Referendum turnout shocks CCSAI President

Referendum turnout shocks CCSAI President
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By Akihko Tse

The students have spoken.

The enhanced health and dental plan referendum failed to pass after 386 students voted for the changes, while 106 voted against, and six ballots were spoiled. This means the current $17.50 per semester health care coverage, which covers 90 per cent of most prescription drugs, will remain.

In order for the plan to have passed, 10 per cent of Centennial College students, or 1,055 must have voted, with 50 per cent plus one of that figure needing to vote for the proposed changes. Only 4.7 per cent, or 498 out of a total of 10,550 students, voted.

“We gave the students what they wanted so the only thing is they didn’t come out [to vote],” said Karan Warraich, president of the Centennial College Student Association Incorporated.

Under the new changes, domestic students would have received dental and vision care, chiropractic services, physiotherapy, massage therapy and oral birth control for the price of $75 per semester, in addition to their current health care coverage. Medavie Blue Cross will be retained as the college’s carrier for the health plan.

The referendum was initially scheduled for March 27 and 28, but was delayed for a week as the executive team of the college deemed the duration for advertising the plan too short. It was subsequently moved back a week, but still coincided with the college’s election dates.

“We didn’t have enough time for marketing and another drawback was we did it together with the elections for the board of directors,” Warraich said, adding that the long lineups may have discouraged voters.
Mathieu Yuill, communications manager at the CCSAI, said he had estimated an 18 per cent turnout, but was “disappointed” at the result.

“We’re using a very analog system of voting for a group of people who are used to a digital lifestyle,” he said.

Yuill said that physical voting too cumbersome for students who had to obtain a sticker to verify their enrolment, which helped create the long lineups. He also said the financial impact of paying an additional $50 was a contributing factor.

“We need to do online voting or we’ll probably expect the same results,” he said. “At the end of the day, a student could have minimal amount of engagement with the college … but we should still ask what they would like.”

Warraich agreed, saying he was “shocked” because many people had inquired about the plan. He added that changing polling stations to somewhere with more traffic and visibility in this referendum would have helped.

Warraich campaigned in his election mandate to implement the enhanced plan, but said ultimately, it was the students’ choice.

“I think I’ve done my job [in putting it out]. I convinced my whole staff and board members to put it out,” he said. “It was a lot of work and everyone has done a great job, but I’m a little disappointed with the students who didn’t come out to vote.”

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