Abridged Audit Report to the Board of Directors Davis LLP

August 24, 2010


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(a) Background 4

(b) Methodology 4





(a) Codifying existing practices in the Election Documents 6

(b) Improving clarity and understanding of the EPC 6

(c) Providing more robust education and training 6

(d) Clarifying the role of the Chief Returning Officer 6

(e) Strengthening the Election Documents 7

(f) Soliciting, reviewing and implementing feedback to facilitate continuous

improvement 7


(a) Nominations process 7

(b) Campaigning 7

(c) Voting 8

(d) Results 8

(e) Appeals 8



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This audit report (the "Report") has been prepared by Davis LLP for the Board of Directors of the York Federation of Students, Local 68 Canadian Federation of Students ("YFS") and summarizes the observations and results from an audit of YFS' Elections Process (defined below) that was conducted during May - August 2010.

The purpose of the audit was to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the process for the annual YFS elections (the "Elections Process") to determine the extent to which it complies with the Election Procedure Code, revised October 29,2007 (the "EPC") and YFS By-law 10 (Elections) ("By-law 10"), and to assess the overall soundness of the Elections Process (the EPC and By-law 10 collectively known as the "Election Documents"). The audit assessed the Election Documents and less formal collections of institutionalized "best practices", as well as the transparency and fairness, management and administration, and monitoring of the Elections Process. The audit focused on activities in preparation for, during and after the 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 elections.

Overall, the audit showed that the Elections Process is sound. The Election Documents are detailed, comprehensive and in line with the elections documents of the Peer Group (defined on page 6 below). The Elections Process as a whole and practices of the YFS and returning officers are compliant with the Election Documents and, particularly when one also takes into consideration the uncodified institutionalized practices, is robust and comprehensive.

Of course, like any other electoral system, there is room to improve. Overarching structural recommendations relate to codifying institutionalized practices; improving the clarity and accessibility of the EPC; providing more robust training to participants in the Elections Process; incorporating the feedback and recommendations of, inter alia, the Chief Returning Officer (the "CRO") into the Elections Process; reviewing the discretionary decision-making of the CRO and removing, to the extent possible, an apprehension of bias between the CRO and YFS. In addition, this Report sets out a number of specific recommendations relating to the nominations process, campaigning, voting, results and appeals that would further improve the soundness of the Elections Process.


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(a) Background

Elections for the YFS Board of Directors (the "Board") and Executives occur during the Spring term at York University between February 20 and March 20 of each year. Elections are also held in the Fall term between September 15 and October 20 for any vacancies in the Board that occur before September 10.1

The EPC sets out detailed procedures relating to the Elections Process and By-law 10 also contains provisions relating to the elections of Directors and Executives to the Board. In addition, the Elections Process is guided by a number of unwritten but institutionalized practices.

The YFS elections committee (the "Elections Committee") oversees the conduct and supervision of the Elections Process, including interpretation of the EPC. It comprises the Executive Director of the Board (the "ED"), who acts as the Chair, two members of the Board and the CRO.2 The CRO is mandated to manage and administer of any elections of the YFS.

(b) Methodology

The audit involved the following tasks:

(i) reviewing in detail the EPC, By-law 10 and uncodified institutionalized practices, including, in particular, those contained in the CRO Reports (defined below);

(ii) comparing and analyzing the Elections Process against the elections processes at eight student unions at other Ontario universities3 ("Universities") and at three student unions at York University colleges" ("Colleges", and collectively with the Universities, the "Peer Group") on the basis of 24 separate categories;

(iii) interviewing 20 individuals involved in the Elections Process between 2006 and 20 I 0, including YFS staff members, directors and officers, former and current executives at other student unions (both at York and

1 By-law 10, Section 10.3, Election Periods.

2 By-law 10, Section 10.1, Administration of Elections and Section 10.2, Election Committee.

3 The eight (8) other Ontario university student unions which were analyzed were: University of Toronto Students' Union; University of Toronto Mississauga Students' Union; Scarborough Campus Students' Union; Ryerson Students' Union; Carleton University Students' Union; Student Federation of the University of Ottawa; University of Windsor Students' Alliance; Alma Mater Society (Queen's); and University Students' Council of the University of Western Ontario.

4 The three (3) college student unions at York which were analyzed were: Founders College, Glendon College and Calumet College.


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elsewhere), unsuccessful candidates, and former CROs, Deputy Returning Officers, poll clerks and scrutineers (both at York and elsewhere);

(iv) reviewing and analyzing reports of the CRO for the years 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 (the "Election Years"); and

(v) overall, considering "best practices", including at the Universities, Colleges and Elections Canada.


The Election Documents were compared to similar documents in place at the Universities and the Colleges. The various elections "codes" were analyzed on the basis of 24 separate categories, which can be subdivided into six broad groups: (a) structural, (b) nominations, (c) campaigning, (d) voting, (e) results and (1) appeals. Overall, the Election Documents address all six categories in the same or similar manner to the members of the Peer Group. It is also notable that YFS' Election Documents are as detailed and comprehensive as any in the Peer Group and in most cases much more so.


The issues raised in the CRO Reports were cross-referenced against the Election Documents to see how many of the actual practices described in the CRO Reports are codified in the Election Documents. The analysis found that there are numerous institutionalized "best practices" that are not codified but contribute significantly to the transparency and strength of the Elections Process.


