Volume 95, Issue 86

Friday, March 15, 2002
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Tories plot to infiltrate student government

HIV discoverer sees hope

St. Patty's more than beer. Right?

Queen's Park doles out mad cash

New smoking bylaw working just 'fine'

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Can you outdrink a monkey?

Morals will cost Laurier students $70,000

-Gazette Exclusive-
Tories plot to infiltrate student government

By Jessica Leeder
Gazette Staff

The provincial Tories are mounting a province wide campaign to fill student governments across Ontario with young conservatives, The Gazette has learned.

Numerous sources indicate the Ontario Progressive Conservative party has been actively recruiting and funding student election bids in order to fill as many high-profile student government positions as possible.

The campaign is run through the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association, which established the "Millennium Leadership Fund" in 2000 to fund conservative candidates on Ontario campuses.

The MLF is largely financed by senior PC members and supporters.

In a series of e-mails to OPCCA members in February and March, OPCCA president Adam Daifallah refers to the fund and touts the success of Tory candidates at a number of universities, including Western, Queen's, Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier and Windsor.

In a January e-mail to the UWOPC club, club elections officer Sean Kennedy refers to University Students' Council presidential candidate Mike Liebrock's conservative alignment and encourages club members to run for council positions regardless of their experience or credentials.

"A great way to show your support is to run for council," he wrote. "Don't worry about your experience, or lack thereof, either, we're going to cooperate as club members to prepare each candidate on the issues, and to campaign."

This month, at least two Tory candidates were elected at Western – both at King's College.

Brook Dyson, the incoming VP-finance for the King's College Students' Council, denied receiving money from the OPCCA when reached by The Gazette yesterday.

The OPCCA does not require recipients to make public any party donations they receive if it will adversely affect their campaign, Daifallah said Wednesday.

"We are not going to publicize the funding to people who are not friendly to the organization or to people who are not members of the campaign," he said.

Dave Forestell, president of the Ontario PC Youth Association – the umbrella organization over the OPCCA – said he does not see a need to inform students that the PC party is funding electoral candidates.

"Candidates make decisions based on what will get them elected. Why would they freely offer information that would identify something negative in their campaign?," he said.

"There is nothing sinister going on here," Forestell said.

Student leaders and the Ontario New Democratic Party expressed surprise and concern when told of the campaign.

"Any student government worth anything with any integrity does not cater to the needs of a political party," said Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance president and USC VP-education Erin McCloskey.

McCloskey said any student who received funding from the PCs has an unfair advantage.

"To have this sort of advantage calls into question the ethics of the person running," she said.

"Student unions are not political positions. They are a place where students work together to defend their common interests," said Enver Villamizar, president of the University of Windsor Students' Alliance, where at least one Tory candidate has been elected.

NDP provincial secretary Bruce Cox blasted the campaign, saying it pushes the limits of political action.

"If you have nothing to hide, then show it, he said. "I'm a little uneasy about the unfair advantage that is being given to some students because they have chosen to make a political decision.

"If I were a student, I would be wondering: if my elected representatives are receiving funding from the PCs, who are they representing when they speak out?"

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Copyright The Gazette 2002