A bleak future for democracy

Student governance at the University of Ottawa illustrates how the practice of democracy has been ably passed on from older to younger generations. Low voter turnout with a first past the post system, absence of financial accountability, and refusal to provide information are three examples of how the student council operates.

Aedan Helmer in the Ottawa Citizen, A2, April 2, 2016 notes that:

  1. About 8% of the 36,000 eligible voters took part in the latest election for the Student Federation. The unopposed president received less than 5% of the electorate (1699 votes) in a first past the post system.
  2. Each voter paid about $175 in dues to fund the council which collects $5 million dollars annually. The elected executive members get paid for their services.
  3. The outgoing executive inherited a surplus of nearly $10,000, and left a deficit of over $514,000 to the newly elected executive.
  4. Part of the deficit is due to the premiums paid for an optional health and dental plan for students where rising costs have not been addressed by successive councils.
  5. The Council has imposed a de facto gag order on elected members talking to the media.

 

Successive elected council members have learned from their elders how the system works and how to work the system. This example does not bode well for democracy.

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