By Joel McNally
The Calgary Public Interest Research Group has been sent back to the drawing board.
On Tue., Feb. 5, the Students’ Legislative Council elected to reconsider their former inclusion of the CPIRG referendum question for the upcoming general election.
The CPIRG referendum question originally passed on Jan. 23, by a majority of 10 to eight. The motion to reconsider the CPIRG referendum question passed, also by 10 to eight, at the Feb. 5 meeting. As a result, the referendum question was struck from the ballot.
"I’m disappointed in the process that happened with CPIRG," said Vice President Operations and Finance Natasha Dhillon. "It’s a travesty if a council member changes their mind because it removes the need for informed choice."
Representatives of CPIRG declined comment after the Feb. 5 decision.
The motion to reconsider the CPIRG referendum question was brought to SLC by Op-Fi Commissioner Mark Counsell, who originally voted in favour of the CPIRG referendum question.
"I’m not proud of it but it was probably for the best," said Counsell. "I do not believe that what PIRG stands for is what the majority of students stand for."
The motion was brought at the Jan. 29 meeting but was not resolved in council at that time because President Barb Wright, Academic Commissioner Duncan Wojtaszek, Op-Fi Commissioner Robbie White and External Commissioner Yana Mikhailovski left the meeting. As a result, quorum, the minimum number of members needed to pass resolutions, was lost.
"I broke quorum because that discussion shouldn’t have been happening without proper notice to students," explained Wright. "That shouldn’t have been discussed without notice given to CPIRG or to Council."
Counsell made the motion to reconsider based on a review of meeting SLC minutes with CPIRG that took place during the previous year.
"I felt that we should reconsider the question," explained Counsell. "Before CPIRG went to plebiscite last year they agreed to have a completed constitution and completed bylaws before they went to referendum this year and they just didn’t have it."
Not all councillors agreed that CPIRG performed inadequately.
"I don’t feel, after reading last year’s minutes, that PIRG had promised that," countered Dhillon.
Members of CPIRG were present at the Feb. 5 meeting in order to show support for their proposed levy. Three members of CPIRG, Megan Hope, Christy Bryceland and Lisa Willott, were invited to speak to the council in defence of the referendum question.
"We’re starting to feel as students bringing a student initiative to council, that there is a systematic bias against us," Bryceland said, addressing council during the
Feb. 5 meeting.
Many of the concerns expressed by SLC members on Feb. 5 were reiterations of their concerns from the Jan. 23 meeting such as External Commissioner Nick Vuckovic’s preference for a one-time opt-out from the levy or Academic Commissioner Gavin Preston’s preference that CPIRG have a finalized constitution and bylaws.
"You’ve got to be able to educate students about CPIRG," said Preston. "I asked if I could take their constitution and bylaws and distribute them and they said that that would be a problem."
Other concerns were new, such as changes to CPIRG’s draft proposal that would allow them to provide funding for for-credit academic projects that meet their criteria.
"Because they were raised by members of the council they were all real concerns," said Wright. "Some of the concerns were not well informed."
While the CPIRG question has been removed from the undergraduate student ballot, it has been accepted by the Graduate Student Association and will be voted on during the graduate student general elections.