Navigating the blurred line between politics and peers, and why it’s important to know where you stand

PHOTO C/O: Alex Motoc, Unsplash

Friends and social media can shape your political orientation and ideologies. From a tweet shared by your favourite celebrity to a comment made by a close friend, several studies show that you may begin to question, and possibly even alter, your political stances in agreement with those around you. 

The power of social influence is not a new revelation. For decades, psychologists have noted the ability of social groups to modify and impact individual behaviours and opinions. This phenomenon occurs as a means of meeting individual needs of acceptance and belonging through conformity in society. 

The power of social influence is not a new revelation. For decades, psychologists have noted the ability of social groups to modify and impact individual behaviours and opinions. This phenomenon occurs as a means of meeting individual needs of acceptance and belonging through conformity in society. 

On a smaller scale, the power of social influence can prompt you to follow basic etiquette in public. However, on a much greater scale, the people around you can affect your political views, causing you to take an ill-informed political stance before casting your ballot. As a result, without adequate information, you may end up siding with a political party or candidate that does not truly represent your beliefs and values. 

Research is singlehandedly the most valuable strategy to combat and mitigate the power of social influence. Exploring each political candidate and their platform can help you solidify your political views to make a well-informed decision.  

While it may not be completely obvious at first glance, there are certainly damaging ramifications of inadequate knowledge when it comes to politics and voting. A lack of political understanding diminishes the value of having democracy and leads to an inaccurate reflection of the public’s true wishes through government policies and action. 

While it may not be completely obvious at first glance, there are certainly damaging ramifications of inadequate knowledge when it comes to politics and voting. A lack of political understanding diminishes the value of having democracy and leads to an inaccurate reflection of the public’s true wishes through government policies and action. 

Take Paul Fromm as an example of the rash consequences that could result if ballots are cast with such blissful ignorance. Currently running in Hamilton’s nearing municipal election, he is a white supremacist and neo-Nazi that spearheads several organizations with deplorable objectives.  

The stark and concerning reality is that there are very few eligibility criteria to run for a municipal election in Ontario. As such, it becomes the sole responsibility of us citizens to support and cautiously grant power to candidates whose visions and values align with our own.  

So, whether you are preparing to vote at the next municipal election or an upcoming MSU election, beware of social influence and try to implement necessary measures to make your vote your own. Though the prospect may seem daunting, you are not required to vote for your friend or someone they support at an election. Only your opinions and ideas about a candidate’s qualifications and plans should matter when you check off the circle on your ballot.  

It is also important to remember that along with your right to vote in Canada, maintaining the secrecy of your ballot is also a right that no one may infringe. While there is no harm in engaging in healthy political discourse, you should never feel compelled to share your political views with anyone, especially if it makes you feel uncomfortable.  

As students receiving post-secondary education in a democratic nation, we ought to recognize our privilege and use it to effect positive change in our communities. Staying aware of how our friends and exposure to political views on social media can influence our stances, as well as doing our research, is vital to ensure we are truly making an impact with our votes.  

Ejaz Butt’s platform focuses on supporting the unhoused community, building the LRT and fostering accountability at City Hall 

The Silhouette sat down with Ejaz Butt to discuss his campaign for mayor in the 2022 Hamilton municipal election.  

Butt first ran for mayor in the 2014 Hamilton municipal election. After years of being a proactive citizen in Hamilton politics, Butt discussed how he felt it was time to become involved and build his platform. He was particularly motivated to run for mayor and give back to the city after observing deficits in tax policies and a lack of transparency and accountability in Hamilton City Hall.  

Many may recognize Butt from his unique car, which he has decked out in merchandise as advertisement for his campaign. Butt has been involved in the taxi industry for over 20 years and currently works as an Uber driver, providing him with many unique advertisement opportunities. 

Butt has a 20 point campaign agenda which he explained was formulated based on feedback from citizens. A few significant focuses of this agenda include affordable housing and rent capping, investing in more shelter homes for the unhoused population and turning attention towards youth facing affordability challenges. 

“Young professionals and entrepreneurs are facing an economic crisis due to volatile and high interest rates and affordability of housing. [The youth] need more attention at this time,” said Butt.  

“Young professionals and entrepreneurs are facing an economic crisis due to volatile and high interest rates and affordability of housing. [The youth] need more attention at this time,”

Ejaz Butt, Hamilton Mayoral Candidate

Additional focuses of Butt’s campaign include updating police stations with more modern technology, revitalizing downtown areas, keeping urban boundaries firm, cleaning contaminated water and finishing the LRT project.  

When discussing the LRT, Butt explained despite over a billion dollars put towards the project, very few results have been seen. It is important to Butt to ensure tax dollars are being put towards their appropriate use. 

“The main problem is in City Hall, [specifically] in the planning and development department where most of the corruption is done. I may not root out the corruption, but at least I can reduce it. If elected, I will freeze the property taxes for four months, because we have already gone through a lot,” said Butt.  

“The main problem is in City Hall, [specifically] in the planning and development department where most of the corruption is done. I may not root out the corruption, but at least I can reduce it. If elected, I will freeze the property taxes for four months, because we have already gone through a lot.”

Ejaz Butt, Hamilton Mayoral Candidate

Butt highlighted the ongoing housing crisis in Hamilton and the lack of resources available to combat the issue. He detailed how issues within shelters, such as unsafe environments or lack of security, also make these resources inaccessible for many citizens.  

