Conservative Party strategy to take over student unions?

Given our history with the Campus Conservatives here in Manitoba, this article doesn’t shock me one bit.

“The leaked materials were posted on WikiLeaks.org over the weekend and add to the growing body of evidence that the Conservative Party has a strategy for interfering in campus student unions.”

<snip>

“During the workshop, student Conservatives were also coached [including by MP Peter Baird] on how to set up “shell groups” as a way to advance a partisan agenda on campus.

“Yeah we had a front group like that: the Campus Coalition for Liberty. It was really just a front for the Conservatives, but it gave us like two voices.” said [Peter Baird’s Campaign Manager Aaron] Lee-Wudrick.

He added: “Don’t think that the Party doesn’t like that, because they do. They’re things that will help the Party, but it looks like it’s an organically-grown organization and it just stimulated from the grassroots spontaneously. They love that stuff… “

So, Conservative MPs and party officials are counciling junior Tories on how to fake a grassroots campaign so as to interfere in student democracy? And, they are admitting to creating their own “front for the Conservatives”?

I’d imagine that – as I am currenly reading John Ralston Saul’s “A Fair Country” – that Saul would surely point out that this is in keeping with the anti-democratic traditions of the Tory minority. They show themselves to have complete contempt for democracy in Canada and for real grassroots campaigns – and they train their youth in the best way to deceive others.

 And, I’ll quickly add that 8000 defamatory pamphlets were circulated anonymously on U of M campus – and in direct violation of election rules, at a cost exceding the total budget of our campaign – which defamed two of our candidates and claimed to be from a faux-grassroots organisation (Students for Better Parking). So, this doesn’t surprise me:

While recordings are available from only the Waterloo workshop, the OPCCA and the Manning Foundation have held similar Conservative training sessions on campuses in Ottawa, Toronto, London, Halifax and Winnipeg.”

UPDATE: Conservative Minister for Democratic Renewal and former UMSU President Stephen Fletcher was on campus this afternoon. Did anyone attend and was this article – widely circulated on campus – mentioned?

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6 responses to “Conservative Party strategy to take over student unions?

  1. I am so not surprised at this

  2. Hey Brian,

    I’m actually a little surprised. Odd as it may seem, I had expected better out of my fellow Canadians and the federal government of our country. I just would not have ever expected that any federal government members of parliament would be advising students on how to fake a grassroots organisation as a “front group” for their views.

    And any claim like “We did this because others do this.” is bogus for two reasons:

    (1) We were the only other campaign and we ran it clean.
    (2) It is shocking that the federal government would knowingly behave unethically and justify it because others behave unethically.

    But, that’s just my strawman. I’m sure that they don’t justify it that way.

    I’d love to hear from the author of that defamatory leaflet about motives, ethics, and democracy. But, I’m betting that they don’t want to get themselves caught by the University. So, we’ll just have to assume one of the following:

    (1) They have no ethics;
    (2) They have an ethical code which says: cheating on an election, anonymously defaming, and lying are acceptable behaviour for leaders in our society.

    Take your pick.

  3. You would think that if they really wanted to control the student governments, that they would run a campaign that was good enough to win. I mean, Stephen Fletcher did, didn’t he?

  4. Hi Evan,

    Fletcher did win a couple campaigns, but they were close and filled with less-than-clean happenings. Such is student politics, I guess.

    My guess here is that society is changing. Particularly, the new generation coming up (I think someone called it the Net Gen) is much better able to judge information and much more interested in fairness. I think that the very negative, anonymous flyer would have gone over a lot better 10 years ago. That’s just a hunch.

  5. Yeah, I’m not saying they weren’t wrong to do things like this or anything, I’m just not surprised at their behavior one bit. I mean, it looks like we both go to the university which was the home of Steven Fletcher, and we’ve probably both heard the horror stories about what he did when he was running the show. And, lets face it, our campus paper has already been practically taken over by the campus conservatives. Is it that much of a stretch that they would try to take over student unions as well?

    Maybe I’m just more cynical than you, but I don’t have any expecations for moral behavior from Conservatives anymore.

    PS: I voted BTD

  6. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the vote.

    I’m not cynical about the Conservatives and expect better from them. When they fail to live up to basic ethical standards, I am shocked. But, I’m optimistic that positive messages, honesty, and actually talking with students works better at winning campaigns.

    And, thanks for the vote. The next challenge is to volunteer your talents to help build a better university community. (although you may be doing this already)

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