By Mary Chan
They gave him something to talk about.
The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations met with federal finance Minister Paul Martin and members of the Liberal Caucus Committee on Post-secondary Education last week, getting a head start on the lobbying season.
The main topic discussed was core funding for post-secondary education, which CASA says is essential to offset rising tuition and fees.
“They’ve done 50 per cent of what they can do, which is provide resources on the income side,” said casa National Director Jason Aebig, referring to items in the 1998 federal budget such as the Millennium Scholarship Fund. “They also must control cost on the expenditure side. The 1998 budget doesn’t amount to much if fees keep rising.”
Aebig added Martin seemed open to more funding.
“It went well,” said Aebig. “Martin was very receptive to the idea that core funding is needed.”
CASA Western Regional Director Nassr Awada agreed money is still needed despite the 1998 “Education” budget.
“Post-secondary education is always an area that needs rebuilding,” he said. “Since the government cut back $5 million five years ago, they have a lot of restoring to do. The 1998 budget put a lot of band-aids over a big wound.”
Aebig added CASA would have to fight to get attention from the federal government.
“There’s a feeling within the Liberal Caucus that post-secondary education has had its day [and] they should address other issues,” he said, adding that results were not out of reach. “It may take a lot of work, but it’s not impossible.”
Though the federal budget is not announced until February, the head start was important to CASA.
“It never hurts to get a bug in the minister’s ear,” said Aebig. “This way, we thought we may get a mention in the throne speech, and we may be considered in some program decisions made in the department of finance; they will be aware of what our goal is in the end.”
Awada concurred, stating timing is a key aspect to lobbying the government.
“The earlier the better,” he said. “They finalize their decisions in September, meeting with groups and committees. Lobbying is not a three-month task—it’s a daily chore.”