team Unite, said that although her team would not release staff salaries either, the more detailed complete compensation package for executives would be released for all members to see.
The event, streamed live, was moderated by Susan Froom, the president of the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students. Voting will take place this week at polling stations and online at utsu.simplyvoting.com.
The availability of online voting this year is the result of pressure for electoral reform by union members last year, as well as of the threat of withheld fees by Governing Council.