Volume 91, Issue 82

Thursday, March 5, 1998

Lady Liberty


Fontana talks student money

By Sara Marett
Gazette Staff

Joe Fontana, Member of Parliament for London North Centre, visited Western yesterday to sing the praises of the federal government's recent budget and answer students' questions on the future of post-secondary education.

Although the crowd gathered in the McKellar Room was small, Fontana took advantage of the opportunity to convince students the federal government is committed to ensuring accessible, quality education.

"The past few years, the federal government had to administer some pretty tough medicine," Fontana said regarding the cuts to transfer payments to the provinces for health, education and social programs.

"But we've taken some great measures to combat student debt, including something I stole from Mike [Rubinoff]," he said, referring to the initiative to make interest on student loans tax deductible. This was something Rubinoff, as leader of the Education Party of Canada, presented during last summer's federal election.

Fontana explained how the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation was a way for the government to directly put money into education. "We were damned if we were going to transfer money to the provinces and then not see it go to education."

Fontana attempted to put the current situation surrounding education into 'real terms' by using his own situation as an example. He explained when he attended university in the late '60s, tuition fees were approximately $400, he finished his degree about $7,000 in debt and obtained a job which paid approximately $5,000 a year. "Today, with inflation, these numbers would equal about $4,000 in tuition and much more than $25,000 in debt – it's all relative."

He addressed the issue of students feeling they have it a lot tougher now than it was 20 years ago. "This is bullshit, this situation is not a new phenomenon."

Although Fontana said we have some of the best educated bartenders in the country, he said the current job situation for youth really isn't that bleak.

"There are currently 20,000 technology jobs that are going unfilled because we can't find qualified people. There is a new knowledge-based economy that is opening up that will required skilled graduates."

©Geoff Robins/Gazette
DID SOMEBODY YELL "FIRE"? Smokin' Joe Fontana speaks to a lot of chairs and a few people in the University Community Centre's McKellar Room yesterday.

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