When it comes to federal lobbying on behalf of students, talking to a Liberal majority government is the largest change that will be seen by student representatives this year.
UFV’s Student Union Society (SUS) will be attending the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations-hosted “Advocacy Week” next month in Ottawa to meet with members of Parliament, as well as ministers and stakeholders.
“There’s a lot more to post-secondary education than just what happens here and is decided by the administration at the university,” SUS president Thomas Davies says. “So much is decided at much higher levels of government, and unless those governments hear what students are saying, they’re not going to proactively reach out … even if they do, there’s dozens of issues they haven’t thought about that relate to post-secondary education and the student experience.”
Part of SUS’s involvement with CASA includes drafting policies that are then proposed to federal politicians and political groups.
“A lot of our policies, when implemented, are specifically essentially copied and pasted into government policies — that shows the quality of policy work we do,” Davies says. “We put a lot of work into developing what our advocacy priorities are each year to have the most success.”
Last year, five of the six issues that CASA advocated for were resolved, and Davies is hoping for the same kind of success this year.
This year’s priorities include: increasing loan and grant amounts by 50 percent and making them available for graduate students; increasing qualifications for the repayment assistance plan, a Government of Canada program to help students manage their student loan debt and reduce monthly payments; as well as removing the two per cent cap on the post-secondary student support program, a program under Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada that provides financial assistance to First Nations post-secondary students. SUS will also be advocating for $80 million to be invested in co-op placements for all disciplines.
At the provincial level, SUS ended its membership with the Alliance of British Columbia Students in October.
“Ultimately, it was clear this year the organization isn’t operating effectively, and we did feel that it wasn’t an effective use of our resources to be involved in that,” Davies says. But that doesn’t mean that SUS has given up on advocating on provincial issues, some of which are very particular to UFV, such as UFV’s delayed programs last year.
“We’re still communicating with different schools on different issues as they arise, of course,” Davies continued. “The issue about the programs being delayed, that was one of the issues that we’ve been in communication with the government about. I can’t say we’ve been hearing much back from them, but certainly we’ve been communicating with them.”