ST. JOHN’S, NFLD. (CUP) — Normally considered rivals, Canada’s top two student organizations have found some common ground thanks to a proposal to alter federal transfer payments to benefit post-secondary education.
The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) both agree the federal government should earmark a portion of the Canadian Health and Social Transfer (CHST) for post-secondary spending.
“Our thoughts on this are that wherever there is common ground it makes sense to have a common message,” said Erin Stevenson, CASA spokesperson. “I think there are certainly some common areas – maybe just differences in approach in how to accomplish the goal at the end of the day.”
Both the CFS and CASA want the federal government to alter the format of CHST payments so that either the entirety or a part of the CHST can be spent on post-secondary education.
In 1995, the federal government began distributing the CHST to provinces. The payments are flexible money provided to provinces to use for needs and spending plans, says federal Finance department spokesman Jean-Michel Catta.
Although provinces can use CHST payments any way they please, they normally choose to put the money into health care, Catta said.
“To make the CHST strictly for post-secondary education might not allow for provinces to put the money where they think it might be needed, like health.”
Ian Boyko, CFS national chair, says it’s reasonable to ask the federal government to allocate money to universities and colleges from the CHST.
“When we’re asking for increases, what we’re asking is that they actually dedicate money to education so it receives the proper amount of funding necessary.”
Boyko says the student lobby is drafting a proposal for national post-secondary regulations.
“There’s our Pan Canadian Accord on Education that we’ve been working on, which would basically be an agreement amongst the federal government and all the provinces to establish some minimum standards along with funding for education.”
Boyko says the proposal is similar to the Canada Health Act and allows student unions to sign in or opt out.
The Canada Health Act, a piece of federal legislation, sets up certain standards of health care service that must be met everywhere in Canada.
“From our standpoint, what we’ve been pushing for several years is a post-secondary act that would enshrine legislation designed to earmark money for post-secondary education institutions,” said Stevenson.
CASA has also begun to lobby provincial governments for changes to the CHST. The CFS has plans to promote their ideas at their national lobby fair beginning in October.