Waterloo to vote to leave lobby group
By Anton Vidgen
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
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
“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.