Lastly, Butt explained his campaign strives to centre Hamilton youth and their economic future. He expressed the urgency of addressing the housing and affordability crises as soon as possible, as remaining complicit will only harm young people entering the workforce, such as McMaster University students.  

“The youth are leading us into the future. My generation has already done our time. If our young entrepreneurs are not looked after, we will see more homeless people on the streets,” said Butt.  

“The youth are leading us into the future. My generation has already done our time. If our young entrepreneurs are not looked after, we will see more homeless people on the streets."

Ejaz Butt, Hamilton Mayoral Candidate

Ejaz Butt is running for mayor in the Oct. 2022 municipal election. His candidate profile has be posted as part of a series the Silhouette is running to build student awareness about the municipal election. Candidate profiles will continue to be posted in alphabetical order over the next few weeks. Election Day is Oct. 24 and more details on how to vote can be found here.  

Vail discusses key points of his platform, including avoiding over-intensification, being a collaborative member of the community and building transparency

The Silhouette sat down with Ward 1 city councillor candidate John Vail to reflect on his current campaign and the most pressing issues for the upcoming election. 

Vail has previously run for city councillor and for the Hamilton Centre seat in the provincial campaign under the Conservative Party in 2014. He has also been a chartered accountant and is now the small business owner of Real Estate Strategy Ltd.  

In the Ward 1 candidate debate on Sept. 13, Vail pledged he would work on measures to avoid congestion from over-intensification, meaning re-developing the ward could only happen at the same residential and business density that currently exists. 

“Rapid development [means] that people are up in arms now in Ward 1 that their way of life is being undermined with intensification,” explained Vail.  

"Rapid development [means] that people are up in arms now in Ward 1 that their way of life is being undermined with intensification."

John Vail, Ward 1 City Councillor candidate

Vail also spoke about the importance of striking a balance between creating businesses, so students have opportunities to stay in Hamilton and residents can also continue from lifelong learning that he and his family have benefited from at McMaster University. 

If elected City Councillor for Ward 1, Vail stated he would be a collaborative member of the community and a liaison between McMaster students and Hamilton residents. 

Vail discussed about the importance of transparency and trust and the role these would play in his work, should he be elected. He referenced the 2014 Sewergate incident, where a sewer grate accidentally left open began to leak sewage in the Chedoke Creek for the next four years, and he criticized his opponent, incumbent city councillor Maureen Wilson, on how the issue was handled in terms of public transparency. 

Wilson pushed for the issue to go public after learning about the spillage but it was first broken by The Spectator. The sewage gate was mistakenly left open from 2014 to 2018, spilling 24 billion litres of sewage, and was left open before Wilson was elected as Ward 1 city councillor in 2018. 

“When we look at the city council right now, the viewpoint of the public that I've talked to is that it is somewhat dysfunctional and part of the reason for being dysfunctional is the existing councillor is seen as seen by some as a disruptive figure. So, we're looking at more of a collaborative approach,” said Vail. 

Finally, Vail emphasized the duty he believes each citizen has, including students, to go out and vote.  

“Democracy won't work unless people vote. And it’s got to start early in life, and just because they’re students is no excuse not to vote . . . Municipal is closest to the everyday needs of all of us,” said Vail.  

"Democracy won't work unless people vote. And it’s got to start early in life, and just because they’re students is no excuse not to vote . . . Municipal is closest to the everyday needs of all of us."

John Vail, Ward 1 City Councillor candidate

Vail pledged to satisfy the current residents of Ward 1 and to continue to participate in the McMaster community.  

John Vail is running for city councillor in Ward 1 in the Oct. 2022 municipal election. His candidate profile has be posted as part of a series the Silhouette is running to build student awareness about the municipal election. Candidate profiles will continue to be posted in alphabetical order over the next few weeks. Election Day is Oct. 24 and more details on how to vote can be found here.  

C/O Simranjeet Singh

Getting to know the person behind the platform

Simranjeet Singh is is one of the candidates running to be the McMaster Students Union President for the 2022-2023 academic year. Singh’s platform outlines five main pillars: student wellness, building a stronger community, environmental sustainability, creating more equitable education and career development support.  

The Silhouette: What made you run for president? What about this role attracts you? 

Simranjeet Singh: In terms of why I wish to be president, I first came to make McMaster in 2017. I was in a program called medical radiation sciences and it was a great opportunity for me to learn about what exists [at McMaster] and how vibrant of a community there is.  

[I] initially actually was not that involved in student leadership. It was actually only in my third year that I was elected to the SRA but, from that point, I was able to gain a huge amount of knowledge about what opportunities exist for advocacy as well as what gaps exist . . . and what changes can be [implemented]. 

[In 2021], I kind of was thinking about what more can be done, how can I implement the knowledge that I've learned moving forward and I thought that the president position would be a great place to do that advocacy. Through my experience in the MSU as well as just being a student and other experiences, I've gained an understanding of what gaps exist and then I was able to do consultations to better learn of how I would fill those gaps.  

That's why I chose to run for president, because I feel like it is the best opportunity for me to deliver the support students need and I think this is important as well because some of these gaps are things that I would have loved to have had in my first year.  

If, for example, I had more affordable housing, if I had less expensive textbooks, if I had greater access to career development supports, I know that I would use those to further myself as much as I could and I think it's important that the future students also have that opportunity. 

So I thought that I had pretty good ideas, I think and a way to implement them and the president position is, I think my best way of doing that, which is why I chose to run. 

What do you feel is your strongest asset for this role? 

So I think of myself as a pretty conscientious person, so that kind of encompasses the thoroughness and my dedication to my work. 

