UMSU executives lobbying in Ottawa

Student union calling to eliminate tuition tax credit, restructure grant program

UMSU executives are in Ottawa this week advocating for students on Parliament Hill.

The union is lobbying members of Parliament with the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities (UCRU) on several priorities, including increasing support to Indigenous students, expanding Canadian undergraduate student research awards and eliminating the tuition tax credit.

UMSU president Jakob Sanderson, who is in attendance along with UMSU VP external Owen Black and governance research advisor Kyle Hiebert, said the chance to interact with members of Parliament and federal ministers as students is “a learning experience as much as it is an advocacy experience.”

“It’s really important for students to be able to get their voices heard at all levels of government,” he said.

“And while education is primarily a provincial responsibility in a lot of ways, there are major things that the federal government can do.”

It is the first time Sanderson has lobbied with UCRU on Parliament Hill. According to Sanderson, there have been “upwards of 40” appointments set up between members of UMSU, members of Parliament and parliamentary staff, and at least five meetings confirmed with ministers and ministers’ staff.

Sanderson said members of parliament will choose what priorities the meetings will focus on, “probably two or three,” and then meet with UMSU members.

UMSU will be advocating with UCRU to end the federal tuition tax credit and will recommend the Canadian government reallocate the $1.5 billion currently allocated for the program to grants offered through the Canada Student Grant Program.

UCRU recommends the Canadian government implement the changes because “tax credits are no longer an effective tool to financially support low-income students.”

According to the list of briefs provided by UCRU, providing grants upfront “will reduce the sticker cost of education, thus lowering debt levels and better utilize the government’s current allocation of funding, while adding no additional expense to the federal budget.”

Sanderson said the time in Ottawa would be spent discussing how students want federal post-secondary funding to be allocated.

“There’s so much federal funding that goes toward research and toward education and in transfers that relate to education,” he said.

“And so for us to be able to get our voices heard — especially at the precipice of an election year coming up — by members of all parties in the federal government is extremely important, to put student issues on the agenda ahead of that.”