Despite two discussions, the Students' Union has not determined whether to stay with their current federal lobby group or not. However, student councilors have indicated a decision may be reached at their next meeting, one in favour of continuing membership.
A question to council from former SU Vice-President External Oliver Bladek suggested a majority of members would support staying in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, with four undecided.
A decision was not reached at the Tue., Jan. 28 meeting because current VP External Lauren Batiuk withdrew her name as the mover of the resolution. This was approximately 90 minutes after a non-binding vote to determine who felt comfortable with the 1.5-inch thick document she provided to councilors on CASA .
"We need to scrutinize and examine to ensure with high quality this issue," said Batiuk regarding her rationale for the vote.
CASA National Director James Kusie and CASA Northwest Region Director James Wood were present, although the SU did not invite them. Kusie was in Saskatoon for CASA meetings and flew to Calgary.
Discussions also included an in camera portion, meaning anything said during that time would not be recorded and would be confidential.
Kusie said he and the membership took the motion seriously and emphasized if the SU wanted to see change, they should create a document outlining their concerns, adding McGill University and the University of Alberta synthesized their concerns and in six months nine recommendations were dealt with. He also added Batiuk has been very vocal but pointed out that despite 10 political meetings and two general meetings, no specific concerns were expressed by the SU in relation to changing CASA.
Both Batiuk and Bladek were asked whether CASA or the Council of Alberta University Students, the SU's provincial lobbying group, had provided the "best bang for their buck." Batiuk warned she only had one year of experience with either group.
"Education is a provincial issue, so [I would say] CAUS," said Batiuk.
Bladek said he saw no difference between the two.
When Events Commissioner Jen Smith stated perhaps CAUS could begin a provincial pressure campaign and affect federal politics, Bladek and Batiuk answered differently.
"CAUS is developing a federal campaign by doing provincial build up," said Batiuk. "CASA is focusing on the federal stuff. Both have had their ups and downs and it's a matter of how we use the resources to the best of our ability."
Bladek believes CASA is moving federal policy in a positive direction.
"The Conservative Party is forming policy," said Bladek. "[Prime Minister Paul Martin]'s 210 seats are not guaranteed because of the success of [NDP Leader] Jack Layton and it behooves CASA to get MPs in place to set core policy."
"CASA has taken a laundry list to lobbying," criticized SU Policy Advisor Glen Hughes, who warned his experience was not as extensive as Bladek's although his experience focused on policy development. "If there's a federal program with students in it, they want more of it. They haven't rounded policy into what post-secondary education needs to be."
"It's unfortunate to hear some student leaders at the U of C SU question the necessity of federal representation," said Kusie. "This implies students are irrelevant when it comes to federal politics, an idea that is completely misguided and counter to the most basic philosophies of the student movement."