EDITORIAL: Double take
Oooh CASA, what have you done for me lately?
This question has been coming up a lot in recent weeks, particularly during the University Students' Council presidential elections when candidates were asked to address the issue of Western's leadership in the lobby group.
The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations is made up of 13 post-secondary institutions across Canada. Western students currently pay $17,000 to the organization which is supposed to push student concerns at the national level.
This week's federal budget announcement shows the alliance has done its job and proven its worth to students.
One could argue the budget announcement is just common sense and the new initiatives by the federal government would have been enacted regardless of whether CASA had been around or not.
However, without effective lobbying it is doubtful some measures would have been accepted.
The new rule allowing students to save up their income tax credits until after graduation, if they do not earn enough money to take advantage of credits while at school, was the idea of two students at the University of Waterloo. After becoming the policy of the national lobby group, it was taken up as government policy.
Would the government have thought of this idea on their own? One can only speculate but until yesterday's announcement they had never enacted it.
Ancillary fee inclusion in tax credits and the promise of the federal government to pick up interest during the extended loan repayment period were ideas CASA pushed. And although the alliance was not particularly happy about the vagueness of the loan repayment plan outlined in the budget, the director will meet this week with people in the education community to guide the loan program.
The efforts of CASA are a sharp contrast to those of the other national student lobby group, the Canadian Federation of Students. While CASA has promoted their cause through proper channels, students of three CFS member schools have staged sit-ins regarding tuition increases.
One sit-in was broken up by police and the another is ongoing. The efforts do not appear to be effective and it is hard to believe students who work actively against the administration will be able to sway that body.
On the other hand, media attention has been drawn to the demonstrators. CASA is often accused of not effectively promoting itself and having weak recognition.
Hopefully, CASA will toot its own horn this time around. If the alliance wants to increase its membership by adding new schools to the organization it must show it can come through with the goods. The budget announcement is the perfect example of diplomatic lobbying producing action.