Brighter U of T has swept the executive board, a historically unusual outcome in which a slate not considered incumbent has overturned its rival.
The unofficial election results, initially to be released today, were unexpectedly released Saturday evening declaring Brighter U of T’s win over Change U of T.
The slate headed up by Ben Coleman defeated Change and its presidential candidate Cameron Wathey, current VP internal & services, by 300–800 votes each, representing about 55% of ballots cast.
The winners of the board of directors were divided between Brighter and Change. The New College elected representatives are two from Change and one from Brighter; St. Michael’s College is two Brighter and one Change; an independent and a Brighter won Victoria College; and one Change and two Brighter candidates will represent Woodsworth.
Over 6,300 ballots were cast online and in person over the three-day voting period from last Tuesday to Thursday.
Two days before the voting period, both Brighter U of T and Change U of T were given demerit points by Rita Khalayi, the election’s chief returning officer, for separate violations.
Issued on March 22, each candidate on the Brighter U of T roster was given three demerit points following a complaint and investigation by the CRO of “‘bullying, harassing, damaging, and libellous’ content and comments on Facebook towards presidential candidate Cameron Wathey”.
The charges further claim that Brighter U of T took part in “using slanderous language describing Mr. Wathey as sexist and misogynistic” and “falsely representing his online presence”.
It is unknown who made these statements or their exact nature. According to Coleman, Brighter has since appealed the CRO’s ruling and as of press time, a final decision had yet to be made.
“We tried to run a positive campaign based on experience and ideas,” said Coleman.
Mum on specifics, Coleman informed The Medium that the violations “resulted from multiple Facebook posts, from multiple individuals who were not candidates, but who fell under the ‘non arm’s-length party‘ rule in the Elections Procedure Code”.
In a statement issued to The Medium shortly before the unofficial election results were released, Wathey addressed the matter.
“I hope that all of our efforts to push a message of putting students and education first was enough to counter the harassment and slander faced by the members of my team,” said Wathey.
In another ruling issued on March 22, Change was found to have breached the Elections Procedure Code due to having claimed certain victories.
According to Coleman, Nicholas Grant filed the complaint against rival slate Change due to what Coleman describes as Grant’s “firsthand knowledge of the work done on many of these issues”, due to his current position on the UTSU board of directors.
Of the 12 victories Change U of T claimed and Grant disputed, two claims were determined to be untruthful, and due to the ruling, Slobodian was charged three demerit points.
According to the online Elections Notice Board on the UTSU website, the CRO determined that the language used on Change U of T’s website “implies that members of the Change U of T team were involved in provincial policy creation” for the change in the provincial government’s flat fee policy.
The notice board also notes that the CRO declared that were was “insufficient evidence for the Change U of T team to claim that their members were involved in reinvigorating the ‘End the Ban’ campaign” as claimed on its website.
Coleman also commented on the issue.
“I don’t really think I’m in the best position to determine what’s fair,” said Coleman when asked if he believed it was unfair of Change to declare collective union victories as part of their campaign.
“We believed it was most helpful to demonstrate the work a candidate had done on an issue. That way, students can decide for themselves how much each of us contributed to a cause and how well we would perform if elected.”
According to Coleman, a “large presence of campaigners from other schools” were on hand campaigning for Change U of T and cited as a challenge for his slate.
Currently, the EPC does not prevent a slate from using outsiders to assist campaigning. In a statement issued to The Medium prior to the release of the unofficial election results on Saturday evening, Wathey addressed the claims.
“Both Change U of T and Brighter U of T had support from non-U of T students,” said Wathey. “In our case, friends from Ryerson and York campaigned for us and Brighter U of T had support from students from Ryerson and the University of Manitoba on the ground.”
Wathey further alleged in his statement that Brighter also received support from political parties, a claim Coleman denies.
“Brighter U of T received no support of any fashion, financial or otherwise, from the Progressive Conservative and Liberal parties, nor did we receive endorsement from any party-affiliated clubs at U of T,” said Coleman, who also addressed Wathey’s claim alleging both slates benefited from assistance provided by non-U of T students.
“I expressly told members of our team that I did not want non-U of T students campaigning, as I believe it would be hypocritical,” said Coleman, who identified a total of three U of T graduates involved in their campaign, and dismissed the involvement of any Manitoba students.
According to Coleman, one alumnus was involved with campaigning, one assisted the slate in filing appeals and scrutineering, and a third U of T alumnus also acted as a scrutineer.
Coleman also named Geoff Logan, a volunteer on the recent victorious Ryerson student union slate, who “spent about five hours informally giving advice to various members of our team”.
An unnamed Brighter source also disclosed to The Medium that election scrutineers were unable to overlook the online ballot count. The Varsity reported that scrutineers were able to overlook the tallying of both paper and online ballots last year.
As of press time, the CRO did not respond to confirm or deny this claim.
The unofficial results are to be ratified on Monday afternoon.