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Volume 91, Issue 44

Friday, November 14, 1997

calling wood


MPs meet for balancing act

©Geoff Robins/Gazette
SMOKIN' JOE AND PAT O'. The two Liberal musketeers met in London's city hall yesterday to discuss their plans for the 1998 budget and issues facing students.

By Sara Marett

Gazette Staff

The London community came out to City Hall yesterday hoping to have their voices heard by the federal government as the Liberals plan their 1998 budget.

The consultation meeting witnessed over a dozen presentations from groups ranging from labour workers to environmentalists. Issues facing students such as accessible post-secondary education and employment opportunities were repeatedly addressed and responded to by London's Members of Parliament.

Liberal MPs Joe Fontana and Pat O'Brien were without their colleague Sue Barnes, as presenters attempted to influence the planning for the February budget.

"Education is a very sensitive issue for all of us and I think we are moving in the right direction," O'Brien said. Fontana added the current 17 per cent youth unemployment rate is unacceptable, even though the Liberal government has created 279,000 jobs since the beginning of 1997.

Western President Paul Davenport urged the federal government to make substantial added investments in the Canada Student Loan Program and in the support for the three research granting councils.

"The current level of support is very unfair to young and more established researchers and we are choking the supply of new ideas and innovation which, in the long run, will fuel our knowledge-based society," he said.

Fontana pointed out the federal government has addressed the issue of accessibility of post-secondary education in its billion dollar Millenium Scholarship Fund to be implemented in the year 2000. "Heck – in some places they use education money to build bridges," he added.

Fanshawe College President Howard Rundle echoed Davenport's request for an improved student loan program but said one aspect of a proposed plan is moving in the wrong direction.

He said one fifth of college students have dependents and increasing the debt loads for college students would only lure them away from post-secondary education.

Bill Irwin of the London Investment in Education Council told the MPs that youth unemployment needs critical consideration when determining the national budget. "We are at the brink of a national crisis."

Irwin said the federal government is not paying enough attention to the public institutions that train Canada's labour force. He urged the government to consider improved partnerships with the private sector to create jobs for youth.

University Students' Council President Ryan Parks proposed a new concept for social transfers to the provincial government in hopes to improve funding for education. He outlined "CHEST" – the Canada Health and Education Social Transfer.

"Education is not just spending, it's an investment into our future," Parks said. He also proposed a new student loan repayment plan put forth by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations which is a system of deferred grants with a 15-year plan.

Both Fontana and O'Brien said they are working with students and banks to put in place an effective new loan program.

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Copyright © The Gazette 1997