To get good insightful answers, how the question is framed matters. I missed an opportunity on Thursday
and that he is able to take time out of his busy day to get involved in Student Politics. Has he not grown up yet?
Steven Fletcher was president of UMSU from 1999 to 2001 and he currently serves as the Conservative MP for Chaleswood-St. James Assiniboia He is the Official Opposition Health Critic.
You would think that he would be busy doing his job in his riding and Ottawa. (The University is not even close to his riding)
While this is from yesterday’s Manitoba – the official student newspaper of the University of Manitoba.
(All words blockquoted and italicized are Mr. Fletcher’s)
Memories of UMSU
By: Stephen Fletcher
I was flattered to read the March 2 edition of the Manitoban in which current UMSU president, Amanda Aziz, was quoted as stating that her most memorable UMSU experience was sitting in my office when I was UMSU president in 2000.
** (To find the part he is referring to, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the article, it is very obscure. I congratulate Mr. Fletcher on having the time to find this and read it. I further congratulate him on having the time to write the Student newspaper. I guess Health Care is not really a burning issue for the Tories anymore especially when compared to Mr. Fletcher’s ego.)**
I am pleased that my term as UMSU president provided a rich experience for so many students. It is particularly heartening that, according to Ms. Aziz, memories of sitting in my office five years ago trumps anything that has happened in UMSU since, including Ms. Aziz’s own term as UMSU president.
Ms. Aziz is also quoted as saying that I tried to shut down the Manitoban. The quote attributed to Ms. Aziz may not be accurate. It would not be the first time an inaccuracy has appeared in the Manitoban.
If the quote is correct, it is disappointing that Ms. Aziz would personalize the issue. These negative sentiments between UMSU and the Manitoban go back much farther than my involvement with UMSU.
In fact, UMSU council did pass several motions during my time as UMSU president to bring financial accountability back to the Manitoban. I supported these motions.
In a nutshell, this is what happened:
At the time, students were forced to pay dues to the Manitoban without any accountability in return. Unlike other newspapers which individuals can choose to buy or not to buy, students had no choice but to buy the Manitoban. The paper had a forced monopoly.
The vast majority of students (see election results and UMSU council votes and former students) were dissatisfied.
Any move to bring accountability requires the support of the elected members of the UMSU council. The UMSU councillors and myself were democratically elected in large part to deal with this issue. In my case, not once but elected twice, as president of UMSU (unprecedented at the time.)
UMSU council passed two motions over two meetings over two weeks to give the Manitoban and UMSU time to work out an arrangement that not only protected freedom of the press but also ensured that there were methods to hold the Manitoban accountable. Of course, left-wing radicals tried to personalize this issue to say that all by myself I was going to somehow shut down the paper.
In the end, an agreement was struck between UMSU and the Manitoban that satisfied UMSUï¿½s concerns about accountability as well as concerns about freedom of the press. The paper published throughout the entire process. The agreement that was agreed upon is still in place to this day. I must say, since the agreement, the Manitoban is a much better newspaper than it used to be.
Also in the March 2 issue of the Manitoban, Mr. Rick Brignall, a former Managing Editor of the Manitoban, in a letter to the editor made some comments about my time as president, which are not worth repeating. Readers of the Manitoban should know that Mr. Brignall ran for UMSU vice-president in each of the two years that I was elected as UMSU president. It seems Mr. Brignall still has yet to get over the disappointment of losing those two elections.
Ironically, Mr. Brignall’s writing style and the method in which he articulates his ideas in his letter are reminiscent of some of the poor quality of reporting that existed during his tenure with the newspaper.
I am very proud of the successes that occurred during my time as president. A few of them include an end to deficit spending and retiring a debt that had plagued UMSU for over 20 years. Moreover, at the conclusion of my term, UMSU had a sizeable surplus, and my administration had reduced student fees while substantially increasing UMSU support for student groups and other initiatives.
This success was achieved in large part by revamping UMSU businesses. My administration built the GPAï¿½s convenience store in University Centre (before that there was just a small kiosk). We also revamped the current pool hall and actually made it into a nice place to go. We also brought in Starbucks coffee, which has been hugely successful and has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars for the student’s union. The joke at the time was Fletcher increased coffee sales by 10,000 per cent! funny, because it was true.
If I recall correctly, Ms Aziz and the left-wing radicals were part of a movement against bringing Starbucks coffee to campus because Starbucks was a multinational company that did not grow free-range coffee beans, or something to that effect.
Actually Mr. Fletcher, it is not free-range coffee beans, it is
freefair-trade coffee that students were looking to have. Considering how opposed you are to paying people a decent wage (Reference) I am not surprised to see you miss represent this. Basically Fair-Trade Coffee pays the farmers a fair amount for their work. I guess Mr. Fletcher would be in favour of decrease produce prices and forcing Canadian family farmers to live in severe poverty.
The philosophy which I brought to UMSU of fiscal responsibility, lower taxes (student fees), encouraging entrepreneurship, while investing in our priority social programs is worthwhile pursuing on a federal level, and I do!
The larger context for the comments made by the current UMSU president and Mr Brignall is that I was an out-of-the-closet Conservative, elected on a right-wing agenda in a left-of-centre environment, not once but twice. This drove the left-wing radicals nuts.
In my two years as UMSU President, my administration won every single vote, on every motion, on every issue, again unprecedented. Fortunately, democracy has a tendency to overcome the radicals.
Often in politics, the pendulum swings from left to right and back again. I am pleased that, for years after my time at UMSU, moderate administrations took hold leaving the left-wing radicals out.
At present, the UMSU pendulum has swung to the left. I suspect that, in the future, it will swing back to the centre.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, if you are in your 20s and you’re not left-of-centre, you have no heart, and if you are in your 40s and you’re not right-of-centre, you have no head. The only difference between Churchill’s time and our time is today our young people have to grow up a lot faster!
I encourage everyone to get involved. Student politics is a great learning ground for the future. As you can see from this article, the memories have lasted at least five years and probably will last a lifetime!
Fletcher and his Council try to gag the Manitoban
Fletcher “searches” the newspaper offices without permission
Resolution and end of attempts to gag the Manitoban
(As an interesting side-note on this, you will see in the article that students had their right to address Council revoked by Mr. Fletcher. It was only this year that right was won back. What kind of politician removes the right for constituents to have a say in the democratic process?)
Time for links from Mr. Fletcher’s Reign:
Fletcher interfering in the affairs of Graduate Students (and also triggering an investigation from the Provincial Privacy Commissioner): http://www.umanitoba.ca/manitoban/archives/jan25_2001/news2.html
That was not all that Mr. Fletcher did as UMSU President in interferring in the affairs of Grad Students and their democratic choice on how they wanted to be represented.
Calling students in the CFS (a group I personally oppose) the “Terrorists of the Student Movement”
CFS Response to be called “Terrorists” (do note that Fletcher said this in the pre-911 era)
A Student Responds to the Terrorist Comment
This is classic
I quote Mr. Fletcher (Reference):
“The comments made by Rob Altemeyer, the coordinator of UMREG, on this issue are completely inappropriate. Rob Altemeyer is not a student. The UMREG program is funded by UMSU, and the space UMREG operates out of is provided by UMSU. UMSU has every right to enter or use the space currently used by UMREG for whatever it wishes. As someone who works at the university, it is indeed unfortunate that Mr. Altemeyer chooses to involve himself in student politics.”
Mr. Fletcher does this not apply to you as someone who is not even on the campus?
Mr. Fletcher – This one speaks for itself (Union bashing and calling for people to be paid less than minimum wage)