Smokin' Joe to hit campus more
By Mark Brown
The University Students' Council has shifted the focus of its battle against the soaring cost of tuition from Western's administration to some of the top levels of the Canadian Government.
Yesterday, the USC Board of Directors met with Joe Fontana, Member of Parliament for London North Centre and chair of the Liberal Caucus, to discuss issues of access, tuition increases, university governance and deregulation.
Ian Armour, president of the USC, said he was pleased to have been able to meet with Fontana since he is in a position to influence what is discussed in the federal Liberal Caucus.
Although Members of Provincial Parliament, MPs and the mayor were invited to meet with the students' council, Armour said Fontana was one of only two people to reply. Provincial MPP and Intergovernmental affairs Minister Diane Cunningham was the other.
"These meetings will be in three-month intervals with just the USC Board of Directors," Armour added.
"I'm going to make it my practice to keep in touch with the student body," Fontana said. He also expressed his interest to expand future meetings with the USC. "I want to invite Paul Davenport [to the next meeting] so that we are talking to all the players not to finger point but to come up with solutions."
This was not the first meeting between Fontana and the USC. However, this was the first time he has made a commitment to meet regularly with the USC to discuss issues concerning Western students.
Nick Iozzo, USC VP-education, was pleased with the meeting. "We need a catalyst from the federal government to get the province's attention."
The USC has already seen some results from its meeting with Fontana, Armour said. At the request of Fontana a meeting has been arranged for a later date between the USC and leader of the provincial Liberal Party, Dalton McGuinty, as well as education and training critic Lyn McLeod.
During the meeting Fontana listened to the concerns raised by the USC while also discussing his plan to expand his private member's bill passed in the last federal budget.
This year Fontana said he would like to expand that bill to include the guarantors of student loans to ensure students' access and accessibility to the financial resources they need.
The next meeting between the USC and Fontana will be tomorrow. The USC will be one of several groups to be invited to a pre-budget consultation with London Liberal MPs on the topic of accessibility to post secondary education and student debt loads, Armour explained.
Dan Nystedt, president of Fanshawe College's Student Union, said meeting with Fontana has been considered but it has not been finalized.