Remember the referendum?


Remember the Canadian Federation of Students referendum?

Doesn’t seem like it to me. Do you remember URSU basically breaking their constitution campaigning for the “no” side? Do you remember CFS representatives being flown in from across the country to lobby for your vote? Do you remember the attacks in the hallways by both sides urging you to vote? If not, you are probably not alone.

The CFS referendum was fraught with problems from day one. Not only was it pushed back from last year to this fall; once it started up, it was a wild ride of misinformation, mixed signals, and chaos. From this whirlwind of mayhem, it was shown beyond a doubt that both the CFS and URSU were willing to state many facts to convince students to vote “yes” or “no.” The problem is that the facts they presented contradicted one another. Of course, in all fairness to both sides, they are working in a broken system, one in which apathy and confusion are the order of the day.

Do you wonder why there are no results from the referendum even though it is now a good two weeks after the polls closed? In Switzerland, where referendums are common, results are known the day the polls close in most cases. Here in Canada, elections to determine the makeup of Parliament or Legislature take a few hours. These are both massive undertakings with huge numbers of ballots to count over large geographic areas (compared to the size of the university). Something as simple as a yes/no question at a university level should have results published within a day of the polls closing. However, there were questions as to who could vote. Then, the disputed ballots had to be reviewed to determine whether or not they were legitimate. This is a problem that could have been solved months ago, long before anyone voted. And yet, here we are two weeks later with no results, and not even a hint of which side won.

Why weren’t these problems solved before the referendum? This seems like the fault of the referendum oversight committee, who should have agreed on who could vote before the voting took place. But it seems they did not reach an agreement, and now we’re in the dark about what is happening surrounding the referendum. This seems like more proof that the system of student government is broken.

It’s frustrating to see students disinterested in things that directly affect them. I don’t think it is too much to ask that university students – often thought of as an informed and politically-engaged group – would be able to maintain righteous outrage long enough to fix a terribly broken system. This is the kind of political apathy that allows tuitions to rise. This is the kind of apathy that ensures that governments will not care about student issues, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum. This is the kind of apathy that destroys democracy.

Understandably, there are midterms, essays, projects, and assignments all due soon, and students are incredibly busy. But there should definitely be time in their lives to at least think on the issue, and of everyone that’s thinking, there should be a few willing to take action. I would gladly try to get signatures for a petition if there were someone out there willing to organize the petition. And I know many others that would help.

If there is one thing that is necessary, it is fixing student government. If we can’t figure democracy out at a university level, can we figure it out on a provincial or national scale?

1 comment

  1. Brandon Clim 19 November, 2010 at 23:11

    Well, it's actually been 3 weeks now since the polls closed. You'd think that since so many member locals have been holding similar referendum in the past few years that the CFS would be getting quite good at organizing them. The problem is that there was FAR more planning done to coordinate who would fly in to lobby in favour of the organization than there ever was to organize the referendum itself. You cannot blame the URSS for this blatant failure as they're bound by CFS's ridiculous bylaws. And if there is the slightest breach of those bylaws, the CFS wouldn’t hesitate to cry foul in order to have an unfavourable outcome invalidated.

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