Both UBC student unions are not making any endorsements in the upcoming proportional representation (PR) referendum after the UBC Students’ Union Okanagan (UBCSUO) received pushback over its initial outreach material.
UBCSUO launched its “Pro Rep is Lit” campaign in late October, changing its Facebook account’s cover image to include the slogan on October 23. The post quickly received pushback from some students, including a now-deleted post from the UBCO BC Young Liberals (BCYL) club criticizing the union.
“What the deleted statement stated is that we fundamentally object to the UBC Okanagan Students’ Union in their effort to basically muzzle our right to freedom of expression,” said UBCO BCYL President Jarred Anderson.
“There were certain words that we disagreed on, we interpreted different words differently … That’s where this kind of butting of heads happened, which has been resolved.”
Like its provincial parent party, the BCYL opposes PR, arguing the BC NDP government isn’t adequately informing British Columbians.
The following day, UBCSUO published a statement saying that it is not endorsing a side within the referendum. The union also replaced their former cover photo with one oriented towards informing students about the referendum.
“[UBCSUO] has not and will not spend student fees on promotion of the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ side of the campaign,” reads the follow-up statement posted on Facebook, despite the initial “Pro Rep Is Lit” slogan.
The statement does not explain why the UBCSUO removed their prior post. Instead, it encourages students to get informed and vote in the referendum, while also noting that some of the pushback against the campaign included “false information.”
UBCSUO President Amal Alhuwayshil and VP External Paula Tran did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Anderson said he appreciates the union’s updated position, while maintaining that the original post endorsed PR.
“We’re happy … with the Students’ Union making the statement, that we can continue together to uphold the wonderful virtues of public debate.” said Anderson.
Closer to home, the AMS is also not taking a stance on electoral reform.
Instead, VP External Cristina Ilnitchi said the society will focus on educating students about the referendum.
“Our mission here is to take on a campaign that educates students about the referendum, and really putting into simple terms what … the systems have to offer,” she said.
With the recently launched #YourVoteYourVoice campaign, the society will be holding a number of events to provide information on electoral reform.
These include a viewing of an viewing of an electoral reform debate on November 8 between BC Premier John Horgan and BC Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson, as well as a discussion panel on the merits of the two systems the following day.
“We’re hoping that through our campaign efforts and partnering with other student groups on campus, [we can] get the message out about how [PR] will affect you depending on how you decide to vote,” Ilnitchi said.