Education News – Tories craft PSE caucus

Conservative MPs to regularly meet with PSE lobbyists

OTTAWA (CUP) ? The federal Conservative government has created a party caucus to better liaison with post-secondary education lobbyists.

On Thursday, February 6, Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South) rose in the House of Commons to announce the February 5 inaugural meeting of the Conservative post-secondary education caucus.

?This new caucus will focus on how our government, and we as MPs, can best serve post-secondary institutions,? Bruinooge said.

?Colleges and universities are vital to our communities and our country, and I am proud to be a member of our government whose commitment to support them is clear.?

Bruinooge was elected to chair the caucus at the inaugural meeting, says Myrrhanda Novak, his director of communications.

?The discussion focused on infrastructure, grants, and student bursaries,? she said.

She declined to give a list of caucus members, however, stating that ?as the caucus has only had one meeting, it would be pre-mature to send out.?

The Peterborough Examiner reported that Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro is also a member of the caucus, and that he stated there were about 18 MPs at the meeting.

Del Mastro also told the Examiner that the caucus will be seeking ?delegations from student associations, such as the Canadian Federation of Students.?

CFS National Chairperson Katherine Giroux-Bougard says she welcomes the creation of the caucus.

?We look forward to working with the caucus on issues of importance to our members, such as the 2009 federal budget’s cuts to the federal granting councils,? she said.

?In creating a space for Conservative MPs to discuss post-secondary education, the party seems to agree with our assertion that the federal government has a prominent role to play in improving the quality and affordability of Canada’s universities and colleges.?

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, another national student lobby group, says it is happy the caucus is being created.

?It speaks to the national importance of post-secondary education in Canada,? said CASA National Director Zach Churchill.

?At a time when the country worries about the state of our economy, it is more important than ever to invest time, energy, and resources into making our post-secondary education system is accessible, affordable, and of the highest quality.?

The previous Liberal government had the Liberal post-secondary education caucus, which met regularly with spokespeople in the post-secondary world.

Although the Liberals are now the official Opposition, that caucus still exists, chaired by Liberal MP Mike Savage (Dartmouth?Cole Harbour).

In January, the Liberal caucus met with members from the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo.

The two national student lobby groups say they have been in contact with this caucus as well.

?In the past year, we’ve formally presented student issues to the Liberal [post-secondary education] caucus, after receiving an invitation to address the group,? said Churchill.

?We have been invited to present to the Liberal PSE caucus in each year it was active,? said Giroux-Bougard, adding that the caucus has not sat recently.

The NDP do not have a post-secondary education caucus, says party spokesperson Rupinder Kaur.

They do, however, have a post-secondary education critic?MP Niki Ashton (Churchill).

Giroux-Bougard says Ashton’s office has recently been in contact with Ian Boyko, CFS government relations co-ordinator.