As the elections for next year's UTSU executives draw to a close, the number of demerits handed out by Chief Returning Officer David Blocker are piling up for the Change slate. Candidates can accrue a total of 35 demerits before being disqualified from the elections.
On March 17, CRO David Blocker handed Change U of T presidential candidate Steve Masse 25 demerit points for videos shot and posted to YouTube by Antonin Mongeau that were deemed harassing to the Stronger Together campaign. The controversy is nothing new: Mongeau was a cause of demerits to the Change slate in the 2009 election. These demerits could prove detrimental to Masse, who only had 3 demerit points previously, while Stronger Together presidential candidate Adam Awad only has 5 demerits as at press time.
Mongeau, Alumni Chair of EFUT, posted a video last week shot with his blackberry. In it, he alleges that RSU President-elect Toby Whitfield, while campaigning for the Stronger Together slate, tore down EFUT's posters at Sid Smith. While the video does not actually show Whitfield tearing down EFUT's posters, Whitfield has not denied these charges.
The second video is shot outside a meeting called by Stronger Together supporters; in it, the supporters continually state they feel harassed being filmed by Mongeau. Masse shows up outside the meeting, later stating he believed it was an open meeting held by the MSA, where Masse had planned to clarify misconceptions about his campaign. The CRO is penalizing Masse for interrupting the Stronger Together meeting, deeming it 'general sabotage.'
CRO Ruling 18, found on UTSU's website, concluded that “Mr. Mongeau is acting as a non-arms length third party campaigner for the Change U of T team.” CRO Ruling 21 goes on to address complaints by Stronger Together supporters who felt “intimidated, harassed, and badgered when being followed and filmed by Mr. Mongeau...that the harassment and filming was witnessed and condoned by Change U of T candidates and volunteers, and Varsity reporters.”
Unless Change publicly disassociates from Mongeau and the videos are removed, these demerit points could hurt Masse's chances of finishing the election.
Both Masse and Mongeau deny Mongeau's agency with the Change campaign. “I emailed [the CRO] to state that Antonin is not a part of our campaign,” said Masse. “We are planning on appealing tomorrow. This is definitely something that needs to be addressed.”
While Mongeau admits his stance against Stronger Together, he says, “I have never supported Change at U of T. Not this year, not last year. I have never campaigned for Change. I have never been to a meeting for Change. I have never put up a poster for Change. I have never handed out a flyer for Change. Not this year, not last year.”
While publicly disassociating from Mongeau may protect Masse, Mongeau's refusal to remove the videos could still be problematic for Change's demerit tally. “Today I sent an email to [CRO] David Blocker stating that I'm an independent journalist, that I'm protected under the laws of Canada,” Mongeau said. “The videos are not coming down under any circumstances whatsoever.”