CAUS bonds with Klein

Students might get a little more help from the provincial government, thanks to recent efforts by an Alberta student lobby group.

From Nov. 19-22, the Council of Alberta University Students met with MLAs in Edmonton to discuss post-secondary education issues. CAUS finished the week with a meeting with Premier Ralph Klein and Alberta Learning Minister Lyle Oberg.

"Minister Oberg felt the meeting went very well," said Alberta Learning spokesperson Jerry Bellikka. "He was impressed by the CAUS presentation. There was a good exchange of ideas, and he felt it was a very productive meeting. CAUS is one of the groups he tries to have good contact with."

A representative from Premier Klein’s office could not be reached for comment, but CAUS chair Oliver Bladek believed the conference was generally a success.

"I think the week was better than expected," he said. "It was a great investment of student money. We met successfully with 40 MLAs, and I was surprised by how well the premier received us."

CAUS was created in 1986 with the goal of informing the government on student issues. Bladek explained that CAUS lobbying is an ongoing effort, but the group approached the recent lobby conference with a specific agenda.

"The goal of this week was to let [MLAs] know what issues are facing campus and what students are seeing, such as disparities in the student loan program and how high tuition is," he said. "We tried to present solutions and change the government’s opinion to make changes that help Alberta students."

Although CAUS meets regularly with government officials, they have not met with Premier Klein for two years. Bladek explained there was tension between the CAUS representatives and the premier at the previous meeting, but he is pleased this a thing of the past.

"Last time [Premier Klein] met with students was in ’99," said Bladek. "It was a very antagonistic meeting, and [CAUS] didn’t get anything done. This time he was very open and welcoming, and we treated him with respect."

Bladek attributes this positive relationship to the approach CAUS uses when lobbying the government.

"CAUS has taken a very conservative, pragmatic approach," he explained. "We’ve been able to get results by meeting with the Minister of Learning and the premier. The premier even said ‘at least you’re not out there protesting because if you were, we wouldn’t be listening to you at all.’ We have made a choice to be heard by negotiating professionally, instead of being loud."

Bladek feels CAUS established a good relationship with the premier, which might lead to yearly meetings. The premier also expressed interest in working with CAUS to solve student concerns.