Former student politicians eyeing jobs in PMO

Many of you are likely aware that we are currently in the first leg of one of the longest federal elections since Confederation. And, for the first time since the existence of the New Democratic Party (NDP), the party has a realistic shot at forming government. This means that former student politicians and post-secondary education activists who were involved with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and who have supported the party could soon find themselves working in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Who might end up working in an NDP PMO?

Let’s start with former CFS chairperson, George Soule who has been working for Thomas Mulcair in the Leader of the Official Opposition’s office as Associate Director of Media. Before that, Soule was an NDP campaign spokesperson during the 2011 federal election which saw Jack Layton’s NDP thrusted into official opposition. Another longtime CFS staffer Lucy Watson also joined the Dippers earlier this year as National campaign co-ordinator (it remains unclear if she is on leave from the CFS, if she has left the organization altogether or if she was one of the employees who was caught up in the alleged internal labour dispute within the Federation). Former CFS national treasurer and Director of information technology Ben Lewis is currently a national NDP communications officer. Brad Lavigne, former CFS chairperson and close advisor to the late Jack Layton, returned to the NDP a a senior campaign strategist following his short stint in the private sector as a consultant with Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

While others from labour unions and left-wing activists will likely come out of the woodwork, it’s hard to know whether Thomas Mulcair will want to surround himself with those on the more extreme left. Regardless, this piece gives you some food for thought on who could very well be walking the corridors of power in the event that the NDP were to form government once the votes have been counted on October 19, 2015. 

Canadian Federation of Students loses legal battle with its Quebec wing

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The Superior Court of Quebec yesterday released its judgement (in french) in the case “
Rassemblement des associations étudiantes v Fédération canadienne des étudiants et étudiantes“, representing the culmination of a five-year war between the Canadian Federation of Students and the now defunct CFS-Quebec.

Consult more documents relating to this case here

The Court ruled that the Canadian Federation of Students had illegally withheld certain sums of money from CFS-Quebec for a certain period of time between 2007 and 2010, in violation of its own bylaws. The actual amount of money was not specified in the judgement.

This judgement could possibly influence judicial proceedings that are set to be heard in 2015 regarding the validity of disaffiliation referenda that saw three out of four CFS member students’ unions withdraw from the national student organization in 2010: the Concordia Students’ Union, the Concordia Graduate Students’ Association, and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University.

UPDATED: Yes CFS committee volunteers flood Capilano University campuses

Voting in the referendum on continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)/Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia Component (CFS-BC) at Capilano University began on Monday, March 24, 2014. Members of the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) have until Friday to cast their ballots in the referendum.

As has been reported in past referendums, the Yes CFS committee has a number of non-Capilano volunteers popping up on Capilano University campuses. We have been in contact with a number of Capilano students who have confirmed that Lucy Watson (CFS national union stewardJessica McCormick (CFS national chairperson), Jessica Thyriar (York Federation of Students president, CFS national racialised students’ representative), Gayle McFadden (York Federation of Students vice-president campaigns and advocacy), Zachary Crispin (British Columbia representative on the CFS national executive), Michael Olson (former CFS national treasurer, current executive director for the Vancouver Island University Students’ Union (VIUSU)), Madeline Keller-Macleod (CFS-BC women students’ liaison) and Jenelle Davies (current CFS-BC chairperson) have been spotted campaigning for the Yes committee. We have also obtained photographic evidence of some of these volunteers:

Gayle McFaydenPictured above is Gayle McFadden speaking to students at Capilano University.


Zachary Crispin appears in the above picture speaking with a student.


Michael Olson is seen standing beside the No committee’s campaign table. This appears to be a tactic that has been used throughout the campaign as you will see below.


Here’s another picture of Michael Olson standing to the left of the No CFS committee’s campaign table.

Michael Olson

Once again, Michael Olson seems very preoccupied with any student who tries to get information from the No CFS committee table.


Pictured above is Lori McDonald, deputy returning officer and executive director of the Emily Carr Students’ Union (ECSU). Although the process by which she was selected is unknown, a call for applications was put out by Stephen Littley, the CFS referendum chief returning officer.


Pictured above is Madeline Keller-Macleod (left), the Lansdowne Campus Executive for the Camosun College Student Society (CCSS).

When I reached out to Mr. Littley to ask him some questions pertaining to penalties he handed out to the No CFS committee , he responded with the following:

I am in contact with the Parties and campaigns involved, and will not communicate with media while the referendum is underway. I am not in a position to provide you with any “side”, nor is my deputy returning officer.

With that being said, here’s an outline of just a few penalties imposed on the No committee by the CRO.

