CPIRG levy not on the ballot

By Вen Li

Twice in two days, the Calgary Public Interest Research Group was rebuffed by University of Calgary Students’ Union. A resolution that would have let students vote whether to financially support CPIRG in the upcoming general election was defeated by the Students’ Legislative Council on Tue., Jan. 14 after CPIRG failed to gain support from the Students’ Academic Assembly on Mon., Jan. 13.

“I like CPIRG. It has a place on campus and adds to our community,” said SU Academic Commissioner and CPIRG member Gavin Preston. “But that in no way means they should charge a levy for students.”

According to CPIRG documents, 20 PIRGs operate in universities across Canada, “doing research and taking action on social justice and environmental issues.”

On Tuesday, ten out of 116 “active members” of the CPIRG club sought SLC’s approval for a referendum question this year.

CPIRG sought $1.00 per full-time student and $0.50 per part-time student per fall or winter semester, for a total of approximately $54,000 per year. Students would have been able to opt out of the levy each semester.

“CPIRG is a dedicated group of U of C students and staff,” said CPIRG member Brennen Parkin. “We need CPIRG to bring students and community together.”

Despite their efforts, representatives from CPIRG failed to convince SLC to add their question to the ballot. The SLC resolution was defeated in a 5-11 vote with two members abstaining.

“I think the best deal for students is if they want to be a part of CPIRG, they will pay to become a part of CPIRG,” said Preston. “I believe an opt-out deal is not the best deal; it’s not a deal at all.”

Concerns shared by Preston and other members of SLC and SAA also included the proposed CPIRG budget which would have seen approximately 80 per cent spent on administrative costs, the vagueness of the CPIRG mandate, and the value of another organization providing resources already available.

SU Clubs Coordinator Edward Tse questioned CPIRG’s mandate which, in part, offers additional support to clubs already under the Service and Interest Umbrella Group.

“What we would get is an umbrella group with funding 2.5 times as large as the clubs budgets combined,” said Tse. “It would be better to allocate that funding to all clubs than to a subset of clubs.”

In response to concerns about the CPIRG budget and funding, Parkin stated that CPIRG would be against disclosing proportional or estimated budgets on the ballot.

“We would not agree to have the budget in the background of the question because there is no guarantee that that will be the budget,” said Parkin.

Preston’s resolution that the SAA not support the CPIRG question being placed on the ballot passed by an 11-4 vote on Monday.

SU President Matt Stambaugh, who voted in favour, was disappointed that students would not get to vote on the issue.

“CPIRG is an issue big enough that we have to accept that we don’t fully represent what every student thinks,” he said. “If students didn’t think they should spend $54,000 on PIRG, they would vote ‘no.’”

In March 2001, 60 per cent of students who voted in the general election, representing approximately two per cent of the entire undergraduate population, favoured establishing a PIRG at the U of C. A referendum question asking students to approve a CPIRG levy was removed from the 2002 ballot after initially being approved by SLC.

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