Was it the man, the message, or a combination of the two? No, Bryan West, I'm not talking about how you won; instead, there are many people on campus wondering how Phil Barski and his cabinet lost out on so many positions, only managing one executive seat.
Obviously, Mr. West deserves credit and congratulations for his win, but he was practically invisible next to the Barski machine, as it's been dubbed. I suspect, and this is pure guesswork, that the vote was divided into three main sections: the residence vote, the uninformed vote, and the recurring Students' Union voters. The first two sections were voters that had never voted before and were energized by this year's campaign. The last section were those lost souls who always cast their vote in SU elections.
The residence vote probably went almost exclusively to Bryan West, the uninformed vote to Barski and the regular votes were spread between all candidates with West getting enough of the regular voters to win his seat.
The residence vote was probably captured by West because he is a familiar face to those involved with residence politics and campaigning in this area would be made easy by word of mouth.
The uninformed vote likely went to Barski because of his slick campaign. The bus, the t-shirts, the posters. They would all appeal to those who did not pick up a supplement to actually look at what each candidate was proposing.
The regular SU vote is a little more complicated. I believe a lot of the voters voted strategically. They did not like what they saw in Barski so, although they may have preferred another candidate, they voted for West because they were worried about the Cabinet. This was not that common, however, as illustrated by West's slim margin of victory. In fact, after West's victory was announced, I heard someone say, "the university is saved!"
Barski's campaign was definitely not the problem. Many of the new voters can be attributed to the visibility of his campaign. The campaign bus, the t-shirts and the hot chocolate were excellent techniques that fired up many of the 28 per cent of undergraduates who voted (an excellent turnout for a post-secondary election).
His ideas and his personality may have been his downfall. When I say ideas, it is obvious to people who were paying attention that I mean the lack of ideas in Barski's campaign. Personality wise, it was Barski's overbearing, overly aggressive style that turned potential voters off.
Acting as a Deputy Returning Officer this election, I experienced first hand the aggressiveness of Barski's campaign. Around each polling station there is a 20 metre campaign-free perimeter. One of Barski's Cabinet's members, who another DRO had already warned, was talking to someone within the perimeter, so I approached them. As I did, they stopped talking and started leaving the area. As they were leaving I said "c'mon guys you know the rules," to which he responded, "file a complaint form then."
It turns out the candidate was only talking to a friend so, for the disturbance, I apologize to the candidate. Indeed, it would seem a rather banal episode had Barski's campaign manger, Hardeep Sangha, not approached me five minutes later.
He launched into a tirade where he swore at me and threatened to have me fired. I was unintimidated, knowing I had done nothing wrong. Upon seeing this, Sangha left, muttering "be respectful."
This little episode alone is not of great importance, however it demonstrates the lack of respect the Barski campaign had for the election in general, and the people involved in it--including the electorate itself. It also explains why Barski thought he could win the campaign on image alone, because he, and his cohorts, believed image would be enough.
Luckily, this electorate, albeit by a slim margin, showed Barski's Cabinet that ideas do matter when it comes to democracy.