April 8, 2009
Tories in Manitoba: the true hidden agenda
Steven Fletcher’s recent talk on campus
On Thursday, March 19, the University of Manitoba Campus Conservatives held an open event that was advertised to the public as a talk at the University of Manitoba with the Honourable Steven Fletcher, minister of state (democratic reform). The event was attended by both minister Fletcher and sitting MP for Winnipeg South, Rod Bruinooge. I attended this event in the hopes of hearing about Fletcher’s new mandate on the government of Canada’s opinion on state, and more importantly on democratic reform. Was I ever mistaken.
Although towards the end of the forum, Fletcher did answer a select few pre-determined questions actually regarding Canadian democratic reform, the event did not focus on democratic reform as the posters advertised, but rather focused almost entirely on student union politics. Steven Fletcher sat as UMSU president at the end of the 1990s for two consecutive terms, so clearly, he’s no stranger to the politics on university campuses. But as a representative of the constituents of Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia and as sitting minister for the government of Canada, especially the minister of democratic reform, he has no business in the affairs of independent and democratic students’ unions and federations.
Minister Fletcher, on several occasions, went into rants where he referred to UMSU and the Canadian Federation of Students, my representatives, as a bunch of left-wing crazies, the “loony left,” and “loony tunes.” The minister further went into rants about the free press and independent students’ newspapers referring to the Manitoban as a socialist rag. He then began encouraging young Conservative members to take over students’ unions to promote the Conservative ideology. At several points in his talk, incoming UMSU president-elect Sid Rashid, who was also in the audience, challenged Fletcher on his clearly biased statements regarding current UMSU policies and procedures.
What is the government doing meddling in the affairs of independent and democratic student unions? This is not only offensive but completely inappropriate.
The Ryerson Free Press recently reported on March 16, 2009 in an article titled “Conservative Party strategy to take over student unions exposed” that “audio recordings, photographs and documents were leaked from recent Conservative Party student workshops in [Waterloo] training young Conservatives how to take over student unions [ . . . ] ” The audio files are available on WikiLeaks under “OPCCA workshop on how-to takeover student governments.” At a workshop at the University of Waterloo, voices identified as sitting MP Peter Baird and his campaign manager Aaron Lee-Wudrick gave advice on how to siphon money from students’ unions through “front organizations” that would work to further the goals of the Conservative Party.
The recent event held at the University of Manitoba further adds to the damning evidence that the Conservative Party, the current governing party of Canada, is engaged in a national campaign to advance their partisan agenda and undermine the role of democratic student organizations.
Students should be alarmed and outraged at the blatant Conservative government moves to undermine democracy on university campuses. As taxpayers and citizens of Canada, students should be even more alarmed that government resources are being used to send Conservative MPs to engage in these partisan workshops held entirely to interfere in the democratic affairs of students’ unions.
Steven Fletcher, as the minister of democratic reform, needs to immediately resign from his position as his own personal partisan agenda is clearly getting in the way of his ability to represent Canadians.
The Conservative Party has no business meddling in my democratic students’ union and needs to focus on the real issues affecting Canadians. If Conservative MPs are more interested in the affairs of student unions than the bigger issues of the country, they should resign from their positions and immediately call a new election so that real MPs can be elected to focus on the real issues of the day.
David Safruk is a third-year political studies honours student and the current minister of finance for the University of Manitoba’s Undergraduate Political Studies Students’ Association.
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