I have been someone who has been quite dedicated to the MSU for that reason because I have a clear interest in ensuring that students are more supported with the resources they need and [it’s] something that I generally find enjoyable as well. I like to be in these discussions, I like to understand how I can solve the problem that is in front of me and then work with the relevant partners to have a plan in place to actually solve that problem. 

[A]s a part of conscientiousness as well, that involves going to do the correct consultations and working with community to understand what their needs actually are and how I can utilize my position to solve those needs.  

So I do think that in my past, through the things I’ve been accomplishing, the SRA and academically, I do think that that at least provide some sort of basis to kind of prove that I am a conscientious person. 

[I] will apply that conscientiousness through my role through my dedication to my work and during external consultation with the university, with certain groups to better understand how I can best serve their needs and then actually apply that moving forward.  

For a complete overview of Singh’s platform, please visit https://www.thesil.ca/msu-elections-2022-simranjeet-singh-campaign-overview.   

MSU president-elect acclaimed for the first time in at least 40 years

For the first time in at least 40 years, the McMaster Students Union president-elect has been acclaimed. At the end of the 2021 nomination period, MSU Elections received only one candidate and Denver Della-Vedova became MSU president-elect.

According to Silhouette archives, an average of 6 candidates per year have ran for the presidential position from 1990 to 2000. Notably, the 1994 election had 12 candidates. General Manager John McGowan, who has been with the MSU since February 2002, is not aware of a president ever being acclaimed.

Oussama Badran, a third-year kinesiology student and other students have raised concerns.

[#1054] The MSU elected a president without a vote of no confidence. To those who do not know usually there is a huge...

Posted by Mac Confessions on Monday, January 25, 2021

“We're not getting a choice in a president that definitely has power and is getting a paycheck on our dime. So I just need to know why is this happening, why didn't [the MSU] do a better job of advertising and actually, in particular, why didn't they just extend the deadline?,” said Badran.

The end of the extended nomination period came on Jan. 21. According to MSU Chief Returning Officer, Hargun Grewal, the nomination period was extended to match the extended winter break and to ensure students had the opportunity to run.

With one candidate, Bylaw 7/A section 3.3.1 was enforced. “If the number of valid nomination forms submitted is fewer than or equal to the number of available positions, the CRO shall declare all nominees duly elected by acclamation.”

With one candidate, Bylaw 7/A section 3.3.1 was enforced. “If the number of valid nomination forms submitted is fewer than or equal to the number of available positions, the CRO shall declare all nominees duly elected by acclamation.”

The MSU Elections department is responsible for upholding and enforcing the elections bylaws of the MSU, including 7/A. They act as impartial arbiters to ensure that elections are run in a fair and transparent manner as the bylaws outline.

Badran felt that there was a lack of communication from the MSU about these procedures, including the possibility of an acclamation and about the election itself.

Current MSU President Giancarlo Da-Ré discussed the result and the bylaw that dictated it.

“What we have seen this year is the impact of an acclamation of the MSU president. Evidently there are some students that feel that they did not get to know the candidate before the results were announced, which I think is a fair concern to have, a fair frustration from students,” said Da-Ré.

The bylaws that govern the MSU and its elections are subject to change. According to MSU Associate Vice-President: Internal Governance, Michelle Brown, the Board of Directors have tasked her and the Internal Governance Committee to do a review on bylaw 7/A.

“I think it [the acclamation] warrants a discussion at the [Student Representative Assembly] level where we can follow our normal democractic processes. I know that the Internal Governance Committee is aware of these frustrations from other students and as they do with other policies and bylaws throughout the year, they're looking into bylaw 7/A to see if this is something that should come to SRA. I definitely think that it's something that can come to SRA for discussion, debate and I look forward to being a part of that debate,” said Da-Ré.

"I definitely think that it's something that can come to SRA for discussion, debate and I look forward to being a part of that debate,” said Da-Ré.

The IG committee is composed of six voting members and the AVP IG, who is the non-voting chair. The voting members include four SRA members and two non-SRA MSU members, though other MSU members are welcome to participate in a non-voting capacity. Della-Vedova is currently one of the four voting SRA members on the committee.

“I think it's important for me, as the chair of the committee, to try and stay as impartial as possible so that I can try my best to help facilitate an unbiased conversation within the committee and so that we can make the best suggestions possible to the SRA,” said Brown.

According to Brown, a committee member will usually lead the bylaw review, conducting research and proposing evidence-based ideas. Research includes studying procedures from various organizations, like student unions and governments.

The committee will discuss and debate ideas, including ideas from other members and MSU parties, until they have formed a cohesive proposal. That proposal is then circulated to the SRA, discussed and debated at assembly, then voted upon.

Approval from the SRA results in bylaw changes, while a rejection would send the bylaw back to the IG committee, restarting the revision process.

Photo by Andrew Mrozowski, Managing Editor

Deputy Returning Officer, Alison Hacker, discussed that her and Grewal as the DRO and CRO, respectively, have been invited to an internal governance committee meeting on bylaw 7/A.

“On behalf of the elections department, we believe that this is a fair conversation to be had and we are again in full support of supporting the review of this bylaw as needed,” said Hacker. “We do our best job just to uphold the bylaws, offer transparency in times when there's a lot of confusion, such as now and offer as much support to any of these investigative processes as they work to make elections more equitable moving forward.”

