Mixed UMSU executive vows to work together

Following turbulent campaign and razor-thin election, mixed-slate leadership elected

Tanjit Nagra. Photo by Megan Colwell.

After students elected a mixed-slate executive to lead the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) for the second consecutive year, candidates who once traded barbs on the campaign trail will have to come together to steer the union’s agenda as a unified front.

Following three days of voting, UMSU For You presidential nominee Tanjit Nagra was elected with a razor-thin margin of less than 40 votes. Wilfred Sam-King, who was elected vice-president external, is the only other UMSU For You candidate to win a seat.

The positions of vice-president advocacy, vice-president internal, and vice-president student services all went to Strong UMSU candidates Dara Hallock, Adam Pawlak, and Jessica Smith, respectively.

After Pawlak finished the initial count tied with UMSU For You’s Harrison Katz, a recount was called for all executive positions. Pawlak emerged from the second tally with a nine-vote lead. The widest margin for any position was 209 ballots between Smith and UMSU For You vice-president student services candidate Ashley Smith.

All those elected will serve their first term on the executive.

While Nagra and Hallock were involved in one of the more turbulent exchanges at a candidates’ forum Feb. 25, Nagra said it’s incumbent on all the new executive members to put the campaign behind them and look ahead.

“I hope that, regardless of which slate everyone ran on, all the elected members feel the same way and that we can get along and do our duty to serve the 25,000-plus students here at the U of M,” she said.

“Everyone is elected to their position for a reason and I hope that the executives that were elected feel the same way and they’re ready to get work done. The election campaign is work in itself but the real work is the upcoming year and [carrying out] our mandate from the students.”

Hallock admitted the forum exposed a potential division in the leadership but said the executive will reflect the will of the student body that elected it, saying “the majority of the time, we had a lot of respect for each other.”

“As far as I’m concerned, we’ve just got to push everything aside [and] think about what is actually best for students,” she said. “I mean, any executive, mixed or not, is going to have differences eventually but the point is you’ve just got to get over that. Personalities, you’ve got to put that aside as well and focus on what’s best for students.”

Pawlak agreed, saying “obviously, there’s going to be some personal things to overcome but I’m pretty confident that we can.”

“The students elected us five because they feel that we’re the best in our respective positions to move forward,” he said. “I’m pretty confident we can work together. We all want the best for the student body.”

All the elected executives said a priority for the union moving forward must be promoting itself on the campus to bring more students into the fold.

“I think it’s time that students took a bit more initiative to actually educate themselves on who’s representing them,” said Nagra. “You pay quite a chunk of student fees – and student fees will be even higher in the fall term – so it’s a matter of understanding you’re a member of this union, you have a duty as a member to make sure you’re electing accountable people into those roles and to ensure that you have your voice heard by casting that ballot.”

Pawlak said bringing more students to the ballot box is a priority.

“I don’t think anything is off the table,” he said. “I think we have to look at every single thing, the whole structure of the system and also improving voter turnout in general through social media, through technology, use that to our advantage, and then move forward because voter turnout is very important.”

Nagra wins presidency, to lead majority Strong UMSU executive

Tanjit Nagra, UMSU For You – 1,029 votes (28.0 per cent) – ELECTED
Astitwa Thapa, Strong UMSU – 990 votes (27.0 per cent)
Niall Harney, UMSU Forward – 847 votes (23.1 per cent)
Zachary LeClerc, Zach for Pres – 463 votes (12.6 per cent)
Andrew Fenwick, Take Back – 334 votes (9.1 per cent)
Spoiled ballots – 97

Vice-president advocacy

Allison Kilgour, UMSU For You – 1,215 votes (33.9 per cent)
Dara Hallock, Strong UMSU – 1,229 votes (34.3 per cent) – ELECTED
Ashley Penner, UMSU Forward – 1,144 votes (31.9 per cent)
Spoiled ballots – 172

Vice-president external
Wilfred Sam-King, UMSU For You – 1,299 votes (36.0 per cent) – ELECTED
Bénédicte LeMaître, Strong UMSU – 1,208 votes (33.4 per cent)
Hannah James, UMSU Forward – 1,106 votes (30.6 per cent)
Spoiled ballots – 147

Vice-president internal
Harrison Katz, UMSU For You – 1,161 votes (32.1 per cent)
Adam Pawlak, Strong UMSU – 1,170 votes (32.3 per cent) – ELECTED
Anatol Rennie, UMSU Forward – 914 votes (25.3 per cent)
Nick Kuznetsov, Take Back – 373 votes (10.3 per cent)
Spoiled ballots – 142

Vice-president student services
Ashley Richard, UMSU For You – 1,062 votes (29.2 per cent)
Jessica Smith, Strong UMSU – 1,271 votes (35.0 per cent) – ELECTED
Michaela Bohunicky, UMSU Forward – 939 votes (25.9 per cent)
Shahab Valipour, Take Back – 360 votes (9.9 per cent)
Spoiled ballots – 128

Community representatives

Five community representative positions – Aboriginal, international, LGBTTQ*, students living with disabilities, and womyn – were open for nomination. Only four received nominations, with three of the positions going uncontested. The international students’ representative position, which was contested, was put to a recount after the initial count registered a difference of only 9 votes – a 1.2 per cent difference.

Contested – international students’ representative
Masroor Khan, international students representative – 367 votes (49.0 per cent)
Steffan Aganbi, international students representative – 380 votes (51 per cent) – ELECTED

Uncontested – students living with disabilities, LGBTTQ*, and womyn’s representative
Alan Bridgeman, students living with disabilities representative – 85.4 per cent (181 yes; 31 no) – ELECTED
Theo De Silva, LGBTTQ* representative – 89.5 per cent (314 yes; 37 no) – ELECTED
Smriti Kunwar, womyn’s representative – 88.8 per cent (1,591 yes; 201 no) – ELECTED

No candidates were nominated for the position of Aboriginal representative. UMSU council is expected to open nominations and select a candidate to fill the position for the coming year sometime after May.

The University of Manitoba’s chapter of the World University Service of Canada had their $2.50 fee increase pass by referendum with 66.6 per cent of the vote (2,446 yes; 1,224 no; 84 spoiled).
Campus radio station 101.5 UMFM had its proposed $1.50 fee increase defeated with only 45.6 per cent of voters supporting the motion (1,686 yes; 2,016 no; 61 spoiled).