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By Chris Lackner
Student lobbying groups like the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and the Canadian Federation of Students had a busy 2001 and have major plans for 2002.
OUSA president Erin McCloskey said the lobby group's 2001 'Back to School, Back to Debt' campaign, which featured profiles of students and their accumulated debts, was very successful in terms of raising awareness.
She said OUSA has also run campaigns at high schools, hoping to make parents aware of the economic trends that will affect their children.
McCloskey said she has developed a strong relationship with Dianne Cunningham, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, meeting with her every three weeks.
"Consultation is important in developing a professional relationship and [in terms of] always being aware of what's going on," she said.
OUSA held its annual lobby conference on Nov. 5 and 6, meeting over half of Ontario's MPPs. "We've done our legwork and said 'here's what you have to do and here's what it will cost,'" she said.
McCloskey said OUSA has also pushed for increasing the maximum amount for student loans, granting part-time and mature students access to loans and increasing bursary funding.
She said OUSA will begin a campaign in the spring that focuses on the accessibility and quality of education in Ontario and will hold a second lobbying conference in February.
Rick Telfer, the Ontario chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, said the CFS employs a three-prong strategy that includes research, government lobbying and direct-action.
"There's no point in meeting with the government if you can't demonstrate that the people you represent support your position," Telfer said, noting the CFS does lobby government officials. "We meet with all the key players."
Telfer said the CFS' campaign to freeze tuition fees has been tremendously successful. "[The campaign] has been supported by students across Ontario and both opposition parties have picked up the issue."
One of the major CFS initiatives for the new year is a National Action Day on Feb. 6, which will include student mobilization on education issues from coast-to-coast.
Telfer said each member campus will organize its own events, including speakers, petitions and protests.
Tanya Cholakov, spokeswoman for the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, said the ministry does extensive consultation with all share-holders involved in education, including student groups.