Run-off election this week

Bastarache and Henry battle for union supremacy

Melissa Bastarache (left) and Ella Henry (right) are your candidates for STUSU president. (Alex Solak/AQ)
Melissa Bastarache (left) and Ella Henry (right) are your candidates for STUSU president. (Alex Solak/AQ)

Jamie Ross – The Aquinian –

When the ballots were finally tallied, Sean Thompson could hardly believe his eyes. So he counted again, and the result was the same: the race for president of the students’ union had resulted in a tie.

“It was freaky,” said Thompson, Chief Returning Officer of the St. Thomas University Students’ Union general elections. “You could a hear a collective gasp in the room like all the air had been sucked out of the place.”

Melissa Bastarache and Ella Henry both received 241 votes from the student body, triggering a run-off election set for this week.

Thompson believes it’s the first time there has ever been a tie for president after a STUSU election.

Nearly 24 per cent of the student body turned out to cast a ballot.

“I can’t think of any other year, maybe my first, where we’ve had turnout as high as that,” said Thompson, a fourth-year student.

He said the turnout numbers show an increase in student engagement, which may have been caused by the referendum question on the ballots.

Voters were asked if they supported a ban of bottled-water on campus.

Four-hundred and six students voted “yes” to support ban, while 212 voted “no.”

Nine ballots were spoiled or rejected.

The union will now move to lobby the university to phase out the sale of bottled water on campus, though STU is in year two of a seven year exclusive beverage contract with Pepsi that will have to be revised before any changes can be made.

Thompson said the elections went smooth, aside from a technical hiccup that caused four candidates to break union bylaws when their Facebook campaign groups were still public after the campaigning period had closed.

He said he won’t be issuing any fines for the violations, but he will recommend that student council update its elections policy to specifically include provisions about online campaigning.

“The bylaws are very vague,” he said. “I’m definitely going to recommend some changes be made.”

He’s also going to ask the union hire a deputy returning officer for all future elections, to give the CRO greater support.

Voting for the run-off election is taking place Wednesday and Thursday. Stations will be located in George Martin Hall, Sir James Dunn Hall, Brian Mulroney Hall and Rigby Hall.

A majority vote will decide the winner.

Both candidates are boasting their experience as representatives on student council.

Henry is the current vice president education, while Bastarache is student advocate, and sat as an off-campus representative last year.

“(The president) is a person who can advocate for students, someone who can represent what they want and need, someone who is responsible accountable, someone who wants to ensure the union will be transparent,” said Bastarache.

She said her two years service on the students’ union has allowed her to understand the accomplishments and the shortcomings of the STUSU.

Henry, a third-year sociology student, believes the students’ union can do more to affect change.

“Students want a student union that works effectively, that works on a wide variety of issues, from small things like entertainments that the union puts on…to the food in the cafeteria,” she said, “to working on broader, long term issues . Things like student debt.”

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