CASA to grow extra limbs
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
On the heels of an exciting start to their week-long Ottawa conference, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations have decided the time has come to branch out and grow.
Several positive announcements were made by members of the federal government regarding student debt within the first few days of the CASA conference, including statements by Human Resources Development Minister Pierre Pettigrew, who called for greater access to education. But it was in the last days that CASA recognized their accomplishments and decided to discuss an addition to their family.
Originally structured in 1995 with a national director and two staff members, the federal lobby group plans to add a full-time researcher, an operational person and a communications up-dater specifically for establishing links with media and government, said CASA national director Hoops Harrison.
Harrison said he doesn't believe the restructuring will change the organization much at all with the exception of making the positions at CASA more focused. There is currently quite a bit of job overlap, he said.
One thing the organization is trying to stay away from is having a top-heavy system. "This is as big as I ever want the organization to get," Harrison said.
The Canadian Federation of Students, the rival student lobby group which represents both levels of the government, is structured on a much larger scale which they believe works more effectively, said Ontario chair Wayne Poirier.
"Because we operate both on a provincial and national level, we have a better understanding of what is going on," Poirier said. "I think a larger organization can better communicate with people on the local level."
Ontario regional director of CASA and University Students' Council President Ryan Parks, said the CASA organization was formed in response to the CFS lobby group whose tactics are somewhat more aggressive. "Their budget is in the excess of millions of dollars and they sue student organizations on a regular basis."
Although Parks said CASA's aggressiveness is one thing which needs to be worked on, he would like to see CASA take on CFS to establish greater difference between each lobby group's approach to issues of concern at the post-secondary education level.
The individual students' councils of all CASA member schools are required to vote on restructuring and there is no expected opposition as shown through support at other member schools including the University of Manitoba.
"CASA's done quite a bit this year and to continue doing good work, we need the resources," said Katherine Kowalchuk, president of the University of Manitoba Students' Union. "We are committed to helping CASA flourish."