Political hype on student debt
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
The future of student debt is on the federal government's agenda as ministers claimed to support students on Wednesday during an Ottawa conference hosted by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.
During meetings with CASA representatives, Minister of Human Resources and Development Pierre Pettigrew made a speech advocating greater access to education and encouraged young people to be optimistic about their future.
Pettigrew's press secretary, Anna Kapiniari, said the government has been working especially hard on student debt since a November conference, also held by CASA.
"We've been working with Canada Student Loans since the '60s and with youth unemployment so high, we are now challenged," Kapiniari said.
Yet the afternoon meeting with Finance Minister Paul Martin was more about what wasn't said then what was, said National Director of CASA Hoops Harrison.
"It was more in the lines of what [Martin] couldn't say because of the [upcoming] budget," Harrison said. He indicates there is a good possibility of a loan repayment plan and support for the Millenium Fund in the federal budget.
Events which occurred at the conference relating to Western include an agreement by Maclean's magazine assistant managing editor Ann Dowsett-Johnston to have students included in an upcoming editorial meeting with Western President Paul Davenport, said University Students' Council President Ryan Parks, who is attending the conference with VP-student issues Sam Castiglione.
As for CASA's advances, Parks said this conference indicates only good things as the organization was relatively unknown a year ago and was mentioned during a House of Commons meeting on Wednesday.
"Students have a general distrust of the government but it's essentially up to them to bridge this gap," Harrison said. "We believe we've played that role in this gap."
The agenda yesterday included a meeting with the chair of HRDC Reg Alcock who presented a report entitled "Ensuring Access" in the House of Commons which included nine of CASA's student debt recommendations.