Another of the four SRA voting members on IG is Simranjeet Singh of SRA Science. This is his second term on the assembly. Singh believed there should be a vote of confidence for MSU president, either by the students or SRA. He also spoke in favour of a minimum number of candidates and an extended nomination period until that number is reached.

Currently, he believed that the SRA would be better suited to take the vote because of the existing procedures for vice-presidential elections, which include a vote of confidence in the case of one candidate.

He acknowledged criticisms of the SRA as ill-informed but believed a presidential vote of confidence could be easily incorporated.

“I also fear that if there’s only one candidate, that it’s sent to a student poll, because students wouldn’t have as much background before they would go ahead and vote, we might just get a confidence vote, essentially, no matter what. I don’t have evidence to back it up, that’s just my fear based on my understanding, so it could definitely be wrong,” explained Singh.

A key distinction between MSU presidential and vice-presidential elections, particularly around acclamation, is their respective electorates. As McGowan explained, the president is selected from the general student population while the vice-presidents are elected by the SRA.

“The rationale is probably due to the want of the SRA to ensure that there’s not just a candidate that comes forward, but also the diligence and screening those candidates,” said McGowan.

To Singh’s fear of guaranteed confidence, in the 2020 presidential election more students abstained than voted for the third place candidate. While abstentions do not necessarily mean no confidence, there is evidence that the student body would vote with just cause.

Badran discussed a shorter campaign period in the event of one candidate as a chance for the student body to determine if they have confidence. He also believed there is merit to an SRA vote of confidence, but also discussed the importance of student voice.

“I feel like this [proposed bylaw changes] is supposed to represent us. How are you supposed to represent us if you can’t get our opinions straight from the source? Student government is wonderful, but sometimes you really need to listen to the people you're representing instead of making an assumption,” said Badran.

"Student government is wonderful, but sometimes you really need to listen to the people you're representing instead of making an assumption,” said Badran.

An SRA vote of confidence also raises questions on which SRA would cast the vote — the incoming SRA, as with vice-presidents, or the outgoing assembly who are now used to their roles, as Singh discussed. There are many options to consider in the bylaw revision process, including options not mentioned in this article.

“Denver’s ABC’s” significantly lack detail, research and plans for execution

Though “Denver’s ABC’s” address some timely concerns, like tuition and MSU clubs, his platform significantly lacks in research, consultation and detail, both in terms of specific plans and execution.

Significant Concerns

Della-Vedova hopes to use the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance more effectively to reduce tuition. Tuition is an important issue, especially with increased financial barriers during the pandemic.

The MSU and OUSA are bound by their policies. The official stances of both the MSU and OUSA on tuition are: The province should freeze tuition across all programs until a fair-cost sharing model is restored. Then, tuition increases for all programs should be capped at inflation.

Della-Vedova’s platform is in direct violation of these policies. Regardless of COVID-19, OUSA and the MSU have not changed their tuition policies. Both policies are subject to amendment by the MSU Student Representative Assembly or by the OUSA General Assembly, which would likely not meet in his term until the end of October 2021. Della-Vedova will likely face significant challenges to advocate for tuition reduction.

The campus safety point does not address racial profiling or sexual violence prevention and response. In June 2020, the SRA, including Della-Vedova, passed a motion to call for the removal of the head of security services and an end to the special constable program. This motion became the official stance of the MSU. Yet, Della-Vedova does not promise to achieve either of these goals.

In June 2020, the SRA, including Della-Vedova, passed a motion to call for the removal of the head of security services and an end to the special constable program. This motion became the official stance of the MSU. Yet, Della-Vedova does not promise to achieve either of these goals.

Della-Vedova cited a campus climate survey and census from this year for student feedback on campus safety. However, through the Silhouette’s fact-checking, we could only find last year’s provincial government SVPR climate survey. Della-Vedova does not mention any past or ongoing efforts of sexual violence prevention or response.

There is a significant and noticeable lack of consideration for issues of racial justice and justice for equity-seeking groups on campus in Denver’s ABCs.

While there are points around international student representation, financial aid and increasing physical accessibility on campus, there are no points on justice for Black, Indigenous and students of Colour, 2SLGBTQIA+ students, women and survivors.

A is for Accessibility

Della-Vedova promises to ensure the safety of immunocompromised individuals in the return to campus. However, there are no details for how he will accomplish this. No consultations, such as with key return to campus groups, are noted in the platform.

This section includes education and resources on student housing, such as tenant rights and signing a lease. He hopes to work with campus stakeholders, including Residence Life and the Society of Off-Campus Students. It is unclear whether Della-Vedova has consulted with these groups. Further, his platform does not acknowledge or differentiate between similar initiatives.

Della-Vedova hopes to receive and address student concerns around proctoring software and to improve hybrid learning. He plans to streamline student-professor communication and he wants the MSU to be a leader in physical accessibility, such as ensuring McMaster complies with provincial standards.

He hopes to advocate for parking cost changes and for more online course options to alleviate parking needs. There are no details on how he will accomplish these tasks.

B is for Better Advocacy

Della-Vedova wants to continue federal advocacy for international students and provincial advocacy around tuition regulation. He plans to build upon the international student task force implemented by MSU President Giancarlo Da-Ré and create long-term goals.

He plans to create an off-campus international student seat on MSU First Year Council and work with the Student Success Centre to understand and deliver on the needs of international students. It is unclear what consultation has been done or how he plans to achieve these goals.

C is for Community

Della-Vedova’s prioritization of mental health can be appreciated with the overwhelming nature of the pandemic. He plans to create an online booking system at the Student Wellness Centre but his platform lacks detail on how this would be accomplished or if he has consulted the SWC.