Complaints and penalties against the No committee

Initially, the No committee’s website linked to a number of articles on it “Media” page. Mr. Littley handed out a penalty which claimed that most articles that appeared on that page, which were published on major newspaper websites, were “defamatory, misleading, or false.” Although I’m waiting for the list of all the articles that were removed, I can confirm that an opinion piece critical of the CFS, penned by yours truly, was one of them. The No committee posted the following clarification after receiving the penalty: - Media page

On Monday, the Dump the CFS Facebook page informed Capilano students that it had received a penalty resulting in a 48 hour suspension of its campaign website:


After this No committee’s video received approval from Stephen Littley, yet another penalty was leveled against the No committee which was forced to take it down because it was “misleading”:

Meanwhile, a complaint was logged against a pro-CFS video, released by the Yes committee which, at the time of publication, had yet to be resolved.

Students I have spoken with have been extremely reluctant to speak about what has been occurring on the ground for fear of having a No result thrown out by the chief returning officer. It should be noted that I emailed the Yes committee (on Wednesday, March 12, 2014) and have yet to receive a response.

UPDATE – March 29, 2014


Pictured above is long-time CFS employee, Lucy Watson, present at Capilano University during the referendum on continued membership in the CFS/CFS-BC.

Jessica Thyriar-YFS-president

President of the York Federation of Students, Jessica Thyriar, hard at work campaigning for the pro-CFS campaign committee.

Update on Guelph’s Central Student Association CFS membership debacle

The counter-petition that circulated at the University of Guelph

The counter-petition that circulated at the University of Guelph has obtained a Litigation Co-operation Agreement signed by the Central Student Association (CSA) of the University of Guelph, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS-O). The agreement, signed by the outgoing CSA executive on their last day in office (April 30, 2013) claims that, because the uGuelph administration recently ceased collecting CFS membership fees and is refusing to remit fees emanating from the 2010-2011/2011-2012 academic years to the CFS/CFS-O, “the parties are suffering ongoing damages”. This agreement was reached after the uGuelph administration surveyed its undergraduate students earlier this year regarding the resumption of CFS membership fee collection to which students overwhelmingly voted against paying the fee (~71% voting against paying the fee).


Is the Central Student Association preparing to take legal action against the University of Guelph?

Guelph’s Central Student Association v. the Canadian Federation of Students & Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (April 2010 referendum)

The agreement also claims that “each of the parties hereto have individually and without influence from the other resolved to commence litigation against the University [of Guelph]” (emphasis added). Adding this clause, especially when the CSA is still involved in a lawsuit against the CFS/CFS-O stemming from a 2010 court-ordered referendum on continued membership which was later appealed successfully by the CFS/CFS-O, is rather interesting indeed.

Since the CSA’s April 2010 referendum, the anti-CFS sentiment on campus appears to have diminished to the point that the CSA executive began reengaging with the Federation both provincially and nationally. For example, after being absent from the November 2010 CFS national general meeting (along with other general meetings), the CSA began participating in the CFS and CFS-Ontario Lobby Week activities again last year. The CSA board of directors even went as far as to rescind a number of motions passed by the previous board. The following motions have been rescinded:

Motion #1, adopted on March 31, 2010, read in part:

BIRT [Be it resolved that] the CSA take an official stance on continued CFS & CFS-O membership.
BIFRT [Be it further resolved that] the CSA take the de-federation stance (Against continued CFS & CFS-O membership).

Motion #2, adopted on April 7, 2010, read in part:

BIRT [Be it resolved that] the CSA Board of Directors uphold the democratic results of the CFS referendum on continued membership which shall take place April 7th-9th, 2010.

Motion #3, adopted on July 13, 2011, read in part:

BIRT [Be it resolved that] the CSA Board of Directors adopt the recommendations of the Heenan Blaike law firm and continue to defend the results of the referendum to discontinue membership with CFS-N and CFS-O

So how did the CSA executive go from being “unanimous in [their] position that the University of Guelph has de-federated from the CFS” and agreeing to “put [their] personal politics aside and represent the student majority, who voted 70% in favour of de-federating” to rescinding/amending motions that set out the CSA’s previous positions on the matter? How is it that, three years after a referendum on continued membership in the CFS, the CSA’s lawsuit against the CFS/CFS-O remains unresolved? Why has the CSA now decided to team up with the CFS/CFS-O to commence legal action against the University of Guelph (Please note that I am not questioning the legitimacy of the CFS/CFS-O’s concern regarding the decision taken by the University of Guelph administration to cease collecting CFS membership fees)? What, if anything, is being done by the parties to resolve this ongoing legal debacle and will they succeed in reaching a “out-of-court settlement”? These are questions that undergraduate students at the University of Guelph as well as the individual members of the CFS deserve to have answered.

Canadian Federation of Students national general meeting agenda now available

The 63rd semi-annual national general meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students (-Services) (CFS/CFS-S) will be taking place in National Capital Region from May 30 to June 3, 2013.

