The Campus Liberals are joining the Campus Greens and the Campus Conservatives as a new political student group this year.
Liberals have not been represented on University of Manitoba campus for several years, which students forming the group found “a little ridiculous,” says Larisa Opar, leader of the new group.
Opar said she formed the group because she wants people to realize that politics affect their everyday lives. She also indicated that she wants to be involved with the federal branch and the group is also planning to be involved with the Liberal Party of Manitoba.
Jon Gerrard, leader of the Liberal Party of Manitoba, said that the party wanted to make sure to listen to young people and get them involved in the democratic process.
“I started out [ . . . ] as a young liberal on campus,” said Gerrard, who also attributed the addition of more scholarships from the Liberal party to the requests of young Liberals.
“I’m just looking forward to more and more involvement with students.”
Opar explained that she wanted to be involved with the provincial party by supporting candidates and communicating student views to them, and also emphasized the importance of getting involved in policy development.
“Liberals take young Liberals very seriously,” said Opar, further explaining that legalizing gay marriage was initially a young Liberal policy that was pushed through to federal legislation.
“I just want everyone to know that we do have a voice. We can make an impact,” said Opar.
UMSU’s vice-president (student services), Matt Hepner, said that the presence of these political groups on campus help us to “realize our responsibilities as global citizens.”
“University is the perfect time for students to get involved in whatever issue or cause they are passionate about,” explained Hepner. “The political student groups help to channel our energy into productive routes that let us use what we’ve learned in the real world.”
A campus political group also has the practical advantage of using UMSU’s resources.
Sean Goertzen, leader of the Campus Greens, argued that the Greens have the strongest presence on campus and the largest active membership, acknowledging that the Campus Conservatives as having better resources but a smaller membership.
Goertzen described the Campus Greens’ purpose as connecting students with the party and politics in general.
Through holding various events on and off campus, the group aims to get people’s attention and then get them talking.
Goertzen said that the Campus Greens are more inviting to students than the provincial and federal branches.
“It’s not so in-your-face-partisan. It’s a little [ . . . ] bit less partisan so I think it’s a little more inviting because that can be a little intimidating,” explained Goertzen.
The Campus Greens have worked with the provincial branch of the Green Party for the last two years and work with the federal branch as well.
For example, the group receives event funding from the Winnipeg South riding.
James Beddome, leader of the Green Party of Manitoba, claimed that it was important for all political groups to have a presence on campus in order to get future generations involved in the political system.
Beddome explained that the campus group helps to recruit members, distribute literature and increase the presence of the party.
He further explained that Green representation on campus is a great way to get people involved with the party.
“I think being, you know, Manitoba’s fourth party and still standing outside of the legislature at present, it gives us a great way to get out there and engage people,” said Beddome
Both Beddome and Goertzen agreed that having student political groups on campus helps counter voter apathy.
With the formation of the Campus Liberals this year, the only major Manitoba political party not represented on campus are the NDP.