URSU Fact Check (updated)
Your handy guide to the claims of the No side
An online exclusive
Claim: Out of 544 press releases on the CFS website, four are about Saskatchewan, two of which are about Regina
Accuracy: Partially true, depending on the phrasing
Early campaign materials alleged that only two press releases mentioned Regina specifically. The paper material distributed this week has had its phrasing modified – the “Frequently Asked Questions” on the back of the “No” campaign’s flyers mention the University of Regina specifically. The difference, and presumably the need for clarification, is that several press releases mention the First Nations University of Canada, one student of which is the Aboriginal Students’ Caucus Rep for CFS and another of which is employed by CFS-SK. Even considering this difference, there are a total of eight pages mentioning the FNUniv, and the U of R is only peripherally mentioned in two press releases.
Claim: U of R students pay $89,000 annually in membership fees.
Accuracy: Essentially true
The claim is accurate, give or take a few dollars and cents. However, the material doesn’t delve into any problems incurred or benefits received from these costs. The number is presented naked, and its meaning is assumed only in conjunction with the other claims on the sheet, making this statement in particular hard to use as a standalone metric.
Claim: Post-secondary education is administered at a provincial level, making CFS’ lobbying efforts useless.
The Canada Social Transfer (CST), which has been a part of several federal funding programs under various names since the 1970s, is a federally-mandated funding transfer program designed to help the provinces fund programs like post-secondary education. Through the CST, the federal government is responsible for earmarking transfer payments to the provinces that are explicitly meant to cover post-secondary institutions, social services, and early childhood services. The provincial government’s job is to determine exactly how much money from these transfer payments is to be distributed to the designated programs. The university then budgets accordingly. It’s a complicated and multi-tiered process, and although the federal government is related to the U of R’s budget in a distant way it is nevertheless related. Other CFS campaigns include grant-based student funding as opposed to loan-based student funding, an approach supported by Wascana MP Ralph Goodale.
Claim: Whatever the CFS lobbies for will affect the U of R, regardless of whether it pays into CFS or not.
Since the national CFS branch lobbies the federal government for blanket policy changes rather than policy changes that target specific provinces, this statement is accurate – any changes to federal policy will affect the U of R and its students. It’s unclear, however, why this is an argument against membership in CFS, since it seems to imply that at the very least there is a chance that CFS’ lobbying efforts may be effective.
Claim: Since 2007 the CFS has not hired a provincial organizer for Saskatchewan.
The CFS does not make its hiring records public, and the website for its Saskatchewan branch is down. It should be pointed out that CFS has had at least one Saskatchewan employee since January of this year, FNUniv student Thomas Roussin; though he is not employed as the provincial organizer, he does work for the CFS as a “campaigns coordinator.”
UPDATE: According to minutes from CFS-SK's last board meeting, Roussin was appointed to the position and a motion was passed to give him an honourarium – meaning he is still given payment for his work, but he's not considered an official employee. Our assertion of "unclear" still stands.
Claim: The CFS changed its rules on “continued membership” referenda in order to make the exit process more difficult.
The rules quoted on URSU’s FAQ – 20 per cent of students at a school being required as signatories on the continued membership petition, the limited number of schools allowed to mount a defederation campaign, and the rules forcing member unions to stay members for at least 60 months before attempting another referendum – are accurate. The agenda from 2009’s CFS Annual General Meeting, which have been leaked online, show that the motion to change the rules was intended to make the process more difficult and ensure the “stability” of the national organization. It should be noted that the motion’s passage was extremely contentious, with several representatives abstaining and some of the representatives opposed to the motion leaving the floor in response to the vote’s results.
Claim: Twelve other schools from across Canada have attempted to defederate over the past two years.
Accuracy: Inaccurate due to poor phrasing
The other schools are McGill University, Concordia, Dawson College, the University of Western Ontario, the University of Windsor, Carleton University, Trent University, the University of Guelph, the University of Calgary, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and the University of Victoria. However, two students’ societies at Concordia – both the Student Union and the Graduate Student Association – have petitioned to defederate, which brings the total number of students’ unions other than URSU attempting to defederate up to twelve.
Claim: The University of Saskatchewan Students Union (USSU) do not consider themselves members.
[UPDATE #1]: USSU's current president, Chris Stoicheff, forwarded the Carillon a copy of the letter that USSU sent to CFS, indicating that "the University of Saskatchewan Students' Union is not a prospective member of CFS, and has not been a member since the referendum was held in 2005."
Claim: The CFS flies in people from all over Canada to campaign on its behalf.
The CFS does fly in multiple individuals as part of the referendum process; campaigners on campus include national deputy chairperson Shelley Melanson and national chairperson David Molenhuis. The CFS delegation also includes representatives who sit on the Referendum Oversight Committee, the four-person committee that determines and enforces the rules of the referendum. It should be pointed out that URSU has also hired off-campus campaign help in the form of Jeph Maystruck, a local marketing consultant who is heading up the “no” vote’s campaign and who, according to his LinkedIn profile, graduated from the U of R in 2008.