By Aaron Barrie
Canada’s post-secondary education system has grown to the point where being heard by top decision makers can be a daunting task. The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations hopes to represent students on a national level in front of people who matter.
CASA, formed in 1995, is a national organization comprised of student associations from across Canada, including the University of Calgary’s Students’ Union. CASA National Director Jason Aebig, who was on campus Oct. 4-5, summed up the organization’s purpose.
"It’s a network of student governments from across the country that pool their resources and ideas to lobby for students in post-secondary education."
CASA, with a head office located minutes from Parliament Hill in Ottawa, works to bring policy alternatives to the attention of the federal government. Aebig was on campus promoting the organization’s Education Builds a Nation campaign, as well as to collect signatures for a brick wallpaper petition to be presented to the government on Oct. 18 at the Ottawa Lobby Conference.
"The quality of education is declining across the country and we’re hoping [the government] addresses the four issues we point out to them," said SU Vice-President External Nassr Awada, who also serves as treasurer on the CASA Board of Directors.
One of casa’s four main objectives for the campaign is the elimination of GST on textbooks.
"That was a Liberal redbook promise in 1993," said Aebig. "I think they forgot."
Aebig wants to remind the federal government of their promise, and he suggests the creation of a tax credit for students purchasing textbooks.
The other main objectives of the campaign include increased funding to universities and colleges, lower interest rates on student loans, and the elimination of discriminatory inter-provincial fees.
While surrounding provinces see their tuition costs being frozen or reduced, Albertans watch as their costs continue to rise.
"A lot of people felt we took a hit from the government," said Awada. "It’s time to hit the government now."
Aebig, a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, felt it was important to visit member campuses to make himself accessible to students.
"I know they can get their information from folks like Awada, but I wanted them to know that there is a real human being behind it all lobbying for them," said Aebig. "I’m real and not some kind of logo."