Volume 95, Issue 87

Tuesday, March 19, 2002
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Dirty money

Editorial Cartoon

Editorial Board 2001-2002

Dirty money

Does the Common Sense Revolution have a place in university student politics?

Over the last week, The Gazette has learned the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario have been planning a provincewide fundraising campaign to elect young conservatives to positions of power on campuses across Ontario.

According to a series of e-mails between members, the campaign has been run through a leadership fund set up by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association.

Regardless of the level of government, external campaign fundraising has a long history of causing conflicts of interest. At the student level, the results could be catastrophic.

Any individual seeking student office is entitled to their own personal beliefs and is free to be a member of any political party or association. However, if a student candidate is funded by a political party – no matter what its ideological stripe – the immediate positioning of their loyalty comes into question.

Does loyalty lie with a student's political party or with the constituents a candidate has been elected to represent? Free money is pure fantasy – in the world of politics, strings are always attached.

Political funding automatically creates an inequality between student candidates. If one candidate is paying for his or her campaign out of their own pockets and another is receiving funding from an outside source, alarm bells should immediately ring.

At other campuses across Ontario, student elections are held between different slates of candidates. This often leads various presidential slates to run on a specific political ideology – whether liberal, conservative, socialist or other.

The University Students' Council presidential and VP-elections currently emphasize the individual candidate.

We have no idea if a candidate has received some sort of private "donation" or "gift" and there is no way to monitor such transgressions.

Furthermore, partisan funding could be detrimental in ways far beyond the realm of ethics.

Student councils or individual candidates could be forced into natural opposition with the sitting government of Ontario, even though they have been elected to facilitate dialogue with body.

The PC party's push to place young conservatives at the helm of student governments across the province is mired in potential danger. A partisan mix could create even further voter isolation from a body such as the USC.

The focus of student governance should always remain on the university – we must leave the world of peddling influence and private fundraising to the suits higher up on the political food chain.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002