Reform agenda?

By Collin Gallant

Recent trouble for Reform Party post-secondary wings has commanded national attention and a national response from the party. Aside from several former and present senior party members donating their time and expertise to the Reform Club at Mount Royal College, the Reform Party of Canada has been covering legal expenses for the University of Calgary Reform Party on Campus.

Reform Party of Canada Campaign Manager and Special Advisor to the Leader of the Opposition Ezra Levant confirmed that the RPOC lawyer Tom Ross’ fees would be covered by the national party on his authority.

"We told [Ross] to go fight for freedom," said Levant.

In a meeting between RPOC and Students’ Union officials and staff on Sept. 11, Levant acted as legal agent for RPOC President Ben Porn. He stated that he relinquished his role as legal agent to Lawyer Tom Ross of McLennan Ross when the actions of the SU "escalated" against the RPOC.

Levant was campaign organizer for the Reform Party in Alberta during the Senatorial election. He stated that he believed he had the authority disperse the funds in such a way, but there was no discouragement from those in the party he spoke to about the spending.

"I sought and accepted the approval of all applicable [individuals]," said Levant, adding that the expense would be taken out of funds left over from the recent Senator-in-waiting election.

"If that is correct it is a misallocation of funds," said U of C professor and Reform Senator-in-waiting Ted Morton, regarding the source of the funds.

He said he supports the party’s decision to take over the RPOC’s legal costs and believes the RPOC’s right to freedom of speech may have been breached. He spoke in support of the club at the Thurs., Oct. 29 "Funeral for freedom" which consisted of 100­150 marchers and attracted 200­300 people to a nearby debate.

"Our club does not in itself have the resources to retain legal counsel but there are people that care about free speech," said Porn.

"Tom Ross’ statement at the [Tues., Nov. 3] hearing speaks for itself," added Porn before quoting from Ross’ statement to the council. "The club has mustered whatever resources it is able to and they are in the fortunate position to do so where others aren’t. Many procedural unfairnesses occur because the party subjected to them is too small or too weak to defend themselves."

The Mount Royal College Students’ Association is dealing with a situation similar to the one being played out at the U of C. The MRC SA has refused to renew the Reform Club at, MRC’s club ratification, making them unable to receive club benefits as they do not exist as a SA sanctioned club.

President of the Reform Party at MRC Jeremy Hexham, confirmed that former National Reform Party Executive Member Bruce McDonald, now with the law firm of Bennett Jones, has been providing the Reform Club at MRC with legal advice free of charge.

"The [campus] clubs are definitely worth protecting-they are our main recruitment centres for young people," said National Reform Party’s Executive Council Doug Kemp, who has also dedicated time to help the MRC Reform club.

"I don’t trust our SA at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if legal action was taken," said Hexham.

"They believe they are above the law and that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Constitution do not apply to them."

According to Else Kipp a member of the MRC SA MRC Reform Club President Jeremy Hexham threatened the SA with legal action regarding its refusal to ratify the club’s constitution.

"I think [the situation] is ridiculous but there is little I can do if they want to make a federal case out of it," said MRC SA President Heather Wilke. She explained that the Reform Club at MRC’s constitution had been denied ratification because of a letter she received signed by the Reform Club Executive stating that they would refuse to follow SA rules concerning the distribution of possibly offensive material, specifically campaign materials.

She said this point is what separates the two situations on the campuses.

"The [U of C] su cares about method not the message," said su President Paul Galbraith, stating that while material handed out must follow general guidelines, the issues surrounding the RPOC arose after it was determined that students were being harrassed while being presented with material.

"The Reform Party of Canada has a right to stick up for the RPOC, but the su has a duty to stick up for the rights of this campus and that’s what we’re doing," said Galbraith.

Galbraith talked about the seemingly simultaneous occurrence of the emergence of these issues on the two campuses.

"I’m not sure that it’s not a coincidence, but it is sure interesting. I think it would be a pity if SUs across Canada were being played as pawns in a political game," he said.

Reform party officials also say the coincidence is interesting but refused to speculate any further on coordination between student administrative actions.

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