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CASA wish-list announced
By Paul-Mark Rendon
The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations baited their hooks and cast out their lines in the hopes government officials would bite some recommendations for post-secondary funding.
In a presentation to a standing committee on finance on Wednesday, CASA's national director, Jason Aebig, pitched several ideas they would like to see materialize in February's federal budget announcement.
The initiatives centred on what Aebig called chronic problems surrounding the post-secondary education sector, such as student debt, teacher-student ratios and infrastructure. "Those were the three indicators in the presentation we used to illustrate the need for increased federal funding," Aebig said.
He explained the committee would use what it heard to formulate and submit recommendations to Martin next Friday. He added there was a possibility the committee would make no mention of CASA's initiatives in its report to Martin.
Jean-Michel Catta, spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance, said the presentation was important for the Ministry to gage what students were looking for in the upcoming budget, but said no commitments would be announced until February.
"What will be the end result? Decisions will have to be made. Minister Martin has stressed reductions in tax burdens, but also investing in core issues such as education, health and innovation," he said.
If a mention of increased transfer payments to the province was left out of the committee's recommendations, it would not come as a surprise to David Robinson, policy analyst for the Canadian Association of University Teachers, who said the contours of the 2000 budget were already written.
"Unfortunately, we're not holding our breath. We appeared before a committee last month and I felt the reception was not good. There was no strong indication the federal government would make an increase in transfer payments," he said. "The finance hearings are important opportunities to raise concerns, but are by no means the be-all and end-all of the budget."
Catta said decreased transfer payments were made in the last budget in response to an ailing economy. "If you look at the issue of transfer payments to the provinces, yes, transfer payments were reduced in context of fighting the deficit," he said. "Tough decisions had to be made and everyone had to chip in."
Still, Greg Moran, Western's VP-academic, said an increase in transfer payments to education was high on Western's wish list. "We hope that's something the provinces and the federal government will recognize as a win-win situation for both the health of universities and themselves. It's very much in the interests of the country," he said.
Aebig added post-secondary officials may still have much work ahead of them. "Depending on what happens [next] Friday, we may have to hit the hill again," he said. "We're not done yet."