By Mike Selnes
On Mon., Mar. 3, Albertans went to the polls and with overwhelming support elected the provincial Conservative government to another term in office.
With the ballots counted, Calgary will be represented by 18 Conservatives and 5 Liberals when the legislature opens later this month. Once again our university riding will be represented by Liberal Harry Chase. Despite not belonging to the governing party, Harry has been a tireless advocate for students and has promised to continue advocating for our cause in the house.
It’s interesting to note that despite a low 40 per cent voter turnout province-wide, the lowest in history, our riding of Calgary-Varsity had the highest turnout in the city. There is no doubt this was increased by the large number of students living in the riding. As your Students’ Union, we did everything in our power to inform you of the issues and give you all the information you needed to cast your ballot during our Provincial Election Awareness days. Despite this, many students found it difficult to vote and over the next four years we will advocate for better student voting regulations and a Calgary-wide poll on campus.
You may ask yourself what effect the election had for students. Despite having a vague platform on post-secondary education, the Conservatives did make one substantial promise: to lower interest rates on student loans. This will be a welcome relief for the thousands of students burdened by debt upon graduation as interest rates will be lowered by 2.5 per cent to prime. This has been a major advocacy point by the Students’ Union this year. Lowering interest rates on students loans could potentially mean hundreds of dollars in long-term savings for students and will ensure the government does not profit off of student debt.
Now that the election is over, we will continue to work through our provincial advocacy group CAUS (Council of Alberta University Students) to inform both new and re-elected MLAs about the challenges facing university students and to ensure they implement all of their campaign promises concerning post-secondary education.