April 11, 2009

What's the big secret?

The website wikileaks hosts the audio tapes (1) (2) of recent strategy and tactic meetings of campus conservatives.

The leak was made on March 13, 2009.

Update: link two is now broken but link 1 still works. Some of the files are copied below.

In addition, copies of agendas, photos, speakers lists and other documentation are available. Also of note is the turn of events at the CBC. Wikileaks' source mentions and speculates the following:
After running a few times on CBC Radio One's early morning news cycle on March 20, 2009, the story was abruptly pulled. Thus, this tape has been released to Wikileaks, given the concern that this story was pulled or censored from within the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
The CBC story mentions the use of front groups or clubs. Such clubs mentioned are: Star Trek Club, Star Wars Appreciation, Games and Leisure, and the Friedrich Nietzsche club at Carleton University in Ottawa. Such names hardly sound political, Tory, or aimed at attacking the Canadian Federation of Students. What's the big secret?

Selected quotes from audio file "OPIRG.mp3" avaliable on Wikileaks

Aaron Lee-Wudrick  Blogger and Campaign Manager for M.P. Peter Braid.

(8:18) Aaron Lee-Wudrick : If it's possible if, in one fell swoop, to take over the Board of Directors [of OPIRG], I think that it would be pretty impressive, and you'd be a hero to the Conservative movement if you can pull that off.

Ryan O'Connor: 9th VP of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

(14:03) Ryan O'Connor : You create your spin about what is the real issue, and it's nothing else. It's not an ideological bone the Conservatives are picking.

(14:20) Ryan O'Connor : So, how do you address PIRG? PIRG is doing something on your campus, it's a cause that maybe you and your friends in the Tory Club dislike ... It's always the Tories and WPIRG, every two years something happens.

(15:20) Ryan O'Connor : We're just using this as an issue to attack the PIRG. You've got to grasp onto something that's salient in the eyes of the campus community ... it was just three Tories having a beer at the pub one night saying what are we going to do about this?

(17:00) Ryan O'Connor : Sometimes you can't attach the Tory name to it, and you have to be sensitive to that.

(17:26) Aaron Lee-Wudrick : If Norman Finkelstein comes to campus, find your allied groups ... get [the Jewish students' association] involved ... if it's a radical feminist who's very pro-choice, [your allies are] going to be the pro-life people on campus.

(22:35) Ryan O'Connor : Pretend the Campus Coalition for Liberty is a large organization ... We had branches at five campuses. Yeah, we had five people; one at each of five campuses. And they're all Tories! ... I founded a chapter of the Campus Coalition for Liberty. It was a guy with a computer and a press release.

Kevin Wiener: Student Senator at Queen's University and candidate for National
Council of the Conservative Party of Canada.

(24:17) Kevin Wiener : So, um, how about instead of necessarily fighting them we just get our own non-profit corporation that receives student fees, and just have our own student funding to fight them. Or the alternative, if you can get student government which in some places you can, because OPIRG is a nonprofit and not a club or a charity, just amending the student funding rules, like, "in order to receive funding you must be a club or a charity," and then, bam, they're just not eligible to receive fees.

(27:27) Ryan O'Connor : Get them off the fee statement, which should be the ultimate objective.

(34:53) Aaron Lee-Wudrick : Find out what those rules are [for fee referendums], and in some cases that's a pre-issue for you to worry about. So let's say there are no rules. You can, the year before, say you had a three-year-plan, the next year you could -- without mentioning anything about PIRG -- get a referendum process in place which says, if you are able to collect three percent of all signatures of the student body, then you can trigger a referendum. Very few people in the abstract would oppose that, because they'd say "oh, that's a great idea" ... and then, a couple of years later, use it to bring forward the issue.

(36:35) Aaron Lee-Wudrick : You will be surprised at what people will sign if you put it in front of them, especially if you put it in benign terms.

