CASA came to town

By Natalie Sit

A federal student lobby group stopped by the Students’ Union, highlighting accomplishments and generating questions about student leaders’ behaviour at conferences.

Canadian Alliance of Student Associations National Director James Kusie spoke to the Students’ Legislative Council Tue., Nov. 25 as part of his national tour, visiting CASA members.

In his presentation, Kusie listed some “wins” in the 2002 federal budget, like permanent funding for indirect research costs, increased access to debt reduction and repayment programs, and increased in-study exemptions for student loans.

Examples of CASA’s lobbying efforts were the effects of the FTAA and GATS on education.

“There’s a concern from student groups education will become a tradeable commodity,” said Kusie. “Private universities will sue the government for not giving them the same subsidies.”

CASA also lobbies on issues such as research grants, parental contributions on loans and bankruptcy.

After the presentation, Kusie was questioned on various issues. He was asked what he would like to accomplish as national director. Among his answers were highlighting education in the upcoming federal election and further developing policy on international, refugee and aboriginal students.

“I would like to see, by the time I’m gone, the provincial and federal governments talk about post-secondary education,” said Kusie. “Dedicated [federal] transfers will not happen next year, but we have dialogue. I would like to see more focus on high-needs loans and Canadian operating grants.”

SU Vice-President External Lauren Batiuk asked about the presence of a keg during the Wall of Debt construction and people showing up 30 to 90 minutes late to sessions.

“I can’t control members from six o’clock on,” explained Kusie. “If a member gets blitzed, I expect them to be there at 8:30 a.m., ready to go. With building the wall, I don’t think I have a problem with a drink or two. It’s gluing bricks and the drinking is voluntary. It’s part of the fun.”

SU VP Operations and Finance Gavin Preston asked about contradictions in CASA’s policy on international students. Preston asked why CASA advocated lower differential fees for international students while their parents do not pay taxes.

“Economic benefits far outweigh differential tuition levels,” said Kusie.

Overall, student representatives thought the report was good.

“It was much more impressive than last year’s presentation,” said Op-Fi Commissioner Scott Appelby. “Having seen the presentation brought back my faith in CASA, but I’m interested in what they will accomplish. Hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.”

Batiuk asked Kusie to present at the meeting because the SU’s CASA membership will be evaluated in the new year.