The Concordia Student Union’s council meeting last Wednesday showed an apparent rift amongst the executive team following two separate motions that left vice-presidents visibly frustrated with one another.
The Community Food Coalition, a student organization concerned with the ecological and health implications of food served at Concordia, presented a petition of over 900 signatures in support of a fee-levy referendum for the CSU’s upcoming byelections. The referendum, if it is to be included on the byelection ballot, would include an increase in the fee-levy the CFC currently receives from undergraduate students.
The CFC was seeking an exception to Standing Regulation 138, which states that a fee-levy increase must be approved by the Policy Committee a month prior to the first day of the nomination period of the byelection for it to be considered by council.
“I think it would be really bad for the organization not to get this fee levy,” said VP sustainability Ben Prunty, who has worked closely with the organization. “If we get a yes vote then it will send a really strong message to the university and it will help transform the food system.”
Conversely, VP finance Scott Carr argued that granting an exception would set “a bad precedent,” while simultaneously voicing his concerns through social media saying that council would “empower” the CFC by “blatantly disregarding” the CSU’s standing regulations.
“We’re grossly neglecting our own standing regulations if we do that,” said Carr. “And that sets a bad precedent.”
Prunty then reminded council that the CFC has received more support for its petition than any executive or councillor received as votes during March’s election.However, council was wary of granting an exception to the CFC without consulting the Policy Committee.
Councillors instead voted in favour of a special council meeting, set for Wednesday, Oct. 16, following a review of the request from the Policy Committee. Council also approved Nov. 19-21 as the dates for the byelections.
Tension between Carr and Prunty became more apparent while discussing a motion to allow standing committees to administer and approve small budget lines without seeking approval from the Financial Committee.
Ultimately, the motion would change the functioning of the CSU and amend Carr’s responsibilities as VP finance, something that did not sit well with Carr and various councillors. Carr argued it was a problem on the executive level.
“This seems to be sustainability versus finance,” said Councillor Francis Boyer. “I can honestly say that Scott respects my opinions.”
When Wendy Kraus-Heitmann called the motion “sneaky” and that it took power away from Carr, President Melissa Kate Wheeler immediately defended her executive saying that her “team is not sneaky and this is not a sneaky initiative.”
VP Academic and Advocacy Gene Morrow said he was “frustrated” by the motion and that the executives should be working with one another to resolve the issue.
“There’s a level of professionalism that we expect to occur and we don’t think we should be readjusting the budget constantly,” said Carr. “As long as your budget is coherent and somewhat in line, we’re fine.”
However, both Prunty and VP External Caroline Bourbonnière explained that sometimes they need leeway with their budgets.
Ultimately, a motion was passed that will allow the standing committees to be empowered to administer spending lines under $1,000 without seeking approval from the Financial Committee. The motion also mandates that an executive attend a workshop on budget procedures and that the CSU review how other Canadian student unions use their financial committees when forming a framework for financial controls.