Volume 96, Issue 84
Tuesday, March 11, 2003

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Dental Plan referendum flawed?

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff

Controversy has erupted over the legitimacy of last month's University Students' Council dental plan referendum, with some students and councillors calling for the result – which was in favour of the plan – to be overturned by council.

Science councillors Dana Patterson and Angela Laughton intend to present a motion to council at Wednesday's meeting to declare the dental plan referendum invalid. Patterson and Laughton believe the referendum failed to meet quorum, according to USC bylaws, which requires that 20 per cent of eligible voters to cast their ballot.

Yuri Chumak, a fourth-year law and computer science student who will be ratified as a USC councillor on Wednesday, said he also supports the motion. Chumak said the USC Board of Directors claimed the dental plan referendum was not a "policy issue" and therefore quorum did not apply.

However, Chumak noted that the same referendum was considered a policy issue in 1997, adding the bylaws have not changed since. Other problems occurred in the referendum process, including the electronic ballot question being changed for several hours during the election, he said.

Chumak said he was also concerned that, while more people voted in favour of the referendum than against it, the number of people who left the dental plan issue of the ballot blank meant fewer than 50 per cent of people who voted in the elections voted "yes."

"We feel the burden of proof is on the USC to show the fee increase is warranted by a clear, undeniable majority," Chumak said.

USC President Chris Sinal said council decided the dental plan was not a policy issue this year. "There was a quote from [1997's Chief Returning Officer] in [The Gazette] and certainly that CRO's read of the bylaws would be that there needs to be a 20 per cent quorum," Sinal said. "I would disagree in my interpretation of the bylaws."

"At the end of the day, the election committee is investigating this," Sinal said.

"The bylaws currently don't allow for council to reverse the result of the referendum," he explained. "In order for council to debate the motion, council must suspend the rules which allow the election committee to investigate so that council may take action and investigate."

Sinal said any decision to overturn the referendum result would go against council's own bylaws. "If the committee finds the results valid, and councillors find that inconvenient, who's looking out for the 2,400 students who voted in favour?" he asked.

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