Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Preston Manning, Morton Blackwell and a Questionable Youth Movement

In March of 2009, a Conservative Party workshop was held at the University of Waterloo. A student who attended was clever enough to take a tape recorder and what was revealed from the meeting was a clandestine attempt to take over student unions, by setting up a series of front groups.

Audio recordings, photographs and documents that were leaked from a recent Conservative Party student workshop in Waterloo expose a partisan attempt to take over student unions and undermine Ontario Public Interest Research Groups (OPIRGs) on campuses across Ontario.

At a session held in early February by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association (OPCCA) and the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, campus Conservatives, party campaigners, and a Member of Parliament discussed strategies to gain funding from student unions for the Conservative Party and ways to run for—and win—positions within student unions. (1)

This operation is one of the strategies taught at the Manning Centre's Campus Leadership Training program. From their website:

Has your student government been overrun by extreme left-wing students?

Is freedom of speech being infringed upon on your campus? Are groups on campus using student money to further a left-wing agenda? Do you want to get organized and fight back?

Then the Manning Centre’s Campus Leadership Training is for you. Campus Leadership Seminars introduce aspiring political leaders on campus to the principles and practices of effective political involvement. Topics for these seminars include:

»The Fundamentals of Campaigning
» Political Communications
» How to run an effective Campus Club
» How to win campaigns on campus
» How to build effective coalitions

The Manning Centre is the Canadian spin-off of the Leadership Institute of Morton Blackwell's, and like Blackwell's is funded by wealthy corporate interests. Manning's donor who provided ten million dollars in seed money, preferred to remain anonymous (2), but Blackwell's backers include the DeVos family of Amway fame and Richard Mellon Scaife, an American billionaire with oil, aluminum and newspaper interests.

Famous alumni include Karl Rove and Ralph Reed, the man who came to Canada to teach our Religious Right how to get Stephen Harper elected. He is the founder of the Christian Coalition that is affiliated with other Right-wing Christian extremist organizations, like Focus on the Family, all falling under the umbrella of the Council for National Policy. Reed made headlines recently when he was embroiled in a scandal involving casinos and Jack Abramoff.

Another graduate of the school is Reform-Conservative MP Rob Anders, who is also a member of Focus on the Family. Morton Blackwell helped to found both the Religious Right and the Council for National Policy in the U.S. Ander's former legislative assistant, Trevor Cazemier , was an invited guest at a conference held by the Council for National Policy in 1998, and was sponsored by Republican strategist, Mark Montini. (3) Stephen Harper had spoke there the year before (4).

According to Marci McDonald there are 700 Canadian graduates of Blackwell's school all working for the movement in Canada. (2)

The Leadership Institute is also running the same kind of clandestine operations as Manning, under their Campus Leadership Program.

The structure of Blackwell's Campus Leadership Program is simple. The Leadership Institute trains promising conservative college graduates over the summer and dispatches them to campuses in the fall with a mandate to start conservative student organizations. Need $500 and some ideas to start a combative right-wing campus publication? The institute would love to help you.
Unlike chapter-based political organizations, CLP clubs are unaffiliated with either the Leadership Institute or each other. According to Blackwell,this trait offers a serious advantage: "No purges." The clubs' independence also comes with the benefit of plausible deniability. "You can get away with stuff that you would take a lot of flak for doing in the College Republicans," says CLP director Dan Flynn. (5)
What these institutes teach is a kind of guerrilla warfare using several duplicitous techniques, including something called controlled controversy. I'm going to show some examples in this chapter, from both the Canadian and American groups.


1. Conservative Party strategy to take over student unions exposed, By Rebecca Granovsky-Larsen, Editor-in-Chief and Nora Loreto, News Editor, Ryerson Free Press, March 16, 2009

2. The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, By: Marci McDonald, Random House Canada, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-307-35646-8

3. Tysons Corner meeting, CNP, Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner, McLean, Virginia, May 1-2, 1998

4. Full text of Stephen Harper's 1997 speech, Canadian Press, December 14, 2005

5. My Right-wing Degree, By Horwitz, May 24, 2005

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