Between the Motions: A first taste of AMS elections, budget woes at Council

Last night, AMS Council met over Zoom to discuss modifications to student government elections and a budget deficit amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s what you need to know.

AMS elections, gone virtual

AMS Chief Electoral Officer Isabelle Ava-Pointon presented the timeline for the 2021 AMS elections as well as changes to how the election will be run given the pandemic.

Among the modifications to the elections procedure for this year are no in-person campaigning, no physical campaign materials and no physical polling booths.

Council also passed a motion by AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Georgia Yee reducing the number of signatures needed for AMS executive nomination forms from 50 to 30.

Board of Governors member Max Holmes spoke in support of the motion, expressing a concern that with signatures being collected digitally, it will be easier to accidentally campaign outside of the campaign period.

“I almost guarantee that there is probably going to be a campaign violation by somebody trying to gather signatures who’s asked questions about their platform or something that’s posted publicly — they don’t realize it’s a violation,” he said.

Coming into the meeting, the only form of physical campaigning allowed was lawn signs. AMS VP External Kalith Nanayakkara asked whether allowing lawn signs was fair to candidates outside of the Lower Mainland.

In the end, Council passed a resolution ending the use of lawn signs this year by a 20–7 vote, exceeding the two-thirds majority needed by two votes. Without lawn signs, there will be no physical campaigning permitted for AMS elections candidates.

Potential reallocation of funds

VP Finance Lucia Liang presented on the AMS’s financial woes given the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AMS has a $720,000 operational deficit, however Liang expects that number to go down because it does not yet reflect the AMS’s efforts to reduce expenditures. The AMS has been reducing hourly staff, delaying hiring and receiving government subsidies among other things to cut costs.

Council also debated reallocating the Sustainable Projects, Childcare Bursary and Clubs Benefit funds to pay down the deficit. One concern was that this would go against the wording of the referendum questions that established fees for these funds in 2011.

Many councillors strongly opposed this idea.

“I share my sentiment that it feels a little sketchy to divert funds on what seems like a technicality,” said graduate studies representative Jackson Schumacher.

Holmes also weighed in, saying that students “thought that they knew where these fees were going to go when they voted for them” and that “if [the AMS] wants to do this, put it to a referendum for students to change the fee.”

Council voted in favour of using $58,500 from the AMS Childcare Bursary Fund for childcare related expenses at the Acadia Park community food hub.