Volume 96, Issue 70
Tuesday, February 4, 2003

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Postman to help battle tuition, instead of post-apocalyptic future

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

A national student group is hoping the postman can help influence the federal government to increase funding for post-secondary education.

Ian Boyko, national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, was on Parliament Hill in Ottawa yesterday, to launch a letter writing campaign.

The CFS, in conjunction with the Federation d'Etudiants Universitaires du Québéc, is distributing 35,000 postcards to students addressed to the prime minister which call for a freeze and reduction of tuition fees, Boyko said.

The federal government is preparing to present their annual budget shortly. "[The postcards] are part of a larger campaign to have an influence on the budget," Boyko said.

"As the government gets settled into a pattern of producing surpluses, many [members of Parliament] are open to putting social spending on the budget," he added.

However, Erin Stevenson, communications co-ordinator for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said the postcards are "too little, too late."

"Writing letters to [Prime Minister] Jean Chrétien – what the hell is he going to do?" Stevenson asked, adding, when the idea was first tabled in December, CASA pulled out because of the logistics involved. Due to the federal budget's release date, Stevenson said CASA did not want to spend members' money on the project this late in the school year.

Boyko said the objective of the campaign is to replenish the cuts made to post-secondary funding since Chrétien took office in 1993, adding the campaign is seeking a reinvestment of $4 billion.

"It's difficult to generalize in terms of what an increase in [Canada Health and Social Transfers] funding means at the tuition end," said Chris Heggtveit, senior media relations and consultations officer for the Ministry of Finance.

"Because the CHST money is a block fund, the provinces are responsible for allocating the transfers as they see fit," he explained.

Heggtveit said increased investment in education and skills training has been raised in pre-budget consultations, but also said the ministry cannot speculate as to what will be in the budget at this point in time.

"By this point, it's recognized that something must be done. It's just a matter of deciding how much will go to health care, and how much will go to post-secondary education," Boyko said.

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