Della-Vedova’s prioritization of mental health can be appreciated with the overwhelming nature of the pandemic.

Della-Vedova suggests a survey to understand student struggles this year. The McMaster virtual learning task force ran the fall 2020 experience survey and is currently implementing its recommendations. Della-Vedova does not mention this or differentiate his idea.

He plans to address academic concerns for current and incoming students, discuss academics with the vice-provost on academics and include current first years in Welcome Week 2021. He plans to restructure Welcome Week with MSU Spark and Maroons; however, these services do not plan Welcome Week.

He plans to continue improvements on the MSU website and create an Avenue to Learn tab for MSU updates. He does not provide further details.

He plans to work with the Clubs Advisory Council on shaping the future of MSU clubs. This is timely as students were outraged this past fall by policy changes. However, Della-Vedova does not specify the changes he would like to make or provide insight into how he will accomplish these goals.

MSU President Giancarlo Da-Ré discusses election “what ifs?”, advice and engagement

The McMaster Students Union Elections department announced a one-week extension of the MSU Presidentials nomination period from Jan. 14 to Jan. 21, 2021. The extension was announced the morning of Jan. 13 via social media — one day before nominations were set to close. The reason for the extension was unclear; however, it was likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

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A post shared by MSU Elections Department (@msu_elections)

The nomination period opened on Dec. 2, 2020 and ended at 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 21, 2021. The extended nomination period would delay the start of the campaigning period. Campaigning was supposed to be from Jan. 24 and end on Feb. 4 at 4:30pm, while the voting period would be from Feb. 2 to Feb. 4 at 4:30pm. 

However, MSU Elections announced on Jan. 22 that at the end of the nomination period one nomination had been received. Denver Della-Vedova has been acclaimed MSU President-Elect for the 2021/2022 term. 

In an interview with the Silhouette prior to the acclamation, current MSU President Giancarlo Da-Ré discussed his experiences with running for MSU president, offered advice to candidates and shared insight on how the campaign period may play out.

"We want students to know about all of our services, all of our offerings and benefits that they have as a part of the MSU. But also we're not trying to contribute to that stress and that Zoom fatigue,” said Da-Ré.

"We want students to know about all of our services, all of our offerings and benefits that they have as a part of the MSU. But also we're not trying to contribute to that stress and that Zoom fatigue,” said Da-Ré.

As the MSU Elections department operates with a degree of impartiality from the MSU elected officials, including the Board of Directors, they made the decision to extend the nomination period. Da-Ré noted that earlier this year, he discussed electoral engagement with his counterparts at student unions across the country and noted that they shared concerns of lowered engagement due to a virtual learning environment. 

“All the options to engage with friends and with MSU services are online. I don't blame students for wanting a break from all that. And so we've naturally had to take that in consideration from the MSU, where obviously we want students to know about all of our services, all of our offerings and benefits that they have as a part of the MSU. But also we're not trying to contribute to that stress and that Zoom fatigue,” said Da-Ré.

However, Da-Ré remained hopeful that even with potentially fewer candidates, the election could see an increase in voter engagement from previous years. When asked what he hoped to see from the candidates, Da-Ré was interested to see how candidates would find new ways to campaign. 

“I think it's up to candidates to ensure that they're creating opportunities to engage with voters and for voters to engage with candidates how those voters will want to engage with candidates,” said Da-Ré. 

An entirely online MSU presidential election has never happened before — a stark contrast to the typical in-person tabling that many candidates do within the McMaster University Student Centre.

Da-Ré was also curious to see candidate ideas for supporting students through the pandemic. He acknowledged that students have been struggling with the pandemic and online learning, while noting how ideal supports differ among students.

He expected that candidates would discuss student supports as a key issue of the campaign, similar to how the Student Choice Initiative was an issue of importance during his run for office in 2020.

"What is your overall reasoning for running for MSU president?" said Da-Ré.

"What is your overall reasoning for running for MSU president?" said Da-Ré.

Da-Ré reflected on his experience running for MSU president. He noted that it was challenging at first but that he ultimately enjoyed the experience, especially interacting with students and understanding their priorities. 

“I had a lot of fun with it, chatting with folks, but you do feel like you are under a microscope for the duration of the campaign period. So it takes a little bit of time to get used to that level of scrutiny and then ideally, if you can kind of get past that a little bit or get used to it, then it starts to be lots of fun,” said Da-Ré.

When asked to offer advice to candidates or those who hoped to run, Da-Ré shared that he sought advice and reflected a lot before his campaign.

“One of the most important things for folks, just when you're thinking about running or when you're building your campaign or your vision, is why you want to run. What is your overall reasoning for running for MSU president? If you can really solidify your vision for campus and your reason for wanting to run for MSU President, ideally have that vision and that reasoning, that “why” is reflected in everything that you’re trying to do,” said Da-Ré.

"That “why” is reflected in everything that you’re trying to do,” said Da-Ré.

Da-Ré also expressed gratitude to the potential candidates for stepping outside of their comfort zones and supporting students. 

“Thank you to all these candidates for committing their time during school and for trying to build a better MSU community for students. Students need a little support right now and we're doing what we can do to try and leave the MSU in a better place than we found it. I want to thank the candidates for looking forward to continuing that work and supporting students during some difficult times of tribulation,” said Da-Ré.

Due to a lack of engagement seen during COVID-19, questions surrounding how many students would run for MSU president arose. If no candidates were to come forward by the end of the campaign period, Da-Ré hesitated to speculate but believed that the nomination period would likely be extended; however, the decision would be up to the MSU Elections department.

