With the Campus Conservatives and Campus Greens both active student groups on campus, students have more opportunities to get involved with party politics while still at university.
Steven Fletcher, minister of State for Democratic Reform, was at the University of Manitoba to speak on this topic on Feb. 9.
“Be it UMSU, or provincial politics, or municipal politics, or just getting involved in the community, [involvement] makes our country better,” said Fletcher.
Fletcher, a former UMSU president, said that when he and his brother ran for election they decided to run on a conservative agenda.
“Now, that can be controversial [ . . . ] but I think if you take the student population as a whole, the majority are small C conservatives, one way or another,” said Fletcher.
When asked what conservative students could do to promote conservatism on campus, Fletcher explained that it is important to make clear statements about what conservatism is.
“We believe in ensuring people reach their full potential, and when people reach their full potential, our country reaches its full potential,” said Fletcher.
“I think we should stand up and be proud to be conservative. Some of the rhetoric you hear from the far left is nonsensical. Unless you’re educated, some people actually believe that stuff [ . . . ] so I think stand up, get involved and be heard.”
President of the Campus Conservatives, Blake Hamm, said that despite the student group only being in its second year of existence, their membership has grown phenomenally.
“Many people are interested. We’re getting people interested. Off the campus, we’re getting them involved in campaigns, both at the provincial and federal levels,” said Hamm.
He also agreed with Fletcher’s comments that most students are conservative in some way.
The talk was organized by the Campus Conservatives, who had recently hosted Vic Toews, president of the Treasury Board, and Lynne Yelich, minister of Western economic diversification during their Conservative Week on Campus.
“We already had Manitoba’s other senior cabinet minister, as well as a minister in charge of Western Canada, so we thought Minister Fletcher, himself an alumnus [ . . . and] former politician here at the university, would be a great fit to bring out.”
Fletcher spoke for approximately 35 minutes, followed by a brief question and answer period.
Sean Goertzen, president of the University of Manitoba Campus Greens, said he thought it was good to see this kind of discussion take place.
“I think it needs to happen more in the spirit of more participatory democracy,” said Goertzen.
“It was great to hear Mr. Fletcher’s point of view on a number of things. I certainly [ . . . ] disagree with him on a lot of things, [but] at the same time I see his point of view.”
Goertzen explained that Campus Greens have also been actively promoting their group on campus.
“Basically, the whole purpose of the Campus Greens is to promote the Green Party’s policies on various issues,” said Goertzen.
“We held a climate change rally in December while Copenhagen was going on, so [ . . . ] it was started by the Greens, but it became more of a non-partisan rally and we were pushing for stronger cooperation from the Canadian Government in Copenhagen.”
The group is also contemplating holding an event in response to Prime Minister Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament.
“We’re thinking of doing an event where we basically just put 300 empty chairs in the multi-purpose room, then we show it off as Harper’s idea of Parliament,” said Goertzen.
“It’s just kind of a joke, to get people’s attention.”
When asked about the issue of prorogation, Fletcher said that the process allows the government to recalibrate after the drastic economic shift of the past year.
“I think most people [ . . . ] don’t know when Parliament is sitting one way or the other, and that a lot of the issues that have come up [against] prorogation have been blown out of proportion. It’s only 22 sitting days,” said Fletcher.
“It’s part of the parliamentary process. Governments do it all the time.”