Legislate, or don’t whine

By Вen Li

With utmost urgency, Students’ Union Vice-President Operations and Finance Gavin Preston proposed new election bylaws in October after allegations of fraudulent voting during the 2003 fall by-election. Replacing the election bylaws, it was claimed, would fix accumulated loopholes and inconsistencies due to patchwork amendments to the current election bylaws and prevent a reoccurrence of shenanigans in the February 2004 General Election and beyond.

Unfortunately, the proposed bylaw’s effectiveness is unknown, as the Students’ Legislative Council defeated it at their March 26 meeting. Despite directly deliberating the issue in 11 out of 20 SLC meetings since October, the SLC has failed to fix problems highlighted by the fall by-election and their own deliberations.

Attributing this failure to any particular person or group within the SLC implies coordination and leadership that do not exist. In the final meetings concerning the proposed bylaws, some counselors both sought and blocked trivial, unsubstantial amendments while others demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the proposed bylaws, in asking fundamental questions that should have been obvious in October.

Concerns about slate finances, campaign funding deadlines and the preamble should have occurred to any literate counselor at any of the meetings at which the proposed bylaw was discussed, or at the special emergency meeting called in December specifically to discuss the proposed. Or perhaps during the unprecedented special public consultation process, wherein students at large and any other interested party were able to directly affect the proposed new bylaw.

Counselors complained, but none said they participated in the drafting process and had their ideas rejected by anyone other than the council. After drawn-out efforts by some counselors, and an equal dose of ignorance by others, counselors sworn to uphold the students’ interests repeatedly defeated sound legislation, from students, for non-legislative reasons.

That such incompetence could be sustained for over six months is inexcusable.

In a rare moment of clarity for the council on Mar. 26, SU Op-Fi Commissioner Lisa Willott accurately assessed the legislative constipation.

"I think there are a lot of good things in this document, and I think there are a lot of things that need a lot of work, and I know that’s been going on for a long time… but I worry that by not approving this package document, all that work in the amendment is lost," she said.

Willott continued that the quality of the proposed bylaw is inferior to what future students desire from a legal document of such import. However, she and some other counselors proposed numerous ad hoc amendments at SLC meetings, without showing any evidence of consulting with anyone about their legislative value.

SU President Jayna Gilchrist offered no leadership, and said at the same meeting:

"I actually do believe things should be done in pieces. I believe each thing should be spoken about, clearly discussed, and voted on, in different portions… I believe that if we did it that way, we would get through this whole process a lot faster than what has been done so far."

Gilchrist never actually questioned the validity of the process or the outcome on Mar. 26, or during the last six months, nor did she meaningfully shape this or any alternative election bylaw-drafting process. She, and other critics of wholesale change, conveniently ignored that numerous piecemeal amendments had already been made to the proposed bylaw and the extensive legislative, expert and student consultation contained in the proposal.

Unable or unwilling to articulate any substantive concerns with the proposed bylaw itself, opponents used technicalities and trivial amendments to stall and ultimately kill arguably the most important piece of legislation the SU considered this year, instead of supporting something they didn’t write, or read.

In the final analysis, the SU election bylaws remain as flawed and exploitable as in September, and six months of students’ efforts have been wasted, all because enough counselors thought they were denied a piecemeal process or their favorite tweak to an admittedly generally acceptable bylaw.

Good job, SU.

Leave a comment