Federal budget falls short

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The Conservative government's inaugural federal budget is lacking, according to student leaders.

The May 2 budget includes tax breaks for textbooks and scholarships over $3000, and $1 billion earmarked for urgent post-secondary education infrastructure repairs, but failed to address student leaders' top priorities.

"It doesn't drastically change our education system," said University of Calgary Students' Union president Emily Wyatt. "I would have preferred to see a dedicated transfer and a pan-Canadian student accord."

In conjunction with their federal lobby group, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, the SU has been calling for a pan-Canadian accord on PSE where stakeholders could meet to discuss solutions to student issues.

The SU also wants the federal government to change its system of transfer payments. Currently, dedicated transfer payments for health care and education are combined, which means PSE often takes a backseat to health care, according to Wyatt.

"Health care sucks up a lot of it, and we don't know how much is going to education," said Wyatt. "There are still challenges when you get the money to the provincial level, but it would be a great first step."

CASA National Director Phillippe Ouellette echoed Wyatt's sentiments.

"I'm disappointed because this government really had the opportunity to hit the ground running," said Ouellette. "It's quite apparent that they've missed the mark in post-secondary education. What students are looking for is at least $4 billion in a total transfer to the provinces just for infrastructure."

Ouellette was also concerned the tax-credit-heavy budget provides marginal benefit to current students only.

"Tax credits only help those students already in the system," said Ouellette. "I know that the Conservative government was interested in tax credits, but this is not doing anything for access."

Both Wyatt and Ouellette said they need more details about the textbook tax credit, like whether it will apply to part-time and international students, or full-time students only. Both said they would prefer removal of GST on textbooks altogether, rather than a more complicated income tax credit.