ERO debate gets catty, candidate no-shows, and a temporary disqualification
Rounding out the SFSS election campaigning period, a series of all-candidate debates took place last week, at both the Burnaby and Surrey campuses. Three rounds of debate were held, two taking place in the Maggie Benston Centre food court in Burnaby and the third in the Mezzanine at SFU Surrey.
Candidates were brought to the table in groups of which position they were running for and were allowed 30 seconds each to deliver an opening statement. This was then followed with questions by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), questions from the audience, and to each other.
The debates also featured current SFSS president Lorenz Yeung speaking as an advocate for voting “yes” to the U-Pass referendum. Yeung explained the proposed tiered payment structure — $35 from May 2013, $36.75 from May 2014, and $38 from May 2015 — and that failure to pass the referendum will mean the discontinuation of the U-Pass. “You do need to go vote yes if you want to keep the U-Pass program,” Lorenz said. “Prices going up sucks, but we have to live with it, and it’s still a significant cost savings compared to a regular adult monthly pass.”
The external relations officer (ERO) debate was the most eventful. At the Thursday debate at Burnaby things got heated between candidates Kayode Fatoba, Stephanie Boulding, and Chardaye Bueckert. Bueckert questioned Fatoba’s proposal to bring musician Shad to SFU, citing Fatoba’s role in the infamous K’naan concert failure of 2010.
Chardaye charged, “ Why should students take a gamble on you, particularly when you’re planning to organize another concert, when you already lost the society thousands of dollars?” Fatoba countered that the event was more than simply the K’naan concert, but was cut off mid-reply due to time constraints.
The ERO debate remained intense on Friday at Surrey. The platform of Stephanie Boulding dominated much of the debate with her focus on revamping the gondola project, with questions regarding funding and how to improve current transportation conditions.
Boulding said she would work with Translink to address the issues of overcrowded busses, such as the 145, which frequently leaves students behind. Additionally, she said the gondola could help students at all three SFU campuses, as buses could be taken off the Burnaby Mountain run and used for Harbour Centre, or City Central.
At one point, ERO candidate Brian Misera’s platform was called into question by Boulding. Misera described his intent to introduce more food on campus as an incentive for students to stay on campus after class. Boulding told Misera that the ERO is an external position and asked him to clarify how food incentives were external.
“I understood the ERO was to improve campus life for students? No?” asked Misera, looking for affirmation from the crowd. Instead he was met by a room of silence. During the candidate’s closing statement, Misera said, “Apparently I don’t know the definition of ERO . . . this is going excellent.”
He later defended his position, saying that he represents the majority of students at SFU who do not follow campus politics, “Most people on campus don’t know about the election process,” he said. “The point is I’m trying to get people more involved, that’s it.”
His claim seemed to be borne out by the debate attendance. At the Surrey debate, less than 20 people were in the audience, with more than half of those being candidates themselves. At both of the Burnaby debates, the large number of people in the food court were not engaged in the debate, but were instead engaged with eating their lunch.
Attendance by candidates themselves was also an issue, with many candidates not participating in the debates and instead electing to send in write-ups for the IEC to read off in their absence. Several debate groups had only one candidate physically present, while a few had zero.
Humza Khan was the only presidential candidate to attend the Surrey debate, and spared no time pointing this out. “You should vote for me because I’m the only candidate with executive experience, and I’m the only candidate that likes to show up for debates,” Khan stated.
Current SFSS FCAT representative and presidential candidate Sarah Veness attended the two Burnaby debates and candidate Nickolas Haley attended the first of the Burnaby debates only. When the question of who the current SFSS president is was directed at Haley, he pleaded ignorance.
Mid-reply cut-offs was a common occurrence at the debates, with each response only given 30 seconds by the IEC. After the first round of debates, The Peak spoke with Yeung, who mentioned concerns over the current debate model. “It needs some change, I think, especially for some of the executive positions, the president in particular,” Yeung said.
“I would ideally like to see a more mediated discussion as opposed to a structured 30-second statement, to actually suit the word debate, essentially.” Yeung did recognize that this format may not be possible with time restraints, but said he would like to see that for the president position at least. Voting takes place online this week from Mar. 12–14.
Fatoba disqualified, later re-instated
External relations officer candidate Kayode Fatoba found himself in hot water with the IEC last week after it was found that he had put up a campaign poster over eight feet tall, a violation of the SFSS candidate
handbook. The IEC made the decision to prohibit Fatoba from posting campaign materials because of this, either in print or online.
Fatoba then responded by emailing a message out to all other SFSS candidates regarding the IEC and their decision, which got him disqualified from the election.
“The IEC felt that he defamed [them] by sending out emails to other candidates, talking to other candidates about the IEC not being partisan, or not being just or fair,” said Chief electoral officer Avery Kwong. “Basically what we told him was that we’re going to disqualify you for that reason; not the poster but for sending that out.”
A hearing was then held on Thursday morning prior to the second debate, where Fatoba was given the opportunity to defend his actions. During this hearing, the majority of IEC commissioners made the decision to allow
Fatoba to remain in the election, pending an apology for the mass message. As of press time, The Peak has not received a comment from Fatoba.