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Fall 2016 SSMU General Assembly: What are SSMU members voting for?

On Nov. 7, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) will hold the Fall 2016 General Assembly (GA), where the student body will have the opportunity to vote directly on proposed motions and referenda questions. The three motions presented this Fall must be approved by popular referendum in order to be adopted. 

Motion Regarding the Nomination of the Auditor for the Fiscal Year of 2017

This motion proposes that the firm FL Fuller Landau LLP conducts the 2017 audit of SSMU’s finances. Under section 17.3 of the SSMU Constitution, it is stated that the auditor must be approved by the GA annually. This motion was moved by SSMU General Manager Ryan Hughes. 

An external auditor is hired every year to review SSMU’s financial records to ensure compliance with general accounting guidelines and correct inventory balances. 

FL Fuller Landau LLP was first contracted in the previous fiscal year when it was estimated that this appointment would reduce audit costs by approximately 15 per cent

SSMU executives did not respond to questions as to whether the savings were realized or whether other firms were considered for the job.

Motion Regarding Global Access to Medicines Policy 

The motion calls for SSMU to support access to medicine as a “public good and a human right  by asking McGill to adjust the patents they hold on essential medicines to increase access to medicine in developing nations. The motion was moved by the McGill Students’ Chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM). 

The proposal asks SSMU to advocate for McGill to change its patent policy through the University Senate and other appropriate committees. If McGill agreed to adjust its patents on essential medicines, it would allow generic drug manufacturers to produce essential medicines at a cheaper cost and sell them in developing nations. According to the motion, McGill would not be the first university to implement such a policy, joining a group of institutions that includes Yale University, the University of British Columbia (UBC), and Harvard University.

According to the Co-President of the McGill Students’ Chapter of UAME Christine Kim, other universities have not seen a fall in revenue after instituting similar policies. Large pharmaceutical companies don’t make the majority of their profits from drug sales in developing nations, but rather from sales in Canada and other developed economies.

“Seventy-nine research drug companies in Canada submitted reports showing their [research and development] expenditures [are] all paid for by domestic sales at Canadian prices,” Kim said. “[Similarly,] none of the 22 universities in North America, including Harvard, Yale, and even UBC in Canada, have reported loss of revenue from the signing of [a similar proposal].”

According to Kim, McGill could already contribute to the access of essential medicines, but their current policy inhibits them from doing so.

“McGill has already developed an anti-malaria drug, Cystamine, back in 2012,” said Kim. “We asked McGill to adopt [our resolution], because under its current [intellectual property] standards, the drug [is not] available to those in [developing nations], despite malaria having a very high prevalence in [developing nations].”

Motion Regarding SSMU Support for Cost-Free Birth Control Coverage 

The motion calls for SSMU to support cost-free access to birth control for all members of SSMU. If the motion passes, SSMU would negotiate with its health insurance provider, the Desjardins Financial Security Life Assurance Company, to fully cover birth control prescriptions for non-Quebec students through the SSMU supplemental health insurance. The resolution was presented by McGill Students for the New Democratic Party (NDP McGill). 

Under the current SSMU health insurance plan, Quebec residents are entitled to 100 per cent reimbursement for prescription drugs. Out-of-province students are only entitled to 80 per cent reimbursement.

Jacob Schweda, a member of NDP McGill, said the resolution is in support of an NDP motion that will be presented in the House of Commons.

“Women's equality has always been at the core of the NDP's values […,]” said Schweda. “More specifically, [NDP McGill was] inspired by the work of Irene Mathyssen, the NDP Member of Parliament for London-Fanshawe. She is currently working on a motion to be introduced in the House of Commons calling for free prescription birth control for all.”

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