Students’ union under fire
A fierce campaign is being fought at Carleton University between two opposing slates for control of the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA): United Carleton and A Better Deal.
24 hours into the campaign, the accumulation of demerit points had already begun, with A Better Deal’s presidential candidate Nick Bergamini accused of breaking rules with regards to using a website as campaign material.
Chief electoral officer (CEO) Sagal Osman explained, “The website was ruled in favour of his campaign and it was set up before the time period allowed for campaigning. In addition, CUSA operates a website at cusaonline.com, so the domain in question at cusaonline.ca was clearly designed to attract traffic from the student union website.”
The domain www.cusaonline.ca was linked to the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s (CBC) website with an article about the Shinerama controversy, in which Bergamini is sourced.
It was ruled that the website was a form of campaigning as it painted Bergamini in a favourable light, and thus had to be approved by the CEO. The website, however, had not been approved.
Concern was expressed during the recent all-candidates’ debate that campaigns could frame opponents by setting up false materials promoting their opponent.
“We certainly get feedback that the issue of fake campaign materials is a concern. That is why these cases are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Under these circumstances, though, it is clear someone from Bergamini’s campaign was responsible, so using my discretion I made the appropriate ruling,” said Osman.
Osman was unable to divulge of proof that Bergamini’s campaign was responsible, citing further investigation into the matter.
However, presidential candidate from the A Better Deal slate Nick Bergamini claims that the website in question was not set up by his campaign.
“It’s pretty universally accepted that I did not set up that website. I simply have nothing to gain from setting it up,” said Bergamini.
“If I wanted to distribute this article that was posted on the CBC website I would have distributed it electronically and not risked the demerit point.”
Campaigns that are issued demerit points have the ability to appeal the ruling to the electoral board, which consists of three members elected from the student council.
They are obligated to meet 10 days after the appeal is filed.
“I plan to appeal the ruling. Students deserve an answer, but unfortunately the appeal won’t go through until the elections are already over,” said Bergamini.
It takes three demerit points for a candidate to be disqualified from the race. Last year, controversy erupted when “Demand Better” presidential candidate Bruce Kyereh-Addo was disqualified for an accumulation of demerit points shortly after it was announced he won the vote.
Supporters of Kyereh-Addo claimed that his opponents pretended to campaign for him to break the rules and force accumulation of demerit points.
Students at Carleton will cast their ballots on Feb. 10 and 11.