Slates Duel Over Transparency

Campaign Spending Scrutinized

Your Concordia presidential candidate Lex Gill provided The Link with receipts detailing her slate’s campaign spending. photo pierre chauvin

In an increasingly heated campaign, both the Action and Your Concordia slates are accusing each other of overspending on this year’s Concordia Student Union elections.

On the first day of elections Your Concordia released a breakdown of all its campaign-spending. The budget was updated and revised one week into the campaign. Last week, Action posted a budget detailing its expenses on the slate’s website.

Action presidential candidate Khalil Haddad said that this was done to counter suggestions from the opposing slate that Action was overspending.

Each slate is limited to around $2,300 for campaigning depending on the number of candidates it runs.
The student union will reimburse this money. Any spending over that amount is grounds for a disqualification, according to the CSU standing regulations.

There is no requirement that candidates make their campaign budgets public, but financial accountability has become a central point of both slates’ platforms.

Your Concordia is aggressively promoting transparency. Lex Gill, the presidential candidate for Your Concordia, provided The Link with copies of receipts that corresponded to the budget on the slate’s website. The receipts were verified with some of the vendors listed.

Action was not able to show receipts to The Link, as they were already given to the chief electoral officer as required and no copies were made.

The budget did not include amounts of materials bought, but The Link contacted the business where Action bought their t-shirts and confirmed that the cost listed in the budget is possible.

The slate’s costs for poster and flier printing could not be confirmed with the company listed in the budget. Furthermore, Facebook advertisements purchased by the slate were not listed on its budget.

CSU regulations require that students hand in all receipts related to campaign spending, but there is little preventing students from withholding receipts. Counting fliers and t-shirts to ensure that they match what was declared is not easy.

“I think there needs to be major reforms to the electoral regulations,” said Gill.

Haddad also suggested that change is needed to make slates more accountable.

It is widely speculated that in previous years slates have spent multiple times their allotted budgets. During the 2008-09 campaign, one party hired an ad-truck to drive around the downtown campus.

Financial issues have been a major platform point for both parties. Your Concordia is pushing an open system in terms of access to financial records. The Action slate believes money mismanagement within the CSU can be addressed through better education.

“With the financial 101 course that we plan to make mandatory for councillors, they’ll really understand the finances when they are presented,” said Tanya Ng, the Action candidate for VP Finance.

Ng and Haddad say that if councillors were better informed on how to manage budgets, responsible spending and financial accountability would be easier to control.

The VP Finance candidate says she will be implementing an “open-door policy” for any students who wish to examine the budget lines more closely.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 28, published March 29, 2011.