If only one candidate ran MSU president, according to Da-Ré, the MSU bylaw states that the candidate would be acclaimed MSU President-Elect.

“3.3.1 If the number of valid nomination forms submitted is fewer than or equal to the number of available positions, the CRO shall declare all nominees duly elected by acclamation.”

“3.3.1 If the number of valid nomination forms submitted is fewer than or equal to the number of available positions, the CRO shall declare all nominees duly elected by acclamation.”

On Jan. 22, the MSU Elections Department announced on social media that one presidential candidate application had been received. Denver Della-Vedova has been acclaimed as MSU President-Elect for the 2021/2022 term. 

 

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Da-Ré took to social media to congratulate Della-Vedova. “Very excited to start the transition process and to watch Denver strengthen the undergraduate experience at McMaster,” wrote Da-Ré.

The Silhouette will be posting more MSU presidential elections 2021 coverage in our annual Presidentials issue on Feb. 1, 2021 available on Issuu.

New provincial bill removes the option for ranked ballots in upcoming municipal elections

In October 2022, cities across Ontario will hold their next municipal election. However, with this upcoming election, the Ontario government has introduced a new bill that will prevent municipalities from using ranked ballots. 

This bill was introduced along with legislation from the Ontario government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new legislation is meant to help provide liability protection for workers and businesses against COVID-19 exposure-related lawsuits. 

In justification for this mandate, Adam Wilson, spokesman for Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark, said that the decision would help eliminate unpredictability and inconsistencies across municipalities during the pandemic.

However, people are questioning whether the provincial government’s concern is necessary and whether the mandate is instead stripping residents of their democratic rights. 

why is the political class engaged in anti-democratic actions. There are over 400 municipalities in #Ontario
Why should a governing party hand down this hard decision?
Did majority of Ontario residents discuss this in their communities?#onpoli https://t.co/r4xr0v65jW

— Kojo Easy Damptey #KojoforWard14 ✊🏿 (@EasyThePianoMan) October 21, 2020

Under a ranked balloting system, voters rank their preferences of candidates. In the first round, votes for first choices are added up and if someone has a majority then they would win the election. However, if no one has a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the votes are transferred to the next choice until someone wins by a majority. 

This system is also what is currently adopted by the McMaster Students Union for all of its elections. 

Although London is currently the only city in Ontario that has implemented a ranked ballot system, this bill would deny all cities from implementing the system in the future. 

In the cities of Kingston and Cambridge, votes from previous referendums showed that a large proportion of people are in favour of switching to a ranked ballot system. 

In an interview with CBC News, Dave Meslin, the creative director of an electoral reform advocacy group known as Unlock Democracy Canada, believes that a ranked ballot system should be implemented in the province of Ontario.

“Ranked ballots have such an impact on everything from civility to diversity to having more choice, to ensuring that you have a council with a real mandate. It's such a step backwards for this option to be stripped away from cities,” Meslin told CBC News.

“Ranked ballots have such an impact on everything from civility to diversity to having more choice, to ensuring that you have a council with a real mandate. It's such a step backwards for this option to be stripped away from cities,” Meslin told CBC News

Meslin also noted that this is the very system of voting that voted Doug Ford as the current leader of the Ontario Conservatives. When Ford ran for leadership, he was not in first place during the first round of ballots but was in second place. 

News regarding this bill and the provincial government’s decision to remove the possibility of ranked ballots has resulted in fury from other provincial party leaders. 

All three party leaders took to Twitter to express their discontent with the situation. NDP leader Andrea Horwarth wrote, “Mr. Ford interferes in democratic elections again and again. I'm committed to bringing back the right of municipalities to decide how to hold their own elections — including ranked ballots.”

Mr. Ford interferes in democratic elections again and again. I'm committed to bringing back the right of municipalities to decide how to hold their own elections —including ranked ballots. Thanks @meslin, and all those fighting this attack on democracy, for speaking out. https://t.co/S0v9cClrBX

— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) October 23, 2020

Liberal leader Steven Del Duca said that the Liberal party will be finding a way to restore the option of ranked ballots if elected in 2022. 

“Ranked ballots were originally brought in under an Ontario Liberal government. Not only would I bring back the ability for municipalities to choose to use them, but Ontario Liberals will introduce a Private Members Bill to attempt to restore them in the meantime,” said Del Duca.

“I’m disgusted that the Premier would take a sledgehammer to local democracy yet again. This Doug knows best game has got to end. Ranked ballots improve democracy and the people should have the right [to] determine local elections, not the Premier,” wrote Mike Schreiner, Green party leader, in a tweet on Twitter. 

In Hamilton, Ontario, city councillors voted 8-7 following the 2018 election against the option of using ranked ballots for 2022. While ranked ballots were voted down, this motion demonstrated that there was high consideration amongst the city’s leaders for a ranked ballot system.

During this motion, Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger was one of the seven who had voted in favour of using ranked ballots. 

Maureen Wilson, councillor of Ward 1 in Hamilton, was another one of the votes in favour of ranked ballots. Speaking to the Silhouette, Wilson said that she would still recommend ranked ballots today and does not understand the provincial government’s decision.

“I’m perplexed by it. I would think that the provincial government should be focussed on covid and covid recovery and why they would tuck it into an omnibus bill is perplexing. This is a government that used ranked ballots for its own leadership race. I know Mr. Ford was elected leader on a ranked ballot so if they're good enough for his party, surely they're good enough for the residents of Ontario,” said Wilson. 