(37:10) Aaron Lee-Wudrick : I say we, because, even though [Ryan O'Connor] was the forced neutral [as Student President] and me as the Tory president, It was all orchestrated obviously behind closed doors, and it actually worked out well because it looked like different groups of stakeholders, like I'm the outsider coming in, and you guys were just the responsible student government and we had other members of council, a guy he appointed to council, he got speaking rights but he wasn't an elected member, but just as another voice at the table, it made it look like there were all kinds of different corners where in fact we were all on the same team.

(42:14) Aaron Lee-Wudrick : Campus Radicals for Action on Zimbabwe Yes, or something like that, they were a great shell group. Feel free to use Campus Coalition for Liberty, that's ours so we have a logo and everything. You can use it now and it would be like established in 2002 ... we joke about these shell organizations, and some of you might think "well, isn't that a little bit disingenuous? Aren't you just inflating your numbers, isn't that kind of underhanded and sneaky?" My answer to that is no, not really, because that is exactly what the left does ... I'm just trying to level the playing field.

(45:18) Aaron Lee-Wudrick : Use groups that might be jealous of what OPIRG gets ... that's how you pitch it, just look up the president of the chess club, and say "hey, how come you don't get money, wouldn't it be fair if we all did?" and build allies that way.

(50:05) Ryan O'Connor : When Aaron was doing the petition campaign, which "I knew nothing about;" I was printing them in my frickin office in student government, of course I knew about it, of course we were behind it, I couldn't take a public position on that issue because although I wasn't running for reelection, this was three months before the end of my mandate, that's sort of the picking your battles ... if we had made them an issue, no Tory would ever get elected to student government again.

(54:18) Ryan O'Connor : A lot of people aren't involved in partisan politics, and they don't know about messaging, they don't know about get out the vote, they don't know about things that you guys are exposed to on a regular basis whenever we have to campaign for the legislature or Parliament ... we were doing things that we learned from our involvement in politics ... take those
lessons and apply them on campus.

(58:34) Ryan O'Connor : All the Tory [student] councillors were all voting the same way, and all had the same speaking points, it was really hilarious and really transparent, but you have to do what you have to do. We had a game.

Selected quotes from Audiofile "shellgame.mp3"

(2:26) Ryan O'Connor : If you have sympathetic members on council ... there's a very large Chinese population at the University [of Waterloo], so their clubs are very well-represented and often have a couple of people on council ... not a conservative per se, but would ally himself with us on a lot of issues, and the payback was sort of whenever he needed something that we were indifferent to, we would go to bat for him. So it's sort of horse-trading ... I scratch your back, and you scratch mine.

(5:50) Ryan O'Connor : You don't ever want to be defined as that angry conservative, you're a student who happens to be conservative and who is involved in campus life.

(9:17) Aaron Lee-Wudrick : Why do we go to the conventions, right? Sure, there's the all-important constitutional amendment section. But there's also the hospitality suites, right. And that's part of the fun of all this. And there's nothing wrong with that.

(10:00) Aaron Lee-Wudrick : Don't make [your campus club] a partisan organization ... There's ways to get around [the rules] ... start a club called Friends of Liberty or something like that, register with OPCCA as a conservative club. It's a separate registration when you register for the party, you get recognized separately, and then register with the student association.

(10:38) Aaron Lee-Wudrick : 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. Two organizations support this, the Young Tories and the Campus Coalition for Liberty, which is the
same thing ...

Ryan O'Connor : Sometimes you can't attach the party's name to something. You just can't. If it's a really controversial issue on campus or something that might show up in the newspaper, you want to be careful. You just have your shell organization and have the Campus Coalition for Liberty and two other Tory front groups which are front organizations, all of those groups might actually
qualify for funding too.

Aaron Lee-Wudrick : 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. And they don't have to bear the burden of having any of it attached to their name. Remember all of the Rallies for Democracy ... that's just an example of how big those things can get.

Other presenters at the cross-Ontario workshop series:

Richard Ciano, founder of the Conservative Campaign University, and former National Vice President and National Councillor (Ontario) for the Conservative Party of Canada.

Peter Braid, Conservative Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Waterloo.

Kevin Wiener, Student Senator at Queen's University and candidate for National Council of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Chris McCluskey, Program Coordinator for the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.

Nick Bergamini, Student Councillor at Carleton University.

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