Spare the Vote & Spoil the Ballot

Why I Won’t Vote For Either Slate

Graphic by Eric Bent

It’s sort of an awkward time for the Concordia Student Union.

Almost a quarter of a million students are on strike, Montreal is splotched with post-St. Patrick’s Day green vomit and regular protests/riots have turned this city into a warzone.

But amidst all this hullabaloo, the next batch of CSU hopefuls is attempting to gain our attention—and votes—with cutesy posters and fire-centric videos.

It’s unfortunate timing, to say the least.

Honestly, it’s too bad. CSU elections matter quite a bit. Whoever wins will control almost $2 million and represent roughly 35,000 people—which is more people than the entire population of the Yukon Territory.

They will organize our health care and represent us on the Board of Governors. What they do—or fail to do—next year could affect students for years to come.

It’s in that context that I’m trying really hard to care about a slate right now. I’ve spent time questioning who uses the word “transparency” better, or which team commits more to democracy and finally catching Joseph Kony.

But it seems like the two options this year are neck and neck in a race to the bottom, and there are more troubling similarities than the fact that their names are almost indistinguishable from each other.

Melanie Hotchkiss, the Concordia Could Be presidential candidate, has the unhappy distinction of having being asked to resign as president of the Dawson Student Union by her fellow execs near the end of her term after a fraught year that saw her repeatedly clash with fellow executive members and Dawson administration.

Her competitor, Schubert Laforest of A Better Concordia, may have forgotten to send in some visa-renewal requests on time, nullifying his student status.
Not exactly a confidence-inspiring duo.

There are, of course, members of both teams I wouldn’t mind seeing in power, however.

Concordia Could Be’s Cameron Monagle has proven himself this year as a committed and capable councillor, and Alexis Suzuki, A Better Concordia candidate, spent her last year as an Arts and Science Federation of Associations VP while also maintaining a strong presence in the fine arts community.

I’m sure that other individuals from the teams could, given the opportunity, also make impressive execs. But on the whole, neither slate is really bringing much to the table.

While Concordia Could Be is (allegedly) a continuation of this year’s CSU exec, and their counterpart is (allegedly) the neo-baby of the Vision/Fusion/Action dynasty of years past, neither carries the charisma or benefits of their supposed predecessors.

In last year’s election, we were asked to choose what mattered more: student life or student rights. And while local indie-poppers Stars was a little hipster for an orientation concert, we probably made the right call. I have trouble believing Concordia would have been as formidable an opponent to Quebec Premier Jean Charest had Action taken last year’s election.

This time, I’m not entirely sure what I’m choosing between. At the debates, both “affiliations” seemed to agree on almost everything.

Like the two slates, I also value Loyola, want more transparency from my school and fully believe that together we can catch the poltergeist that has been haunting the Hive (that’s why it’s still not open, right?).

But obvious platform points aside, what are we actually voting on?

Admittedly, it’s not unusual for slates to have almost identical content on their handouts—that speaks more to the size of the posters than to the quality of their candidates, and it gets at the fact that CSU elections can sometimes seem like glorified popularity contests.

But once you looked past the garish promotions wallpapering the whole Hall Building, there was substance. Specific ideas were listed on each website. Teams would disagree on meaningful issues like the tuition fight and offer innovative solutions for everything from shuttle delays to bylaw reform.

Now, we have two barely functioning sites with no actual content. One has a vague tab for ‘principles,’ which includes a section labeled ‘fun’ but not much else. The other has nothing at all for platform points.

Bit of an oops there.

Our union is really going to matter next year. Concordia will have a new president, a Chartwells contract to renegotiate and BoG Chair Peter Kruyt, the university’s resident creature of darkness, will finally be replaced.

So it’s terrifying that I’m not feeling very confident in either slate right now. We’re looking at a future run by students who campaigned with no specific information and displayed little innovation.

If these teams plan to govern the same way they campaigned, they won’t do a very good job.

Luckily, the new voting system gives us more flexibility. We no longer have to vote for a slate as a whole. I plan to take advantage of this system to send a message to our new executives—whoever that may be.

But I won’t vote for either slate in its entirety, and I’ll probably spoil my presidential ballot.

I’ll do it because I want the incoming executives to know that their campaign wasn’t good enough. As our union, they’ll have to do more.

And I hope—for the future of Concordia—that the winning candidates live up to the challenge.