CSU Elections 2016: Referendum Questions Breakdown

Five Questions on the Ballot Could Affect the Fees You Pay and Whether You Oppose the Construction of a Pipeline

Graphic Madeleine Claire Gendreau

Concordia Student Union general elections begin on March 29 and run until March 31.

There are five referendum questions on the ballot that could affect the fees you pay and whether you oppose the construction of a pipeline.

Education & Tuition Increase Positions: Do you as a member of the Concordia Student Union, approve the adoption of the following positions?

This question asks the undergrad body whether they support the CSU’s efforts to oppose government efforts to allow universities to increase international student tuition to make up for budget cuts in higher education.

Voting “yes” to this question will back up the CSU’s position for accessible education for international students.

Currently, international students enrolled in engineering, computer science and at the John Molson School of Business have their tuition fees entirely determined by Concordia administration, rather than being regulated by the provincial government.

This is because the Quebec government deregulated these disciplines in 2014—which means they’re no longer provincially funded, and universities like Concordia can charge whatever they want and keep the money.   

Thus far, Concordia hasn’t made drastic changes—unlike McGill, which charges over $30,000 per year for certain international programs.

If the question passes, the CSU would be able to speak authoritatively about the situation in senior university bodies like the Board of Governors or Senate, according to Terry Wilkings, the CSU General Coordinator.  

“It’s a very strong stance if you pass it through referendum,” he said.

To make any change to tuition fees, Concordia’s Board of Governors must approve it. Wilkings said the question’s timing is ideal, because the provincial government released its new budget recently, and the university’s Board will likely decide on its tuition fees soon as well.

If passed, the position will be adopted into the CSU’s positions book, which can only be reversed with a future referendum.

Canadian Refugee Initiative: Do you agree to pay 37 cents per credit indexed to inflation in accordance with the Consumer Price Index of Canada, to the Canadian Refugee Initiative, effective Fall 2016?

With a fee-levy of $0.37 per credit, the Canadian Refugee Initiative will integrate newly immigrated refugees within the Concordia community by providing them with general across-the-board support, and also provide new opportunities for Concordia students. The initiative stems from Concordia’s Syrian Students’ Association.

If passed, about 45 per cent of the money will go towards their Business Development Centre as well as offering paid and unpaid internships. Kinan Swaid, president of the SSA, explained that the Business Development Centre would be a resource for the greater Concordia community, not just refugees.

Swaid said the Refugee Centre would pair entrepreneurs with refugees who have the knowledge and skills that they were looking for.

“Most of [the refugees] are engineers, doctors,” he said. “There’s a lot of manpower that can be used.”

Another 17 per cent of their budget will be allocated towards housing for the refugees. The goal, Swaid said, is to buy a property to create subsidized housing for student immigrants, refugees and undocumented refugees.

Other services include a legal aid clinic, academic counseling and a bursary and scholarship program.

“Instead of making them wait and depend on the government, our goal is to make them self-sufficient,” Swaid said.

CSU Health and Dental Plan: Do you agree to raise the annual cap (the maximum amount that could be charged to a student in any given year) placed on the CSU health and dental plan fee incrementally, according to need, but not exceeding an increase of $30.00 (from $195.00 to $225.00)?

This past year, the CSU charged students $193.07 for its health and dental plan through its provider Alliance Étudiante pour la Santé au Québec, according to Terry Wilkings, the union’s general coordinator. The last time the plan’s fee increased was in 2005, he said.

The point of the question is to adjust to rising costs, he explained, as the current plan couldn’t match a one per cent increase. Last year, the CSU ran a similar referendum question asking for a $46 increase, but it failed.

This time, the question asks for a $30 increase and has been expanded to specify that it’s seeking more access to mental health services.

Wilkings said the expanded coverage would allow students to use a registered clinical counsellor and a master in social work. Currently, students can only be covered for using a licensed psychologist.

The CSU increase is smaller this year because students rejected it in 2015, Wilkings said. If the question passes, the CSU won’t need to request another increase for five to seven years, he added.

ASEQ conducted a survey earlier this year of 1,100 undergraduate Concordia students. Among other results, 43.6 per cent of respondents said they would approve an increase in the plan’s cost to maintain the current coverage.

36.5 per cent of those surveyed said they were in favour of increasing costs to expand the coverage.

“Incrementally” means the plan would rise at most three to four per cent per year, which Wilkings said is the average rate of inflation. If the question doesn’t pass, he said the plan won’t be able to cover new costs, meaning students would have access to less coverage.  

International/Ethnic Association Council (IEAC): Would you agree to raise the fee-levy from the current $0.06 per credit to $0.12 per credit, allowing the IEAC to allocate funds towards growing the cultural and ethnic club-base within Concordia, effective Fall 2016?

Established in 1981, the IEAC represents 11 ethnic student groups on campus. This includes groups like the Concordia Ukrainian Student Union, the Arab Student Association, and the Hellenic Student Association, among others.

In March, the IEAC co-hosted an event called, “Unifying Concordia Soccer Tournament 2016,” where teams paid a $100 fee to play, and presented its 34th Cultural Expressions Show, a cultural variety show.

It’s unclear why the umbrella organization wants a fee-levy increase.

The website’s events page hasn’t been updated since November of 2014, which was the last time it asked for a fee-levy increase and lost.

An executive from the IEAC could not be reached for comment by press time.

Energy East & Line 9 Pipelines: Do you as a member of the Concordia Student Union (CSU) agree that the CSU adopt the following position? “That the CSU oppose the Energy East and Line 9 pipelines as well as any form of tar sands development.”

Graphic Madeleine Claire Gendreau

The CSU wants to take an official stance against the TransCanada Energy East and Enbridge Line 9 pipelines.

The Montreal Metropolitan Community opposed the Energy East pipeline in January. Mayor Denis Coderre justified the stance saying, “It still represents significant environmental threats and too few economic benefits for greater Montreal.” The pipeline would transport 1.1 million barrels of oil sands crude from Hardisty, Alta. to Saint John, N.B. daily, travelling through southern Quebec, including Montreal and Quebec City.

Enbridge’s smaller Line 9 pipeline has also faced strong resistance. The Supreme Court of Canada has recently approved an appeal to the pipeline by the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation.

The original Line 9 pipe was built in 1976 to carry oil towards Eastern Canada, although the flow had been reversed in the late 1990’s to carry foreign oil westward. Enbridge now wants to reverse directions again, to transport oil from western to refineries in the east.

The decisions have been motivated by the fluctuating prices in Canadian and foreign crude oil, as well as the desire to export Alberta’s oil. Line 9 received a go-ahead last October, and began pumping 300,000 barrels of oil daily from west to east despite protests criticizing its safety.

If this referendum passes, the CSU will officially be opposed to both of these pipeline projects, and can engage in mobilization against them.