Wednesday, September 10, 2008

RSU infinitley increases P&P tickets: from zero to ten

The Eyeopener, Ryerson’s student weekly student paper, has come out with its first news issue of the year. In it, appear two stories of financial problems with the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU).

We first broke this story in our September issue, where we reported that the RSU Board of Directors hadn’t been able to pass its operating budget, because some directors weren’t showing up to vote on the matter. A similar story appears in the Eye. However, one issue that no one picked up on until now was that of the inflated cost increases of this year’s Parade and Picnic.

Luckily, the event was spared from the bad weather being dished out by the remnants of Hurricane Gustov. But despite this, attendance was much lower than in years past. It is normal to have well-over 2,000 students attend this event. This year, the Eye reports that less than half of that number attended.

To many, the lacklustre event--epitomized by Kardinal Offishall as headliner (didn’t he perform at the February 7 2006 student day of action for free? To compare, York had Talib Kweli play tonight for free)--was punctuated with more offensive moments like the 30 minute “booty shaking” contest. During this throw-back to less-sophisticated times, organizers had to awkwardly work the crowd to get much of a reaction from the confused observers.

Perhaps there is another reason that the 48th annual P&P seemed a little off this year: the advertised price to participate was an outrageous ten dollars. It is true that every year, students pay some amount to take the ferry. But last year, that was only two dollars, the rest was subsidized by the RSU. The University also donates tens of thousands of dollars to subsidize food. Last year, it was close to $35,000.

The justification for charging students ten dollars this year was increased costs for the P&P. Sid Naidu, the Vice-President who is in charge of this event, told the Eye: "Costs go up every year and that’s part of what students don’t see," he said. "Permits went up this year. We need street permits."


Did Kardinal Offishall charge more than the international sensation MIA last year? Did ferry tickets become more expensive? Isn’t the budget for the P&P already a massive line item for the RSU?

Inflationary excuses didn’t cut it when McGunity tried to justify cancelling the tuition fee freeze and they don’t cut it with Sid’s decision to jack up the prices of the P&P.

To many, the move to increase the cost of the P&P came off as a mere cash grab.

Let’s hope that this shift to right wing politics at the RSU, operationalized by the recent P&P, doesn’t continue to undermine the organization’s progressive history.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Canadian Death Toll in Afghanistan Nearing 100 as Federal Election Looms

Today, the 97th Canadian solider was killed in Afghanistan. This would otherwise be top news on most Canadian news sites, if it had not been for the fact that the writ dropped this morning, launching the Canadian political scene into a federal election.

With 2,500 Canadian troops in Afghanistan right now, Canada’s role in the occupation of Afghanistan should be a major theme in the October 14 Federal election. But be sure that both the Liberals and the Conservatives will do everything possible to keep this issue out of the media. The Liberals slyly committed Canadian troops to the NATO-led occupation of Afghanistan after tens of thousands of Canadians demonstrated vigorously to keep Canada out of Iraq. By 2006, under the Conservatives, Canadian troops were leading offensive operations in Southern Afghanistan where some of the fiercest fighting was taking place.

To put Canada’s role in perspective consider the following numbers. It costs Canadians on average $1.3 million per day to keep soldiers and military equipment fighting in Afghanistan. By February 2009, the planned end of the mission, it is estimated that the bill will reach about $4.3 billion. This includes over $1 million spent in funeral services.

Despite these numbers, the continued unpopularity of Harper’s direction in Afghanistan and the growing Canadian anti-war lobby, it is expected that a Conservative government will keep troops there beyond the planned pull-out date. In fact, they are getting help from Former Liberal Cabinet Minister John Manley, whose panel looking into the matter, not only called for an extension to Canada’s involvement in the war, but for the troop commitment to increase by another 50% and for more high-tech equipment to be committed.

With the Americans planning to play an increased role in the Afghanistan war, insiders are bracing for the situation to become much more “nasty”. It is highly likely that the number of troops dead will reach 100 before Canadians go to the polls on October 14. The only real uncertainty is what kind of backlash the Conservatives and Liberals will face in the federal election for getting Canada into this situation.