Volume 96, Issue 84
Tuesday, March 11, 2003

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PC cabinet ministers invade Western hotspot

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

If you have to spend an hour talking to a politician, you might as well make sure there's some alcohol nearby to lessen the pain.

Last Friday, two Ontario cabinet members stopped by The Wave to speak with some student members of the UWO Progressive Conservatives. Jim Flaherty, Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation, and Dianne Cunningham, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, were on hand for a meet and greet.

A provincial election is coming soon and the party is working to increase support, Flaherty said.

Cunningham agreed, noting members of the UWOPC will be out working for the party come election time.

Flaherty said some of his ministry's current initiatives are designed to assist students, noting the research and development dollars the province gives to universities are handed out through his ministry. "[It is] a major way of flowing billions of dollars to universities in Ontario," Flaherty added.

The private sector works with the universities on research proposals, he explained, adding the proposals are then evaluated by a peer review board. "They recommend certain projects to me as the minister, and then we fund them."

The research money not only supports those directly involved in research, but also supports graduate students Flaherty said.

"It's up to you to tell us what could be better," Cunningham said, concerning post-secondary education, adding the upcoming budget – which will be delivered before the end of March – will hopefully provide a change to the Ontario Student Assistance Program.

Cunningham explained the change would involve raising the amount families earn before a student is disqualified. It is raising the family income level, she said.

However, the change is not guaranteed, she said, adding it will involve waiting until the budget is handed down before it is guaranteed that changes can be implemented. Cunningham commended student lobby groups for working with the government. "I think they put pressure on the government to make changes," she said.

Gina Van Der Burg, a fourth-year political science student, said she attended the event because it was an opportunity for students to introduce themselves to politicians. "It is interesting to meet Jim Flaherty and find out information before someone else," she said.

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