Conservatives accused of meddling in York U election

Students’ union says school received “persistent inquiries” about controversial vote


In yet another twist of York University’s fraught politics, the school’s student union is accusing two Conservative politicians — one federal, one provincial — of meddling in the union’s electoral process.

According to the York Federation of Students, 50 pages of e-mails obtained through a Freedom of Information request prove that federal MP Peter Kent and provincial MPP Peter Shurman tried to interfere with the group’s spring 2009 general elections.

During the controversial election, amid claims of voting irregularities from the losing slate, a more left-wing, pro-Palestinian group of students politicians beat out a more conservative, pro-Israel group. On appeal, the electoral board upheld the vote.

It was this appeal that prompted Kent and Shurman to send the e-mails, which both the YFS and the CFS say were inappropriate. According to the YFS, the e-mails reveal “persistent inquires” on behalf of the politicians into the election. This is, says the group, “part of a growing body of evidence that the federal and provincial Conservative parties are attempting to undermine democratic student decision-making.”

The group also alleges that Robert Tiffin, York’s vice-president of students, warned the group not to disqualify candidates who were caught violating the elections rules because the school and members of parliament “were watching the election closely.”

“The student elections were run in a fair and democratic manner and in accordance with our bylaws,” said Krisna Saravanamuttu, YFS president, in a press release issued Monday morning. “The York administration and members of the Conservative Party have no right or authority to interfere in the elections of the students’ union simply because they disagree with student criticisms of their policies.”

However, Kent and Shurman told The Star’s Louise Brown that the allegations are absolute nonsense. The two insist they were merely seeking updates on behalf of their north Toronto constituents, many of whom are Jewish students who were concerned about growing anti-Semitism at the school.

Tiffin says the university treated the politicians’ e-mails as requests for information, not as political pressure. He says the school has no intention of reopening the vote, although he is encouraging the YFS to participate in a review of the school’s election processes by an external accounting firm.


Conservatives accused of meddling in York U election

  1. No one at York cares what the YFS does. For the love of God, their president was caught outside the Jewish student lounge chanting “Zionism is racism”. That a smart thing to do.

    Stupid people are attracted to politics. No wonder the students are apathetic.

  2. I love the crowd here at Maclean’s OnCampus.

    A federal Minister of State is caught red-handed assigning staff to MONITOR STUDENT UNION ELECTIONS, who is ON CAMPUS THE NIGHT OF THE ELECTION.

    A student union is told by the university administration not to disqualify candidates who break the rules because MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT ARE WATCHING.

    Staff of sitting politicians e-mail senior management of a university to ask if student election results can be thrown out despite NO EVIDENCE OF IMPROPRIETY.

    And what is the reaction here? One post criticizing the student union on an unrelated topic.

    Meanwhile, more attention is paid on this site to student organizations for making transparent, democratic decisions.

    I guess I’m just too new to this site, but this is all the evidence I need that people here are not interested in democracy or student representation at all. You only use those words when it suits your agenda of bashing progressive students.

  3. I have taken the time to read through the e-mails. All I see is an inquiry as to what the result was from the members of the conservative party. All they were trying to do was to inquire about a significant group that many members of their constituencies belong to. I wouldn’t call that interfering.

    It seems like the University Admin is the bigger issue. The e-mails they sent between themselves discussed the possibility of refusing to recognize the result and trying to review the election by calling in auditors. It seemed to be all speculative and the admin decided to let the result of the electoral review process stand. There is even an e-mail that calls an editorial cartoon that depicted the president-elect as a rat a joke in poor taste.

    Maybe I could make accusation of political interference by outside students in the YFS election. For some reason the president of CUSA, my student association found herself at York. There was also a York employee who was campaigning on my campus during our student elections. It is funny how you never hear about the executive of a non-CFS school supporting the candidates at a CFS school. It is also funny that the side that gets support from other executives are usually the side that is most in favour of the CFS.

    In the end does it really matter which side was supported by what party/group? Left or Right both sides are doing it. What really matters is that the students’ choice that was ultimately reflected.

  4. Joey ended the article with a question specifically asking for the readers opinion, this article does not. The article you are referring to is a once in a blue moon thing, most here only get a few comments from regulars. There is usually a very health debate from both sides too.