As mentioned above, 20 interviews were arranged by YFS with individuals who have been involved in various ways with YFS elections in the past. Numerous common themes arose. What was clear is that the interviewees (as a sample of the participants in the Elections Process) are knowledgeable about and simultaneously confident in and critical of, the Elections Process and the Election Documents.

Overall, respondents were generally complimentary of the Elections Process and expressed their confidence that it was amongst "best in class". That said, numerous constructive criticisms and suggestions for improvement were provided, many of which we have endorsed and have included in the Recommendations sections of this Report.


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Although the Elections Process is generally sound, there are some areas in which it can be improved. This section discusses recommendations that are "structural" in nature and relate to the overarching framework within which the Elections Process occurs:

(a) Codifying existing practices in the Election Documents

(i) key good practices should be codified in the EPC or in a "best practices" manual to ensure consistency in future elections

(ii) the Elections Committee should review good practices from previous elections and make recommendations to the Board regarding the codification of instrumental practices

(b) Improving clarity and understanding of the EPC

(i) the language of the EPC should be drafted III clear language that IS accessible to the average student

(ii) consideration should be given to whether provision of a "fact sheet", as part of the "best practices manual", drafted in accessible language and which cite sections of the EPC would assist students interpret and understand the EPC

(c) Providing more robust education and training

(i) greater efforts to educate the membership as a whole with regard to the general rules of the EPC and campaigning could be made

(ii) formal training programs (which can be repeated annually) for poll clerks, CRO and Deputy Returning Officers, amongst others, should also be strongly considered

(iii) consideration should be given to tweaking current practices to compensate for deficiencies (for e.g., pairing experienced poll clerks with inexperienced poll clerks)

(d) Clarifying the role of the Chief Returning Officer

(i) the EPC should be reviewed in its entirety to ensure that it provides sufficient details to avoid or limit CRO discretionary decision-making relating to key elements in the Elections Process

(ii) consider having the CRO situated in an office unaffiliated to YFS for the duration of the election

(iii) publish the methodology and criteria by which the CRO is hired


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(e) Strengthening the Election Documents

(i) the EPC should be incorporated into the YFS By-laws to ensure that any amendments to the code have the support and approval of YFS' members, thereby affording it democratic protections similar to By-law 10

(1) Soliciting, reviewing and implementing feedback to facilitate continuous improvement

(i) further empower the Elections Committee to: solicit feedback from all stakeholders as to the performance of the Elections Process in each year; to study the recommendations of the CRO and ensure they are fully considered; and to be responsible for implementing any recommendations approved by the Board


In addition to the overarching, structural recommendations described in the previous section, there are a number of specific recommendations that, if adopted, would improve the Elections Process at YFS:

(a) Nominations process

(i) consider holding multiple all-candidates meetings to ensure as many nominees can attend in person as possible

(ii) the EPC and By-law 10 should clearly mandate what is required in order to advertise the opening of nominations

(iii) upon receipt, and to the extent possible, prospective candidates should be notified if their applications are deficient or incomplete to permit resubmission

(iv) YFS should continue to promote cross-campaigning

(b) Campaigning

(i) impose a cap on the spending of nominees

(ii) consider subsidizing or funding the campaigns of those candidates that require financial assistance

(iii) formulate and codify policies in respect of the use of "new media" (e.g., clarify the definition of "campaign material" to capture any media and ensure that the CRO has the ability to access and monitor the use of "new media")


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(iv) establish clear rules relating to conduct and behaviour of candidates during campaigns, including responsibility for those campaigning on behalf of candidates (e.g., clarify that campaign teams cannot contain members that are non-York University students)

(c) Voting

(i) given that the EPe permits online voting, investigate whether online voting may be a viable alternative or supplementary voting system in the future

(ii) codify a mechanism related to the setting up of polling stations (e.g., minimizing line-ups at polling stations, ensuring minimum number of polling stations, prescribing specific locations for polling stations)

(iii) obtain approval of the layout of the ballot and mandate that names will be listed alphabetically

(iv) codify the process whereby ballots are counted (e.g., codify process of numbering andlor watermarking ballots)

(d) Results

(i) announce results of election count within 24 - 48 hours

(ii) codify the level of security that accompanies the ballot boxes (e.g., codify practice of "double envelope" system, arrangements with York University security during transportation and storage of ballot boxes, requirement of new ballot design for every election and destruction of extra ballots)

(e) Appeals

(i) streamline the appeal process: once a decision is made on an appeal, it should be final (not open to be appealed again); ensure reasons are given when decisions are made

(ii) impose a requirement for an automatic recount when the margin of victory is de minimis

(iii) consistently enforce penalties in relation to candidates who make appeals outside of the Elections Process (e.g., to the press or the administration of York University) or included a specific prohibition in the EPe rather than relying on general terms of EPe


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The procedures set out in the EPC are detailed and robust. Comparisons of the EPC to similar election policies at the Universities and Colleges show that the EPC is similar, or superior, in nature and level of detail as these other policies.

The Elections Process as a whole and practices of the YFS and returning officers are compliant with the Election Documents and, particularly when one also takes into consideration the uncodified institutionalized practices, is robust and comprehensive.

That said, it is clear that there remains room for improvement and that the YFS would be wellserved to consider implementing the recommendations made in this Report.

We would be pleased to assist with any next steps and are available to discuss any aspect of the Report.



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