February 4, 2016

It’s Lobby Time.

Students from across Canada in Ottawa to speak with MPs and Senators about our vision for post-secondary education

It seems like just yesterday Canada held it’s breath waiting for the election results that produced the first new government in almost a decade, but students wasted no time at all pushing our issues to the forefront of the agenda on Parliament Hill. The new Liberal government made huge promises to students, and we need to make sure they follow through on them while pushing decision-makers to do much more for Canada’s college and university students.

To that end, students from across Canada arrived in Ottawa on January 31 to take part in the Canadian Federation of Students National Lobby Week, meeting with Members of Parliament and Senators of all political stripes to present our vision for a nationally-planned, public, affordable and accessible system of post-secondary education from coast to coast to coast. Our full vision is outlined in our lobby document Public Education for the Public Good, which you can download here. The document contains bold and exciting ideas to improve post-secondary education that are also thoughtful and practical.

Take, for example, our call for a Post-Secondary Education Act; did you know that Canada is one of the only industrialized countries that has no national body to oversee higher education? Through a Post-Secondary Education Act, we can attach some strings to transfer payments to provinces to ensure some bare minimum standards of affordability and access. We have also proposed a cost-sharing model between federal and provincial levels of government that could completely eliminate undergraduate tuition fees in Canada. Sounds like a tough sell, right? Thankfully, MPs and Senators of all political stripes have gotten behind our ideas, mostly because they recognize education as a right – but also conveniently because we have done the hard work for them, costing it out and proposing just how we would fund such a program. It’s pretty easy actually. By moving around some money we spend on ineffective education tax credits and saving schemes, we can cover most of the federal cost of this program. For example, did you know that out of about 6 million children eligible for a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), over 4 million of those either didn’t have one or made no contributions in 2013? If we moved around some federal money used to fund RESPs that overwhelmingly benefit high-income families, we’d have $1.05 billion to fund post-secondary education!

That’s just one of our recommendations, and others are being just as well received by decision-makers in Parliament and Senate. All week long, we have had government MPs commit to bring these issues to Caucus, write letters to fellow colleagues and Ministers, and even ask questions in the House of Commons. Opposition MPs have been equally supportive of our asks, promising to hold the government to account on their election promises while pushing for them to do more and take student concerns and suggestions seriously. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for live updates about who we meet with, what they said and how we are building strong relationships on Parliament Hill to make the next four years count for our members.

Now, just before we go, here’s a photo of the team in front of Parliament in the quick 15 minutes we all had between meetings. These are students, just like you, bringing your voice to Parliament, and advocating for your interests. Wish us luck and we’ll see you all when Lobby Week is over!

 

Strength in numbers!

 

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