March 5, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 81  

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Waterloo to vote to leave lobby group

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

University of Waterloo students will head to the polls next week to vote in a referendum that may see the students’ union end its membership in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.

“Right now, I think [the membership] is a waste of time and money,” said Liam McHugh-Russell, VP-education of Waterloo’s Federation of Students and one of CASA’s most vocal critics on campus. “There are a lot of problems with CASA.”

McHugh-Russell authored a report released in January evaluating the Federation’s participation in CASA, a national student lobby group, and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance.

“Both organizations have historically supported a lot of bad policy or government decisions in favour of pragmatism,” he said, but noted that while he believes CASA has retained its flaws, OUSA has taken steps to address any internal problems. “I fundamentally don’t feel a connection to CASA.”

Here at Western, University Students’ Council VP-education Dave Ford expressed concerns about how the report was developed in the first place.

According to Ford, the committee formed to write the report only met once with just three members in attendance. From that one meeting, Ford said McHugh-Russell wrote the entire 41-page report himself.

“This is a very draconian form of information control,” he said. “He doesn’t put trust in a legitimate process because he is convinced there is no need to do that and that he knows best.”

But McHugh-Russell said a number of problems, including low student participation, compelled him to write the report himself. “[It] certainly wasn’t my preference.”

Though CASA national director James Kusie said next week’s vote is an appropriate form of debate, he questioned McHugh-Russell’s reasons for actively encouraging the federation’s departure from CASA. “I’m really disappointed that Liam has chosen to take a ‘no’ side on the referendum and is abandoning his federal responsibilities.”

“I’m not sure what his motives are,” he added. “Some students at the University of Waterloo have said he has a personal agenda.”

A source, who asked to remain anonymous, said McHugh-Russell’s romantic relationship with a newly-elected representative of the Canadian Federation of Students — perceived by some to be CASA’s rival — was influencing his decision to support a departure from CASA.

“I think those kinds of accusations are despicable. It’s reprehensible that people would believe that,” McHugh-Russell said. “My first and foremost responsibility is to act in the best interest of the students I represent.”

The referendum takes places on Mar. 10 and 11.



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