The opening plenary agenda is now available (Hat Tip to the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU)). It includes motions carried over from the November 2012 national general meeting which were not dealt with as well as a number of new motions proposed by various student unions from across the country.

Once again, Bylaw 1 will be scrutinized. This is the bylaw which stipulates the rules and regulations to be followed in the lead-up to as well as during a referendum to join or to leave the Federation. For example, Motion 2013/05:N22, proposed by the Queen’s University Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS), seeks to strike the last paragraph of Bylaw 1, Section 6.a.:

Any individual member may request that her name be removed from a petition. If the National Executive receives such a request in writing, before the conclusion of the verification process of the petition, the name must be struck from the petition. The name shall not be included in the total number of names on the petition.

Such a clause seems to be included in the Federation’s Bylaws in order to undermine the attempt by individual members to collect signatures that could lead to a referendum on continued membership. Common sense dictates that, when someone asks you to affix your signature a document, you read the document carefully before accepting to do so. And don’t even get me started on the issue of so-called “counter petitions“.

Another issue regarding Bylaw 1: a candidate for the position of the Chief Returning Officer (the person in charge of overseeing all aspects of a CFS referendum), is currently appointed unilaterally by the Federation, “on the exclusive recommendation of the Federation’s Executive Committee, with no requirement that the Executive Committee’s recommendations be developed in consultation with the member local union”. The candidate’s appointment must be ratified by a vote of the general assembly during a national general meeting. The preamble to Motion 2013/05:N24, proposed by the Kwantlen Student Association (KSA), reads in part:

Whereas the decertification referendum process must be fair and democratic, and the process for the appointment of the Chief Returning Officer of the decertifcation referendum must not unreasonably favour either the Federation, or the member local union…

The motion then proposes an amendment to Bylaw 1, Section 6.c. which reads as follows:

For each referendum on continued membership (and to certify or join), the National Executive shall recommend an individual to serve as the Chief Returning Officer, in consultation with the member local association.

Luckily, the CFS has yet to face any referendums since the general assembly voted two years ago to replace the infamous Referendum Oversight Committee (ROC), which was composed four individuals: two appointed by the CFS and two appointed by the member local, with the Chief Returning Officer (CRO). The ROC system was terribly flawed and often criticized. Although it never had the chance to appoint a CRO, history indicates that the national executive would have more than likely appointed someone like Lucy Watson, a long-time CFS staffer, who has sat on numerous ROCs throughout the years. Obviously, if that was the case, one could immediately question the impartiality of the Federation’s CRO appointee. This motion seeks to avoid such a scenario and could potentially save students thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees in the future.

A long overdue proposal may finally make it to the plenary floor. Motion 2013/05: N26, brought forward by the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA), proposes to create a Students with Disabilities Commissioner. This individual would sit as a director on the CFS national executive, along with all the other constituency representatives and commissioners. Hat Tip to the UWSA.

During the November 2012 Canadian Federation of Students national general meeting, five motions were referred to the national executive for further scrutiny. The national executive’s recommendations appear in the opening plenary agenda. SPOILER ALERT: all five motions are recommended for defeat.

Other motions worth pointing out:

Motion 2013/05:N16 – “Men’s Rights Awareness Groups” such as the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) are alleged to “provide environments of sexism, patriarchy and misogyny to manifest and be perpetuated on campus, which should be safe(r) spaces for students” and “promote misogynist, hateful views towards women and ideologies that promote gender equity, challenges women’s bodily autonomy, justifies sexual assault, and decries feminism as violent”. The motion calls on the Federation to oppose “campaigns, forums, groups meetings or events whose purpose is to frighten, intimidate and/or target women students on campus” as well as “the administration’s lack of response to calls for public support and protection of students being threatened, stalked and/or attacked on campus.” You can read more about recent incidents at the University of Toronto here.

Motion 2013/05:N21 – Amend Bylaw V, Section 9.c. (Announcement of Election Results) to read: “the vote count for each candidate” (which removes “if directed to do so by a two-thirds majority of the plenary”).

Motion 2013/05:N23 – Another proposal from the KSA seeks to modify the composition of the Appeals Committee (established for each referendum on membership whether to join or to leave the Federation). Currently, the members of this committee are appointed exclusively by the CFS national executive without consultation of the member local association. The motion seeks to change this by having two individuals appointed by the CFS and two individuals appointed by the member local association. These individuals would not be permitted to campaign during the referendum. Although I think the idea is a good one, this brings me back to the deadlocks which occurred within a number of ROCs.

