Voter turnout way up in UWSA election

New president wins by a hair; environmental projects embraced

Democracy is on a good path at the University of Winnipeg.

This year’s University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) general election saw a six per cent hike in voter turnout from last year. The election brought in 13.3 per cent of the total university population, the highest voter turnout since 2003, according to chief elections commissioner Michael Rac.

The 1,338 ballots cast made some wins decisive, while others made it in by the skin of their teeth.

With four candidates vying for the presidency, the race was tight. Jason Syvixay defeated Jason Robillard by 23 votes.

“Jason Syvixay was a surprise. I would say he was the underdog,” said Rac.

And that’s just the way Syvixay liked it.

“I feel like I had a very sneak-attack campaign strategy,” he said. “Kind of like a non-strategy strategy.”

Syvixay said he chose to keep a low profile, talking to students one on one, especially groups who don’t usually engage in student politics.

“I didn’t focus on the regular campaigning, I didn’t attack anybody else.”

In a recent letter to the editor, one voter expressed concern over the possible confusion of having two Jasons run for president (see letters on page 10). Rac acknowledged this could have been an issue, but said it was not brought to his attention during the weeks preceding the election.

Syvixay said he introduced himself simply as ‘Jason’ to many students during the campaign, which may have increased confusion at the ballot.

And Syvixay’s luck is not solitary. He ran in a successful three person slate with Brent Gali, next year’s science director, and Jazmin Villalta, incoming environmental ethics director.

The slate was called ‘Come Together,’ and focused on being a voice for a united student body.

Of the contested executive positions, Kelly Ross won back her seat as vice president student services, and David EisBrenner will be next year’s vice president advocate.

This year’s election is sure to make waves beyond the university with the passing of two progressive referendum questions. The proposal to make the U of W the first Canadian university to eliminate bottled water sales passed with 976 ‘yes’ votes and 328 ‘no’ votes.

President and vice-chancellor Lloyd Axworthy expressed the university administration’s support of this student-led initiative at a press conference on Monday, Mar. 23.

UWSA environmental ethics director Stephanie Chartrand is pleased the referendum passed, but expected more support.

“I know there was a lot of controversy around the issue because people think it’s a recycling issue rather than a paying for water issue,” Chartrand said. “We need water to live and it’s just a human right to have access to it.”

The university plans to conduct a water audit and infrastructure upgrades to ensure that drinking fountains are in optimal condition.

The referendum question proposing a $2 student levy for an on-campus cycling repair, education and advocacy facility also passed.

“This program could raise the bar nationally for campus sustainable transportation,” said Robin Bryan, a U of W student who has been working to raise support for the initiative.

The story above has been edited from the version in which it originally appeared. This version was posted Mar 28, 2009.

Published in Volume 63, Number 25 of The Uniter (March 26, 2009)

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