Student group says budget failed to address housing, education costs
By Jake Wray, News Editor
The British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS) says some things were left out of the latest federal budget.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveiled the Liberal government’s 2018 budget on February 27. It includes spending to combat the opioid crisis, improve cybersecurity, boost services for Indigenous people, allow police to review “unfounded” sex assault cases, along with funding for a number of other initiatives.
But the budget lacks funding to tackle major student issues, according to a press release issued by the BCFS on February 28.
Simka Marshall, chairperson of the BCFS and former DSU representative, said the budget failed to address high costs that are paralyzing Canadian students from coast to coast.
“Students are struggling with housing and education costs every day,” Marshall said in the release. “This budget does nothing to address affordability challenges for the vast majority of students in this country.”
The budget should have contained measures to deal with student debt, according to Marshall.
“The biggest issue with Budget 2018 is what’s missing: Meaningful action to reduce student debt
and make our colleges and universities more affordable for all,” she said. “The Government of Canada charges the highest rates of interest on student loans of any jurisdiction in the country, which is simply unacceptable for a jobs-focused government claiming to put people first.”
The BCFS is happy with a few items in the budget, however. Funding for Indigenous education, for women in trades, and for youth employment were welcome additions, the press release says.
Marshall said in the release that the BCFS is pleased to see new funding for scientific research, which will benefit many student researchers at post-secondary institutions in Canada.
“Budget 2018’s investment in research and research facilities is substantial, and is welcome news for the thousands of undergraduate, post-graduate, and post-doctoral students whose studies will be supported with public funding,” Marshall said.
The BCFS has close ties to the DSU, and the two organizations often co-ordinate in their government lobbying efforts. Both are currently advocating for open education resources, and both previously advocated for a $15 minimum wage. The two organizations have several other current or past campaigns in common.
The DSU’s outgoing director of finance, Aran Armutlu, is the chairperson-elect for the BCFS after a BCFS election in January. Armutlu was previously the campaign’s co-ordinator for the BCFS. Telka Peskelevits, director of college relations for the DSU, was recently elected as the services co-ordinator for BCFS.
A recent DSU referendum sought to increase fees Douglas College students pay to BCFS via the DSU. That referendum passed with 88 per cent of voters in favour, according to an unofficial tally on the DSU website.