UVSS ejected from CFS-BC

The Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia Component (CFS-BC) held a special general meeting this past weekend. On the agenda: the expulsion of the University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS). According to the CFS-BC’s special general meeting first notice, only one point appeared on the agenda:

As per Bylaw 2.3, the following motion has been served with due notice by the Executive Committee:

Be it resolved that, pursuant to Bylaw 2.3(a), the University of Victoria Student Societyy be expelled from the Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia effective the last day of the winter semester at the University of Victoria ; and

Be it further resolved that efforts to collect the outstanding membership fees be continued;

Be it further resolved that an open letter be sent to the individual members at the University of Victoria explaining the consequences of the actions of the elected officials of the University of Victoria Student Society.

The UVSS proposed a motion to divide the original motion into three distinct motions that would be debated separately. As per Robert’s Rules of Order, this occurred immediately because the clauses were unrelated and could stand as complete propositions on their own.

The first motion (to expel the UVSS from the CFS-BC), passed unanimously; the second motion (that efforts to collect the outstanding membership fees be continued) passed with the University of British Columbia Students’ Union Okanagan (UBCSUO), the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU), the Kwantlen Student Association (KSA) and the University of Victory Students’ Society (UVSS) voted against; the same four members voted against the the third motion (that a letter be sent to the individual members at University of Victoria explaining the consequences of the actions of the elected officials).

On Saturday, March 9, 2013, the UVSS put out a press release on its Facebook Page. In it, we learn that a petition organized by UVic students circulated during the first week of September 2012 in order to initiate a referendum on continued membership in the CFS-BC. We also learn that a referendum was scheduled to take place later this month (March 25, 26 and 27, 2013). However, the CFS-BC made a classic claim which jeopardized the holding of the referendum: it claimed that the UVSS had outstanding membership fees dating back to the 1990s ($160,000 to be precise) which would have to be payed in full before the referendum could occur.

Another interesting tidbit stemming from the meeting: At the beginning of the meeting, the Chairperson of the CFS-BC, Katie Marocchie, originally rejected that the CSU’s proxy be exercised by the KSA. When the KSA raised a point of order, Marocchie consulted Michael Gardiner (former CFS-BC chairperson in 1997) and Lucy Watson (who was taking the meeting minutes; Ms. Watson has acted as the CFS representative on many Referendum Oversight Committees during referendums on continued membership in the CFS. She has also provided a number of affidavits when the CFS was taken to court by the UVSS back in 2010. You can read those affidavits here, here and here.) According to a source, Marocchie allegedly questioned the legitimacy of a letter signed by two members of the CSU’s board of directors confirming that the KSA was to act as the organisation’s proxy in its absence. The CFS-BC chairperson also allegedly doubted that the CSU board could have chosen a proxy in such a short period of time. Eventually, one of the elected officials from the CSU (who had co-signed the letter referred to above) was contacted and confirmed that the KSA was to act as the CSU’s proxy during Saturday’s meeting.

According the CFS-BC’s 2011-2012 budget, the UVSS’s membership fees amounted to $110,000. That represents approximately 17% of the CFS-BC’s total membership fees.

CFS-BC - 2011-2012 Budget - Schedule 1 - Membership Fees I do believe that it’s appropriate to remind readers of about a certain “war plan” (this is the original Excel file) produced by CFS-BC organizer Summer McFadyen in January 2008. This “Referendum Campaign Plan and Tasklist” was compiled by McFadyen in preparation for the upcoming referendum campaigns at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University (March 3-7, 2008), at the Simon Fraser University (March 18-20, 2008) and the University of Victoria (March 18-20, 2008). According to an article in The Manitoban, McFadyen’s email was destined for none other than Lucy Watson who, at that time, was the CFS national director of organizing. However, McFadyen mistakenly sent the document to the CFS-BC executive committee listserv on January 28, 2008. The Kwantlen Student Association immediately published the document along with this press release on February 4, 2008. The next day, the CFS issued a legal letter, via their lawyer, Todd J. Burke of Gowlings, demanding that the KSA issue a “public apology which should be approved by it [the CFS] prior to issuance.” On that same day, the then-CFS national chairperson, Amanda Aziz, sent an email to members of the CFS claiming that the the “Referendum Campaign Plan and Tasklist” was authored by the CFS-British Columbia “which, as you know, is an autonomous provincial organisation over which the Canadian Federation of Students and its National Executive has no authority.” Therefore, the KSA was leveling “false accusations” against the Federation by claiming that it was also responsible for the “war plan”. In response to the demand for an apology, the KSA released this statement claiming its representatives were “shocked and surprised”.

I’ve tweeted the chairperson of the CFS-BC, Katie Marocchie (@katiemarocchi) and am waiting for a reaction as the CFS-BC has yet to release a statement on its website. If a reaction is provided, it will be added here. UPDATE (June 28, 2013): Unfortunately, I never did hear back from Ms. Marocchie.

Finally, for many years, a number of UVic students have worked very hard and all their hard work has finally paid off. UVSS will officially be set free at the end of the current winter semester.