By Rhia Perkins
The official opposition is on the student’s side–at least according to Alberta Liberal Party Education Critic Don Massey, who was at Speaker’s Corner on Tues., Feb. 8.
The appearance, organized by the University of Calgary Liberal Association, was one of several appointments the Edmonton MLA had on campus that day. While on campus, Massey also met with the Graduate Students’ Association, University President Terry White, and Students’ Union President Rob South. He also participated in a reception with students in MacEwan Hall.
"I thought it was encouraging to have a member of the opposition talk about our tuition because it’s such a key issue lately," said Campus Liberal President Michael Jensen.
Massey stated that both high tuition and lack of government funding are serious problems at a post-secondary level in Alberta and throughout Canada.
"Cuts were made, there was no plan at the time, and there’s still no plan, in terms of our institutions," said the Edmonton Mill Woods MLA. "Without a plan, the institutions are drifting and infrastructure problems are starting to reach crisis proportions."
Massey advocates a long-term plan for the government to fund post-secondary institutions and thinks the government needs to seek out creative ways to deal with funding and accessibility.
"There is a whole range of things we could be looking at," he said. "Any creative way that helps students get into and stay in post-secondary schools are worth exploring."
The talk of long-term plans was not concrete enough for some students.
"He keeps talking about plans, but I don’t see a lot of substance," said fourth-year International Relations student Jeff Callaway. "I think we’re getting to the point where [lack of funding] is materially affecting most students."
Massey spoke about Campus Alberta, applauding the initiative to make it easier for students to transfer between institutions, but expressed concern that it might reduce the quality of undergraduate programs.
"If it aims to turn universities into grad schools and senior schools and sent people to colleges for the first few years, I think it should be questioned," he said.
He also addressed the issue of the current brain drain to the US, cuts to health care, the subsequent lack of students in medicine and nursing, and the impact of private funding.
The SU, who arranged the 5 p.m. reception, felt that bringing Massey to the university would let students participate in the lobbying process.
"Right now, we’re lobbying the provincial government for increased funding and I thought it would be great for students to have their voice heard in the Legislature by the Education Critic for the official opposition," said SU Commissioner Jane Alkhouri.
Massey will take 14 signed postcards to send to Minister of Learning Lyle Oberg during question period in the legislature.
"It’s long past the time that students from across the province really took the government on," said Massey.