This year’s Senate campaign period was off to a confusing start with many candidates unsure about their campaign spending limits.
The confusion stems from the $100 spending limit that applies to students running for councillor positions in the University Students’ Council (USC) elections. This year, Senate and USC elections are being held separately. The change caused some Senate candidates to believe the “former” elections caps didn’t apply — candidates could spend freely.
However, University Secretary Irene Birrell said there was a never cap in the first place.
“We have never established a cap. We have said we will pay up to $100, not a penny more,” said Birrell. “The USC has established a cap, but the secretariat has never established a cap.”
Social media helped spread the confusion last Tuesday after a Senate candidate’s post was shared more than 30 times on Facebook. In the post, senator-at-large candidate Rav Datta posted a pledge promising not to spend more than $100 this campaign season and urging other senator candidates to limit their spending under the new circumstances.
The post was created under the impression that there has always been a spending cap, but this is the first year there isn’t one. Datta wasn’t aware the cap never existed, saying he was misled by a University staff member.
Datta wasn’t alone. Two other student leaders said they were also unsure of the rules, and according to Datta, roughly 15 to 20 out of the 62 senator candidates reached out to him asking for a copy of the pledge to sign themselves.
Although there isn’t a cap, the University will reimburse up to $100 of a candidate’s expenses. Candidates are expected to personally expense any purchases after this point.
Moving forward, most students seem to be supportive of implementing a policy like this, whether the secretariat has officially recognized it or not.
“If I’m mistaken and there has never been a spending limit I think that’s an issue that should be brought to light,” Datta said. “One of the first things I would like to do [if elected] is make sure that the Senate elections are fair to all students who want to campaign in the future.”
Polls open Feb. 13 at 8 a.m. and close Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. Polls for the Senate elections can be accessed online. Results will be posted on Feb. 15.