Council looks to avoid by-election

MASU councillors passed a motion to suspend the bylaws regarding by-elections. The change potentially eliminates the need to have a by-election to fill the position of vice-president academic affairs, left vacant by the recent departure of Kyle Nimmrichter.

MASU’s bylaws say a by-election must be held to fill the position. Steven Black currently holds office as interim vice-president.

Josh Outerbridge, MASU’s vice-president finance and operations, put forward the motions at the Jan. 26 meeting.

“Personally, I would like Steven to continue,” said Outerbridge. “He’s sat on a lot of the committees, dealing with these issues that we’re asking the interim person to fulfill. While I prefer Steven to do it, if Mary Emma wanted to do it, I think she has a bit of a stronger mandate, being elected for the office,” said Outerbridge.

By not having a by-election, two options are available to council. Mary Emma MacNeil, the newly-elected vice-president academic affairs, could decide to extend her term, starting immediately as opposed to on May 1. If MacNeil prefers not to extend her term, Black will remain in office as interim vice-president until April 30, before MacNeil’s term begins. The decision ultimately remains up to MacNeil, but Outerbridge finds it appropriate to seek council’s approval on the matter.

Off-campus councillor Ryan Lebreton supported Outerbridge’s motion. “Because [Nimmrichter] did trust [Black], he is technically the one who would be the best suited to keep going with [Nimmrichter’s] project,” said Lebreton. “If we run a by-election, whether [MacNeil] decides to run or not, there’s still going to be that two weeks for the election, then that extra time for that person to re-acquaint.”

“If they really want to focus on continuing the projects that [Nimmrichter] began, I think Steven is probably the best bet,” said second-year student Katharyn Stevenson, who was present at the meeting.

“[Black] has already been quite immersed in what [Nimmrichter] was doing,” Stevenson said.

The motion was brought to council after a meeting between Outerbridge, the president and the chief returning officer. By the end of the meeting, they concluded that having a by-election might not be in the best interests of students.

“It really was a pragmatic decision,” said Outerbridge. “If we were to have [an election] now, that would put us about halfway through February, then we have the reading break, so the person realistically wouldn’t begin until March,” he said.

Vice-president communications Ryan Harley expressed concern about the bylaw, rather than the need to have a by-election.

“What I was trying to get voting councillors to think about was not to worry so much about the immediate issue that needed to be resolved and to worry more about what this bylaw’s implications are in the future,” said Harley. “Council needs to do a better job of looking at long-term solutions to prevent these things from happening again.”

Harley said that under the current bylaws, if a council member resigns during the second term, it implies a by-election won’t happen because it does not leave enough time.

Stevenson had similar comments. “If they wanted to simply remove the bylaw or simply pretend it’s not there, then what’s the point of it really being there at all?” said Stevenson.

“I would like to see a by-election happen, but I would like the timeframe of the nomination period and the campaigning period shortened for the same pragmatic reasons that council suspended the by-election,” said Harley.

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