London MPs meet, discuss student funding issues
By Mark Brown
For the second time this week, USC president Ian Amour had the opportunity to meet with influential people when he attended the pre-bugetary consultation with the public yesterday.
The meeting was attended by three local Members of Parliament from London, including leader of the federal Liberal Caucus Joe Fontana, Pat O'Brian, Gar Knutson and some representatives for Sue Barnes, said Armour, who described the meeting as being both "good and bad."
Armour said he was first discouraged by O'Brian's comments that the tuition file was a waste of time and out of the federal jurisdiction. "I was hoping for more of a response," he said.
Armour was pleased, however, he had the chance to drive home the message that post secondary education is at a point of crisis. "I focused on the fact that students are mortgaging their future," he said.
Fontana described the meeting as "fantastic." Some of the issues discussed included the idea of creating a national standard of education and the need for universities to be more accessible, he said.
Although Fontana could not say if he would bring any of Armour's recommendations to caucus, he did comment the government would have to look at the Canada Student Loan program. "Education is the key to the knowledge-based society," he added.
During the meeting, the administration of the new Millennium Scholarship Fund, promised in the last federal budget, was briefly discussed, Armour said. There is some concern over how the scholarship will be used in some provinces, he added.
"There is a certain amount of cynicism when meeting with MPs, but the USC is linked with other universities through [the Canadian Alliance of Students Associations] and the USC is very well-informed," said Hoops Harrison, National Director of CASA.
The concern is over the fear the provinces will take back money from education spending once the scholarship kicks in, Harrison explained.
"I think it would be absolutely dangerous for them to cut back or do something other than support education," Fontana said. However, he added, the provinces have done some weird things in the past.
Despite his mixed feelings about the meeting, Armour said he was glad he had the opportunity to meet with Fontana twice in the same week to discuss the same issue.
"Joe Fontana carries a lot of weight," Harrison said. "The fact that he is the local MP for Western is convenient."