As I walked into the Students' Union on Dec. 17 of last year, I had no idea of the bombshell that awaited me taped to the door of my office. It was an enlarged, laminated article from the Calgary Herald entitled "Klein Vows to Make Education Priority"; it came complete with a nice red bow.
Shocked, I quickly devoured its contents. The article was constructed from a year-end interview Klein had given to reporters at the Edmonton Journal outlining his government's focus for the upcoming centennial year. Apparently, the combined results from both the fall surplus survey and the provincial election finally convinced our Premier that post-secondary education does actually matter.
In the article Klein talked about funding increases, improvement to accessibility, and... wait for it... a (expletive) TUITION FREEZE!!!! Simply put, I could not believe what I was reading! After 12 years of nothing, absolutely nothing (nothing, that is, other then budget cuts and maximum tuition hikes), we finally get some positive movement from the province. Students have been fighting year after year without any gains since 1993, so utterly defeated that we had almost given up hope of ever making a difference, and then this. However, before we open the Den up for a huge celebration party it is probably important to note that as of yet there hasn't been any firm promises or action taken. In other words, even though we have heard Ralph talk the talk we have yet to see him give us any god-damn money.
To illustrate the degree of ambiguity that still surrounds this issue, lets take a look at the supposed vehicle for accomplishing this goal of "increasing enrollment positions and limiting tuition increases," Bill 1.
Bill 1, according to the government, is supposed to be the legislative vehicle that will hold the solutions to all our educational woes. So does it hold the proposed funding increase, tuition freeze, or any other goodies? The answer is no, at least not yet. As a quick search on Google will note, the legislation currently being proposed under the heading of "Bill 1" is a "Centennial Educational Saving Plan"; a piece of legislation that would provide grants to the parents of babies born in 2005 to help them start a savings program that will help pay for their child's future education. This is hardly anything like the revolutionary changes the Premier mused about a short month ago and not exactly the sort of thing that will get current students dancing in the streets. So, whatever the government is actually planning is still a mystery and therefore it would be best not to allow our long ingrained cynicism disappear just yet.
With that in mind the Students' Union intends to keep the pressure on over the next couple of months with a series of meetings being planned including the New Minister of Higher Education, the Calgary Conservative Caucus, the Liberal Calgary Caucus, and the grand fromage himself: Premier Klein. So what can you do? You can help us keep the issue alive and shoot for that tuition freeze by e-mailing the Premier on his webpage at http://www.gov.ab.ca/premier/feedback.cfm
We are so close now I can almost smell it, lets make sure we don't let down our assault in these final and critical hours.
The SU View and its corresponding headline are products of the Students' Union. It is printed without editorial revision and does not reflect the views of the Gauntlet Publications Society.