    If the article were to replace Conservative with NDP or the CFS I am sure you would find few comments from the people on the left. I would even bet that you would probably not comment on it either.

  5. I am a York student who did not vote in this year’s YFS election. Based on what I’ve seen from the student union, either camp would do as good a job as the other when it comes to doing what a student union SHOULD be doing (assisting and representing students to the administration), and the only real difference between them is whether they’re conservative and pro-Israel, or liberal and pro-Palestinian. Since I don’t care about that debate, there’s really no point.

    However, I find it extremely offensive that conservative politicians are interfering in our student elections, in conjunction no less with the university administration. The student union is supposed to represent the interests of York’s undergraduate students; not the interests of the university administration, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, the Federal Conservative Party, not even, Mr. Monks, the New Democratic Party. By interfering in the election process, they have attempted to turn the student union into a body that represents the administration’s interests to the students rather than the other way around.

    Most likely this has to do with the TA/contract faculty strike. I thought the former YFS president stepped over the line when he threw the union’s support behind CUPE, but there is no question that the YFS and undergraduates supporting the strike were what gave it the endurance it had. With a student union of an anti-labour character or beholden to the administration, the TA’s and contract faculty would lose much of their leverage in future negotiations.

    Kent and Shurman’s line about getting information for Thornhill constituents concerned about “rising anti-semitism” on campus doesn’t hold water. Like with every other issue at York University, the Israel-Palestine debate is a very noisy and very irritating distraction. Since day one of the strike, pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups have tried to subvert the entire event by going to the picket lines with “Support Israel” placards and issuing press releases saying “We stand shoulder to shoulder with CUPE and by the way free Palestine!” As for Thornhill, where I live and which Kent and Shurman represent, this is a community where the term “anti-semitism” applies to almost everything from actual discrimination or harassment of Jewish people, to Jewish students being shouted at for setting up a demonstration booth deriding Iranians as genocidal devil-worshiping monsters in the Ross building. Like so many others involved in matters at York University, Kent and Shurman are using anti-semitism as an empty, criticism-free justification for their actions.

  6. Well now that Students First was elected we are seeing a new publication called “YU free Press”, half of its last edition was filled with anti-israel and leftist propoganda. Kristna (The president of YFS) admitted that it is his favorite newspaper. The YFS mainly support those who support Muslim Fundamentalists (by the way muslim fundamentalists usually harm their own people, the muslims!). I can see why the conservatives are concerned with the election, I was there and campaigning, I can tell you that there was an astounding amount of corruption in the past election. For instance Kristnas group actually hired people from other universities to campaign with them and they used unfair tactics to steal votes. A brochure with the names of Krisnas party was often seen IN the voting booth but York Forward people were scolded if the so much as crossed the line of the voting booth, and when questioned about the ballots and inconsistencies regarding the amount of ballots the CRO did not have any clear answers.

    The last YFS were also helping Students First in this election, I saw them walking around day and night during and before elections helping Students First. How is this fair in any way?? I would dare to say that other more senior organizations helped Students First also, it only makes sense.

    This is very frustrating when I am paying fees to student groups and do not see this money, but rather see it used in Palestinian activism. I have seen my funds being used to rent a large PA system in which the holocaust was openly denied in vari hall. I have seen propoganda and photos taken of “Israeli” soldiers only to look into it further and find that the uniforms were of US soldiers in afghanastan. This may seem irrelevant but the point is that I cannot study when I walk through school and see that thousands of dollars are being spent every day to pay for flyers, and other materials pushing propoganda. This is wrong, Students First is wrong, and perhaps government intervention is needed, when elections are corrupt and money is being granted in a fashion similar to dictatorships in our school.

    If you can use a fork you goto york.

  7. The reason the admin is looking into the election is not because they have an agenda or as part of a conservative conspiracy. It is because the election is a sham. The incumbent party chooses the chief returning officer and votes on the by-laws. New parties are banned from forming or even discussing policies until only a couple weeks before the election whereas the incumbents have a political machine that will support whoever wins their primary election. Anyone who looks objectively at the process knows that it is scam. However, few people know how crooked the process is because candidates can be disqualified for trying to make the election process a campaign issue.

    York needs an independent elections committee. Until then, we have no democracy.