Will the Liberals get voted off the island?

By Chris Beauchamp

With the federal election looming, the political opinions and priorities of all interested Canadians are coming out in casual conversation. The only thing to be said with certainty is that they are as varied as our country’s multicultural background would suggest. University of Calgary faculty is no different.

The president of the University of Calgary Faculty Association, Dr. Anton Colijn would like to see the question of post-secondary funding raised more often.

"We find that unfortunately, post-secondary education seldom makes it to the top of the list for issues discussed by candidates," said Dr. Colijn. "Federally, as well as provincially, it’s always health care."

Although post-secondary funding is mainly a provincial issue, the federal transfer payments made to the provinces are inadequate, said Dr. Colijn.

"The amount has not kept up with inflation," he said. "People want good education and good universities. The politicians should really pay attention to that."

The U of C Faculty Association attempts to influence government policy by directly contacting Calg-ary area Members of Parliament and through its membership in the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said Dr. Colijn. CAUT is a federal lobby group.

Other faculty members agree that post-secondary funding is seldom addressed as a major campaign issue.

"I don’t think we’re going to see post-secondary education as a major issue during this campaign," said U of C Political Science professor Dr. Keith Archer. "It seems to me so far it’s been a bit of an issueless election campaign."

According to Dr. Archer, to the extent that issues have emerged, health care and accountability are two of the biggest. He said the ongoing Liberal sponsorship scandal has made government integrity into a more prominent issue.

The ongoing Liberal slide in opinion polls, recent changes to campaign financing rules, and a new method of direct government funding to parties all helped to put a Liberal win in doubt, he said.

"We’ve not seen an election with so much uncertainty in a generation," he said.

Dr. Archer believes recent changes in campaign financing rules have altered the dynamic of voting for smaller parties. The new rules mean any party receiving two per cent of the national vote, or five per cent in a given constituency will now receive from the government $1.75 per year for each vote cast in their name.

"By voting for a party, that vote could actually contribute to that party’s future success," said Dr. Archer. "For individual voters, voting for a minor party is much less of a wasted vote than in the past. In a minority government, some smaller parties are going to hold the balance of power. That changes the decision one makes."

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