We have choices that we as different municipalities make across a great number of things, so I’m not sure I understand the inconsistencies argument and I also don’t understand the argument that this will create confusion on behalf of residents. I think that’s really underestimating the intelligence of electorates. It’s not confusing at all,” Wilson added.

Wilson also adds that the provincial government’s justification for this mandate does not make sense to her.

We have choices that we as different municipalities make across a great number of things, so I’m not sure I understand the inconsistencies argument and I also don’t understand the argument that this will create confusion on behalf of residents. I think that’s really underestimating the intelligence of electorates. It’s not confusing at all,” Wilson added.

Although we live in Canada, this election will have a huge impact on Canadian students

By: Saad Ahmed, Contributor

In 1969, the late Pierre Trudeau told Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, “Living next to [the United States] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” 

Now more than ever, this phrase resonates with Canadians — particularly students. With a high-stakes American presidential election around the corner, Canadian students should be concerned about its implications.

Up and down the ticket there are stark differences in political ideologies, governing styles and personalities. Many issues have clear implications for Canadians, as candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden offer some strikingly different policy positions.  

With carbon pricing, a progressive Pan-Canadian Framework and billions of dollars invested in green infrastructure, Canada has become a global leader in the fight against climate change. However, because the US produces such a large share of global greenhouse gas emissions, regression in their climate policy could have more of an impact on Canada than Canada’s own climate policies. 

With a high-stakes American presidential election around the corner, Canadian students should be concerned about its implications.

Recently, many Canadians in British Columbia felt the harsh effects of the smoke from the Oregon and Washington wildfires — a reminder of the inextricable climate link between Canada and the United States. Trump pledged to expand oil drilling, increase pipelines and decrease environmental regulations. On the other hand, Biden planned to invest heavily in clean energy, rejoin the Paris Agreement, implement green tariffs on countries that fail to cut emissions and even “transition from the oil industry” — a statement from the last debate that was met with plenty of controversy.

Besides personal changes to mitigate climate change, civic engagement and policy support by Canadian students are effective in bringing light to climate consequences, even if these policies aren’t Canadian.

In terms of trade, platforms from both candidates are mostly unfavourable to Canadians. Biden promises to increase “Buy American” policies and continue disputes regarding commodities like softwood lumber. However, he has said that he would consider dropping Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs that Premier Doug Ford notably called a “slap in the face” to Canadians.

Recently, right as Canada was about to unveil plans for retaliation with $3.6 billion in tariffs of its own, Trump walked back the 10 per cent tariff. However, he has indicated that he may “reimpose the tariff” as early as the end of this year. Overall, the Trump plan promises a more aggressive trade policy that includes more tariffs and duties if he wins the upcoming election — a move that is sure to cause continued chaos

With Ontario as a major supplier of steel and automobiles and Quebec as a key supplier of aluminum, Canada is the largest exporter of both commodities to the US. Thus, Canadian output is affected by these tariffs, having an effect on economic activity, jobs and consumer price inflation. For Canadian students, the economic implications of these trade policies will be felt as they enter the job market — and for years to come — making it all the more important to care about this election. 

For Canadian students, the economic implications of these trade policies will be felt as they enter the job market — and for years to come — making it all the more important to care about this election.

Between the two candidates, immigration is one of the more polarizing topics of discussion. If Trump wins, he has pledged to continue restrictive temporary work programs like the recent overhaul of H1-B visas. The H1-B visa allows foreign workers, including Canadians, to work in specialized roles in American companies. Overhauling this visa will cut off Canadians from the American job market, even if they have excellent job qualifications. 

Trump’s immigration policies have also resulted in an influx of international students to Canada. From the election of Trump in 2016 to now, the number of study permits issued to international students by Canada jumped up by a whopping 50 per cent. According to Reuters, this is a major economic plus, as foreign students contribute approximately $21 billion annually to Canada’s gross domestic product. 

On the other hand, Biden has promised to reverse Trump’s H1-B visa freeze, meaning that the prospect of working in a specialized job in the United States when it is reopened to Canadian students and those looking for work. However, this means that Canada could potentially lose some of the international students and skilled foreign workers it attracted. Though, this also means less competition for Canadian students applying for these competitive positions – something to keep in mind.

For American students studying in Canada, voting is imperative. Given the United States’ role as a global superpower, the policies and decisions that are made by American leaders — such as the travel ban from predominantly Muslim countries — can have devastating international impacts.

While issues such as controlling the current pandemic and cooperating on a COVID-19 vaccine become increasingly discussed in the international world, Americans abroad are getting more involved. Steve Nardi, the chair of Democrats Abroad Canada, stated that membership in Democrats Abroad Canada has grown by 73 per cent since 2016, with 35 per cent of this growth occurring in the seven-month leadup to this election. Canadians that volunteer with this organization help out with digital canvassing — using their social networks to make sure that Americans and dual citizens in their communities vote from abroad.

To get more involved, students at McMaster can strengthen their knowledge of U.S. politics and history by enrolling in classes like POLSCI 3I03: Topics in American Politics, HISTORY 4JJ3: U.S. Foreign Relations, HISTORY 2RR3: U.S. History Since the Civil War and HISTORY 2IS3: Scandal and Intrigue in American Political and Social History. 

Joining politically-affiliated organizations on campus like Democrats Abroad can offer students a chance to meet and discuss issues with others that share their views and help with voter outreach. Clubs and local political organization chapters also engage in activities to get out the vote for each election cycle. With the number of Americans living in Canada, voter outreach efforts can genuinely make the numerical difference for victory in close down-ballot races. 

