The Honest Truth Behind the 2018 ASU General Election
We live in a world where election corruption and lying are a way of life in politics. But who would have ever thought that this same lying and the corruption would be seen within the ASU. I’m here to share the truth about how the ASU operates and how it actively destroys those who are truly committed to making it better.
Let me first say who I am. My name is Harrison Paul and I am an Indigenous Person of Canada. I am a 4th year Politics student who is heavily engaged in politics from the local all the way to the international scale. I have worked on many provincial and federal campaigns. I was the Chief Returning Officer for the ASU. Basically, I know my election shit.
The Chief Returning Officer is an appointed position for the Students’ Representative Council to make sure that Union Elections are running smoothly and effectively. They are hired to handle everything to do with elections. This also means that Council should not get involved in any form or way with Union Elections. This is explicitly described in By-Law Three (Union Elections Act).
However, Council failed to maintain this separation in the 2018 ASU General Election, unlike every other Council in recent memory. Members of the current Council acted on their own to influence election officials and the electoral process, calling into question the validity of the election itself.
The problem with the election started in October 2017 when the ASU Governance Committee began reviewing the Election By-law. They proposed changes to make the By-Law more fair and equitable for candidates. They passed the changes and sent them to Council with 100% support of the committee membership, including the President of the ASU. The President sits on this Committee and was given a lengthy briefing on the proposed changes before the committee met, as she would be away. She asked a few questions and said that she was happy with the proposed changes when everything was clarified, stating that “everything looks great, I like it”. But this all changed when the proposed changes came to Council in November 2017.
This is where things began to go south. There were teams that formed during the discussions. There was what I would call “Team Them”, which was comprised of the President, VP Academic and External, VP Events and Promotions, VP Student Life, Sustainability Officer and one Councillor. The other side, which I will call “Team Us”, was composed of the rest of the Governance Committee, the Student Board of Governors Representative, the Chairperson of Council, at least one regular student member and myself, both as Chief Returning Officer and a regular student.
The Team Us versus Team Them began when the President completely flip-flopped on the proposed changes and claimed that she did not know about the changes and that she was not happy with what was being put in place. She basically caved to the loudest Members and turned against the committee itself. This caused an uproar at Council. Some Members around the table saw this as an attack on Council, acting as if to say we don’t trust them or that we don’t think that things are fair. Consideration of the proposed changes took almost three and a half Council meetings. Near the end of the first meeting, Council started attacking Team Us by saying that Governance Committee had no idea what they were doing, specifically targeting me.
I thought that the Winter Break would allow for the tensions to die down. Things actually got worse when we returned in January 2018. Council was not asking any questions about the General Election until it was too late. The By-law cannot be changed once the campaign period began after the All Candidates Meeting. Once the campaign period began, Council started to talk about how I was making decisions that went against their ideas even though the rules that I was putting in place were in the spirit of fairness for all candidates.
The VP Academic and External openly stated that my “Authority needs to be checked” referring to the idea that Council should look at taking away power from the CRO. This would prevent me from being able to ensure a free and fair election. Some Members of Council wanted to squash the very rules that made Union elections fair and equal for everyone, rather than just certain “preferred” candidates.
Council started as a democratic group of bright-eyed student leaders full of optimism and enthusiasm. This quickly turned into an Executive Dictatorship, where the President and certain VPs acted as though their perspectives were far superior to those of everyone else and the student body at large.
In the coming days, things got worse. We saw several members of the Executive and a couple of Non-Executive Members who actively sought to break the Constitution and its By-Laws. This brought in the ASU lawyer to explain the repercussions of their unconstitutional proposals. Unfortunately, this did not change their minds and they continued to advocate against the election rules and regulations.
I saw candidates trying to impeach me because I was making them follow the rules. The then-Deputy Chief Returning Officer, who is now Acting CRO, was going against his obligation to be impartial and objective by telling candidates that they should and need to appeal all of my decisions. This is particularly striking as he had agreed with all of the decisions that I had made when candidates were found to have broken the established rules.
Some Members of the then-Elections Sub-Committee of the Review Board and other Members of Council started to favour the Executive “Slate” that had formed, even though slates are not allowed. Some candidates felt I was being unfair, although the rules were all laid out and every candidate had access to the election rules and regulations. They were given to them by email and I was always open to questions for clarification.
By this point, the Teams that I referred to had grown to include almost every Member of Council. Team Us started to include the candidates not being favoured as part of the “slate” by the then-Elections Sub-Committee of the Review Board, the Chairperson, a couple Members of Council and me.
The end of January was the time I realized that I needed to resign.
I had lost the ability to confidently serve as CRO. I knew that I could fairly enforce the election rules but I could not handle an ASU leadership that tried to disrupt and interfere with my work at every turn.
Now we are in February 2018. I am no longer Chief Returning Officer and things have continued to descend into darkness. The Acting CRO has been making decisions that are going against the By-laws and the then-Elections Sub-Committee of the Review Board had begun to uphold all of the Acting CRO’s unconstitutional decisions. At a Special Meeting of Council on Tuesday, February 6th, 2018, Council created a new Elections Committee which sought to remove people who had a perceived bias from the committee. However, from what I have seen, Council has decided to retain the most biased member of the old committee: the President. Clear cut complaints are being deemed invalid by the Acting CRO and are going to the Elections Committee which has upheld these decisions.
All I was trying to do as CRO was to make this election more accountable and fair for everyone. Several people, including both candidates and Members of Council (and those who are both), did not like this idea so they decided to go against the By-law. They even sought to remove me and the few other people who were the last remaining people trying to enforce the rules and ensure a fair and free election. It got to the point where I could not handle doing this job anymore.
I was losing my mind. I kept pushing myself harder when people were not satisfied with my work but it still wasn’t enough for them. I was being attacked constantly by Executive Members, Non-Executive Members and candidates at every corner. I had to do the right thing for me. I didn’t want to keep having my decisions overturned every time someone was unhappy with the fair enforcement of the rules, especially those on the “slate”. I didn’t want to have people going around talking about how I was being ‘unfair’.
My role as CRO was to make sure that the election rules and regulations were fairly enforced and understood by candidates, Council and the regular student body. I believe that I did my job well until I could not handle it anymore. It’s a shame that the negativity and personal attacks that were directed at me while I was CRO have now altered into downright corrupt decision-making body that may indeed call the very result of this election into question.