SLA levy

By Peter Stein

Student Legal Assistance is the subject of a referendum question for the 2004 Students’ Union General Election to reduce their levy.

Currently, all students pay $3.50 per student for both the fall and winter semesters. The proposal looks to decrease the levy to $2.00, its pre-2001 figure. SLA would lose approximately $40,000 annually from the SU, which is their second biggest financial contributor.

The levy was originally increased in 2001 because student appeals were taking much longer than expected and the SLA was accumulating a deficit. With a successful campaign in 2001, the SLA’s financial woes were reduced and they were able to open legal clinics in both Banff and Red Deer.

According to “yes” Campaign Manager Gavin Preston the reason for the referenda is simple.

“It comes down to student accountability,” said Preston, who brought the issue to referendum as SU Vice-President Operations and Finance. “The focus should be on the student, which currently it is not.”

According to SLA, they provide legal assistance to students but also to the community as a whole.

“The SLA offers anyone who is in need of legal assistance the opportunity to receive it at an affordable price,” explained SLA Student Director and “no” Campaign Director Inayat Jetha.

Jetha explains that if the plebiscite is successful then they would have to make some difficult decisions.

“At the end of the day, the value of the service [SLA] provides is unmatched, less than $4.00 puts [the student] through the entire process.”

In early January, SLA sent a letter to the SU proposing different alternatives to the reduction of the levy and explaining their rationale behind it.

Since the SLA was created in 1979, this is the fourth time it has been on a referenda ballot. Students in the general election of 1985 first approved the SLA levy and also approved subsequent increases to the levy in 1994 and 2001.

The SU General Election runs Feb. 10-13.


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