With the number of Americans living in Canada, voter outreach efforts can genuinely make the numerical difference for victory in close down-ballot races.

Fewer than 80,000 voters in three swing states decided the U.S. election in 2016 and it is becoming increasingly apparent that this election will again come down to only tens of thousands of votes. Outside the United States, Canada has the most Americans eligible to vote — 620,000 — which is more eligible voters than in Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming or the District of Columbia. However, data from the 2016 election indicated that only about five per cent of these 620,000 voters in Canada exercised their civic duty. 

The implications of the American election extend far beyond domestic issues. As the leaders of tomorrow in a neighbouring country, Canadian students should do their part in staying informed regarding policy in the United States. Undoubtedly, much of it will affect us in the long run.

This article has been edited as of Feb. 11, 2019

A previously published version of this article misquoted Ikram Farah. The quote has since been updated.

Students are often at a standoff with the MSU president. A commonly held belief is that the President cannot get things done, while presidents themselves often feel that they are misunderstood by the student body. Looking back at former presidents, we can see the difficult realities of their jobs. However, each MSU president has many opportunities to enact change, and it is their responsibility to work within their limitations.

It’s hard to keep all the eggs in one basket

“When someone is running for president they are running on 12-15 platform points, but that is not your only priority, you are a CEO, you are a manager of the whole institution,” said Ikram Farah, former MSU president for the 2018-2019 school year.

Every MSU president has and will continue to struggle with balancing priorities. Consulting past presidents and critically examining a previous year’s struggles is meant to help incoming presidents plan for the year ahead. New president-elects are given the opportunity to do this during their training period under the current MSU president, which lasts from February to April of each year.

Even with this transition process, neither Marando, Farah nor Monaco-Barnes were prepared for how much time would be taken up by priorities unrelated to their platform points.

“I didn’t realize how much of my time would be taken up with chairing various meetings, SRA, clubs, committees, events, and other things that you don’t really see the president do until you are in the role yourself,” said Marando.

During the transition period, outgoing presidents still have their own responsibilities and incoming presidents have their academics. It is unclear exactly how many hours are spent orienting.

“[After March] you’re out, and the new person’s in, and it’s up to them and their team to carry on their objectives but also carry on ongoing projects to full term,” said Justin Monaco-Barnes, former MSU president for the 2016-2017 school year.

Limitations of the transition period may negatively impact a president’s future ability to establish continuity, balance priorities and prepare for unpredictability. Farah faced the impact of the Ontario Student Assistance Program cuts and the Student Choice Initiative. Responding to these events took up much of her team’s time.

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” said Farah.

Continuity is key

Longevity, according to Monaco-Barnes, can be an issue with a one-year term. A president must continue previous presidents’ work while attending to their own platform points and responsibilities. Marando, Farah and Monaco-Barnes highlighted the added pressure that comes from students wanting tangible results.

“. . . A lot of people probably don’t know I sit on groups that improve the university IT plan, or work on mental health support in classrooms. People don’t see all the time and energy that goes into working with our full-time staff and supporting business operations of the MSU. I think that if there isn’t a big promotion of something, people think nothing is happening. In reality things may span over a years — such as our new student space expansion — requiring a lot more resources than one might think,” said Marando.

The student space expansion came from Monaco-Barnes’ platform, whose Pulse expansion plans eventually evolved to include a new student center, the Student Activity Building.

“And then here we are, two years later, and it’s being built which is pretty cool,” said Monaco-Barnes.

Monaco-Barnes took an unpaid leave of absence to run two student-wide referenda and help secure funding for the expansion plans. During the second referendum, Ryan McDonald, the VP (Finance) at the time, also took an unpaid leave.

While the Student Activity and Pulse expansion are underway, future MSU presidents must see them through. Not all projects will survive this process.

At the end of Monaco-Barnes’s term, plastic water bottles were replaced with boxed water in Union Market. Union Market reverted back to plastic water bottles the following year. 

“I don’t know how you control that. You hope that the continuity pieces that remain in the MSU leadership wise, you hope they will continue your original messages and ideas, but once you’re gone you can’t really control those things,” added Monaco-Barnes.

If this is a known problem, incoming and outgoing presidents should prevent it from happening as much as possible. Starting from scratch, as Monaco-Barnes noted, is a waste of time.

Who do you want in the room?

As Farah said, it can be easy to forget the significant impact that an MSU President can have in advocating for students. Advocacy could result in change that students may not link back to MSU, as such changes happen over the long-term.

“We need people with ideas and strategic vision. That’s where the Pulse expansion or student activity building becomes impactful. But we don’t always need that large action. Advocating for policies that enhance student life are incredibly important too; however, policy takes time though,” said Farah.

A president will have several opportunities to advocate for students. But it is not easy to get the job done. Monaco-Barnes said that higher-ups can wait out a president that they disagree with. There is also an intimidation factor at play, as the MSU president will interact with older and more experienced counterparts.

“It’d be very easy for a president to go in and do a lacklustre job if they are not motivated,” said Monaco-Barnes.

MSU presidents will make mistakes and struggle with their jobs. Their role is difficult to fully appreciate from an outside perspective. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point out their mistakes and challenge them to work around limitations. If we do not hold them accountable, then we may see less work being done. Is being MSU president hard? Yes. Does that mean that they cannot accomplish anything? Absolutely not.

 

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