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CASA campaign leaves mark
By Paul-Mark Rendon
Dancing with federal big-boys to introduce their latest campaign, a national student group is hoping the government will call them back for a second date.
Dubbed "Education Builds a Nation," the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations wrapped up a week-long launch of its national lobbying campaign last Friday, according to Jason Aebig, CASA's executive director.
Aebig said the campaign entailed meetings with federal government officials to outline a strategy targeting post-secondary funding. The talks marked the school year's first meetings with government officials and recommended policies such as decreased lending rates for student loans and eliminating tax on textbooks.
A highlight of the CASA recommendations was the demand for a universal 17 per cent tax credit on federal student loans, Aebig explained. Currently, students must apply for the credit and the government benefits from those who choose not to apply, he said. "Our point is, make it universal and make sure it's actually benefitting the people it's supposed to," he said.
University Students' Council president SzeJack Tan, who was present at the Ottawa meetings, said the group's consultative approach was appreciated. "I'm confident that in the next budget, some of the issues we put forward will be addressed," he said.
Aebig said whether or not the recommendations would be put into place was still up in the air. "In terms of commitment, it was lukewarm at best, but the advantage of sitting across a table from them is you know they're listening to you. I know we enlightened them on the issues and they've got a greater sense of what we want to see in the budget," he said. "All we can hope for is to keep lobbying in a positive, consistent and professional manner."
Rob Chambers, manager for legislative interpretation at the Ministry of Finance, said although the meetings were positive, the decision on whether or not the suggestions would materalize will have to wait until the budget is announced next spring.
Joel Harden, executive director of the Canadian Federation of Students, said he backed the CASA initiative. "I certainly support any move to increase funding for students. If CASA is going to throw their weight behind this, it certainly makes sense because we're all working toward the same goal," he said.
"This year we have two campaigns for students, by students. That's good news for us," he added.