Before the CSU by-elections last November, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Jason Druker issued a new directive prohibiting candidates from using food to woo prospective voters. For the March elections, he is singling out a printing company, prohibiting any candidate from ordering their campaign materials from it.
According to Druker’s directive, “any candidate who makes use of Kata Soho to print materials will be disqualified.” The reason? He said the Parc Avenue company’s owner, Chadi Marouf, is politically affiliated with Concordia, and alleged that his company has given varying prices in the past to different groups based on their politics. “He’s a compromised printer, he gives better deals to certain individuals,” said Druker of Marouf.
Druker wouldn’t say how he knew this, but admitted he didn’t have any evidence. When pressed, he said that he’d called Kata Soho on two different occasions and had been given two different quotes on a poster order.
Marouf only found out about the prohibition against his shop when campus reporters called him with questions, and said he wasn’t informed by the CEO’s office about the directive.
Two Concordian reporters called Kata Soho to get a list of prices. While only one got an actual price quote, Marouf told both, “We can’t print for you . . . it would result in your disqualification.”
Sabine Friesinger, the shop’s co-owner, said their prices are “legit […] and they’re the same for every group.” The only break they give is to student groups and non-profit organizations.
“I think it’s kindergarten politics,” said Friesinger. “They’re acting like 4-year olds on a power trip.” The pair said they plan to meet with their lawyer to see what their options are, but at this point don’t plan to pursue legal action.
“For us, it’s business as usual. It’s just too bad for the candidates; they could have had . . . a sustainable option. We provide [materials] as green as possible, recycled paper, vegetable-based inks, we’re one of the only shops in Montreal,” said Friesinger.
Another new rule set out by council this year is that campaign posters must be printed on 100 per cent recycled paper.
Quebec’s Elections Act (section IV.1), under ‘Elections posters and billboards,’ does not give directives about where a candidate can or cannot purchase their campaign materials.
In an interview Friday, Druker expressed confidence that the annual elections, which take place March 25 to 27, will run smoothly under his direction. He has two deputy officers in place to oversee operations, and his priority right now is hiring polling clerks: he needs 60 to run the 15 poll stations on both campuses.
Druker said he will “randomize” the teams so they keep an eye on each other, but that there is no real check in place to make sure the clerks are non-partisan and not affiliated with a slate. In other words, slates would have to assign their own scrutineers if they want to ensure no funny business goes on.
When asked why he didn’t consider hiring clerks from outside the Concordia community, Druker said that “students should be allowed to work . . . Just because your friends might be running isn’t a reason to deny them employment.” The polling clerks will be paid $9 per hour, and will work five-hour shifts each of the three days.
For Monday night’s postering extravaganza, Druker had planned to hire five observers to cover the 12 Hall building’s floors. The race is legendary in Concordia’s colourful political history, as highly competitive slates and their supporters race to secure the best spots, vying for the most visible places on walls and billboards on campus.
Last year, a fistfight broke out on the ground floor even before the official start of the campaign period. A reporter from The Concordian surprised a candidate (who subsequently ended up in an executive position) and a member of the executive (who was helping his slate campaign) as they were postering on the seventh floor a full five minutes before the starting buzzer sounded.
Druker said he hadn’t known about the incident because he had been sick with food poisoning. At the time of the interview, he hadn’t planned to beef up security for the night, saying that together with the observers he’s hired, Concordia University security and the help of intrepid media, all will go according to plan.
“I am the rules,” said Druker.
The Real Rules
Slates handed in their nomination forms Monday night when the campaign period began. Campaigning ends March 24, the day before polls open. All Concordia University undergrads can participate in “Yes” or “No” Committees for the four referendum questions, available at
http://elections.csu.qc.ca Those interested in participating must attend a special meeting Weds., March 12, from 1:30 – 3 p.m. in H-462-3, SGW.
Contact Jason Druker at [email protected] or call him at 514-848-7422 for more details.