Volume 96, Issue 79
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

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SmartVote sends message to politicians

By Diana Whellams
Gazette Staff

As part of the SmartVote campaign, 4,928 letters from Western students were sent to Queen's Park yesterday, to highlight the importance of post-secondary education as an issue in the upcoming provincial election.

"[The letters are meant] to send a message to the government saying that we're watching and we want to see education as a priority," said Dave Ford, governmental affairs commissioner for the University Students' Council. The letter-writing campaign began last October, he added.

The letters were addressed to the leaders of every major party, as well as the members of provincial parliament responsible for post-secondary education, said Josh Morgan, VP-education for the USC.

"I look forward to hearing about your initiatives in the upcoming campaign," reads a statement in the letter.

"We get advice... when forming policy [from student groups]," said Dianne Cunningham, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, as well as the MPP for London North Centre.

"I hope students are aware [of the issues]," she said, adding any new information students provide is extremely important.

The letter-writing campaign is one of the initiatives of SmartVote, which aims to get students out to vote and provide them with the resources required for an educated decision, Morgan said.

"We'd definitely like to increase student voting turnout dramatically," Morgan said. "It's the first chance for many students to vote in an election; we should encourage them to participate in our democracy."

"Just think of the impact if an entire Super Psych class went out to vote – that's 1,200 people," Ford said.

"I signed the letter so our leaders will realize the importance of education and that students make up a large population that should be taken into account," said Sarah Tilley, a second-year social science student. "I think every person should vote – it's important to exercise our constitutional rights."

"Students don't hear enough about issues that affect them," said Megan Wilson, a second-year media, information and technoculture student, adding she hopes the letters make an impact on tuition levels. "It's difficult for students to support themselves and go to school at the same time."

Cunningham said she was pleasantly surprised at the number of letters that were signed. "[Students] should be actively involved in administration and policy," she added.

–with files from Paolo Zinatelli

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