Students will head to the polls Nov. 6 up to 15 to vote in the upcoming Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU)’s Fall referendum period.
Four questions have been approved to appear on the ballot—two regarding the existence and a funding increase for the Midnight Kitchen, one regarding a fee increase for the SSMU Daycare, and the third requesting changes to the SSMU constitution.
Midnight Kitchen is asking students to support both its existence and an opt-outable fee increase from $2.25 to $3.25 per semester.
The student-run service provides pay-what-you-can vegan lunches on weekdays. According to Midnight Kitchen Outreach Coordinator Vince Tao, the organization’s popularity has increased over the years, but its budget has remained the same since 2011.
“We’re serving about 250 people a day now,” Tao said. “We end up running out of food by the time we get to the end of the line.”
Tao also explained that SSMU’s implementation of a new pay equity policy in 2012 means that salaries now account for approximately 61 per cent of the Midnight Kitchen’s operating budget.
Kelly Schieder, chair of the referendum question’s “Yes” committee, said Midnight Kitchen aims to use the proposed fee increase to meet the current demand from customers and expand its services.
“The first thing we’re planning to do is to buy a higher quality and bigger variety of food for our lunch servings,” she said. “We’re also hoping to introduce breakfast servings.”
Despite concern about the organization’s funding, Arts and Science Representative Courtney Ayukawa, stressed that Midnight Kitchen ultimately provides a necessary resource that does not exist elsewhere on campus.
“I know of many people who can’t afford to buy or make lunch every single day because of financial or time constraints,” she said. “The convenience of an affordable, accessible, and timely lunch is a really important thing.”
SSMU Daycare also seeks an increase in funding, and a “Yes” majority vote to its referendum question will raise its current non-opt-outable fee from $1.50 to $2.50 per student per semester.
The SSMU Daycare is a childcare service provided to the children of undergraduate parents at the cost of seven dollars per day.
Since the current fee was set in 2006, the daycare has faced a number of changes to the services it offers and its operational costs. In 2009, the daycare opened a nursery, which accommodates babies aged four to 18 months. In the same year, the daycare’s rent to McGill increased.
Stefan Fong, SSMU vice-president Clubs and Services and president of the daycare’s Board of Directors, said the daycare requires the fee increase in order to maintain its current level of service.
“If the daycare fee increase does not pass, the daycare will have no choice but to reduce the amount of services it offers, which is a shame considering how much it has grown to accommodate students,” Fong said.
He noted that the student fee would be the best source of funding to adjust to account for the increase in costs. The daycare currently receives funding from three sources: a subsidy from the government, a fee from parents of children in the daycare, and the current student fee.
“The amount of funding the daycare receives is fairly fixed,” Fong said. “Out of these three, only the SSMU Daycare fee is flexible enough to be able to financially support the daycare in both a short-term and long-term way.”
—Jessica Fu with additional reporting by Eman Jeddy
Another referendum question will ask students to approve a series of changes to the SSMU constitution.
According to the referendum motion, the changes to the constitution are based on suggestions made by SSMU’s legal council.
“SSMU has undertaken a multi-year governance document revision process with our legal counsel in order to ensure that our governance structure and processes are stable and legal,” the motion reads.
According to SSMU President Katie Larson, most of the changes are primarily format-based in order to improve SSMU members’ understanding of the document. This includes the addition of two and a half pages of interpretations and definitions and a reorganization of many of the articles in the document.
“It’s a lot of moving things around [and] clarifying definitions, which was really important because you read through it now and it says one word like ‘council,’ but it’s not super clear what is council, who is council, what can they do, and how it’s similar and dissimilar from other bodies,” Larson said.
One significant change will affect the way in which councillors are appointed to SSMU’s Board of Directors (BoD).
Quebec Law requires that SSMU have a BoD to act as the organization’s highest governing body and make decisions on its financial activities. In previous years, the BoD was formed through appointments within Council by councillors themselves. According to Larson, the new procedure would require that a General Assembly ratify these appointments.
“The structure will change so after councillors are elected […] they will then be appointed as board members for the following year, and they will have to be confirmed by all members and not just their faculty,” she said.
SSMU does not currently have a BoD, due to the failure of the Fall General Assembly to meet quorum and ratify Council’s appointments.
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