Sunday, September 21, 2008

The CASA Misses Chance to Lobby Federal Candidates on Students' Main Priorities

With the Federal election in full swing, advocacy organizations of all types are trying to influence political parties to get the best promises possible. Just as these groups kick into high gear, so too do the media outlets.

Media groups voraciously seek out angles, interviews, cute stories, scandals and anything else they can get their hands on to keep an audience tuned in. This is a prime opportunity for interest groups to get their messages out to the public and politicians.

One interest group, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) has recently launched web-campaign which they sell as “All you Need to Know to Make an Educated Vote.” Notable components to the site include some information on voting, and press releases, a blog, and a short video.

On second glance it is clear that missing among the CASA’s campaign is any attention to the issue that is arguably most important to students—tuition fees. This is first apparent in their poll asking what is the most important change needed for post-secondary education in Canada. Strangely, of the four questions, none give an option for reducing, freezing or, heaven forbid eliminating tuition fees. There isn't even an “other” option.

Unfortunately, it appears that the price of tuition fees isn’t on their radar at all for this election. At best, this is an embarrassing misreading of the students’ priorities that they purport to represent. What's more, the CASA’s “solutions” ignores calls from federal candidates themselves for dedicated federal funding to be used to help offset tuition fees.

For example, the CASA does not link to the NDP’s “Education & training your family can afford” among their links to that party’s education platform. Instead they characterized the “NDP Party Platform” as only relating to the promise to medical students, which was announced in their plan for healthcare. Contrary to the all-encompassing website it purports to be, the rest of the “Party Platforms” section is out of date, with the exception of a section on the Green Party.

This organization appears to simply steer clear of tuition fees altogether. A closer reading of the CASA’s website and their press releases reveals a disconnect between their own tuition fee policy and the consistent absence of this issue from their lobby priorities. The CASA has come on board with other organisations who do call for a national strategy on post-secondary education, including dedicated transfer payments. Such a method of payments could be used to help offset the cost that students pay, making this an important federal issue. The average student must be disappointed, however, that the CASA is missing the boat on integrating into the discussion calls for lower tuition fees. Instead their sights are aimed lower, calling for a Pan-Canadian Dataset.

Students deserve better than this. When an organization’s lobby efforts do not represent their paying membership, students ultimately lose.

Student ‘representatives’ who call unqualified praise for party platforms 'lobbying' would better create the change they seek by taking jobs from the Liberals or the Greens and working from within these parties. If this is the CASA’s idea of making the post-secondary education system better, they should leave lobbying for real change to students.

7 comments:

Ryerson said...

"When an organization’s lobby efforts do not represent their paying membership, students ultimately lose."

A very interesting comment considering the CASA general assembly, I believe, decides on the lobby priorities of CASA. Therefore, this claim is unfounded - probably due to the writer of this story not knowing about the CASA's structure.

Furthermore, tuition fees fall under the duties of the provinces, not the Federal Government. Sure you can ask the feds for free tuition, or for them to lower tuition, but what do they do? Laugh in your face and tell you to talk to their provincial counterparts.

Sorry to say, but as a Ryerson student myself, I'm deeply disappointed by your obvious bias to the NDP, and most likely the CFS. Those two couldn't be any more in bed with each other, and considering the NDP will never get government, we may as well work with what we have.

Carson said...

You write:
"For example, the CASA does not link to the NDP’s 'Education & training your family can afford'"

But then all you link to is the NDP's plan for training more doctors...

I'm assuming this is the link you intended http://www.ndp.ca/page/6730

But, as you will note, there isn't much said about education here, aside from broad alusions to past advocacy and work on the file, but no concrete policies, yet.

Could it be that your suggestion, that CASA has ignored NDP education policy, can be explained by, I don't know, the fact that the NDP has yet to fully release their education platform? Just a
thought...

And it is worth noting, not that it would matter to you, that the CFS has yet to release a statement on the NDP platform, cuz, like I said, it hasn't been released yet.

The Ryerson Free Press said...

You've both missed the point of the piece; that tuition fees should be a priority (main, peripheral or whichever) of any organisation which purports to represent students.

The Ryerson Free Press is unapologetically progressive and not affiliated to any political party. Comments which jump to accusations of partisanship or a connection to any organisation simply display ulterior motives and/or political hackism.

It should also be mentioned that it was stated within the piece that federal transfers should be directed toward tuition fee reductions, which is a constitutionally sound argument. Anyone who argues that tuition fees are simply a provincial matter hasn't done their research on the historic shift away from federalism since 1867 in this country.

Carson, you're right, the NDP has yet to release an education platform. However, the doctor announcement obviously touches on both health care and education. The point was simply that praising party platforms without a critical analysis isn't lobbying. You can disagree if you'd like, but it's important to clarify.

Jon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon said...

Great job Ryerson Free Press. This is the kind of reporting that is needed.

"Ryerson", didn't you read the article? CASA already has policy on tuition fees. So I guess by your logic CASA is a joke. I think this article points out more compelling reasons why this is the case.

Ryerson said...

You are all missing my point when I stated that the CASA general assembly decides their priorities of the year, and tackling tuition fees wasn't one of them. The CASA is member driven, unlike your beloved CFS that is:

a) corrupt
b) has a faulty constitution
c) controlled by staff
d) charges more than twice as much as CASA per student
e) parades around parliament hill and on campus like a bunch of hippies with picket signs - please tell me what this accomplishes? I've seen it at 2 schools so far, and have seen the politicians laugh it off.

The 70's are over Fed Heads... get with it.

Carson said...

Yes yes the main point of your post was that student groups should focus on tuition...

I was responding to the fact that you criticized CASA for only linking to the NDP's plan for training more doctors, but not their education platform. But, at the time the NDP hadn't released an education plan. I was suggesting this might explain why CASA hadn't linked to it...