All Posts Tagged With: "politics"
Liberals and NDP want to ditch “parental contributions”
Jesse LaPointe is no longer a third-year English major at St. Thomas University. He lives in an apartment in downtown Fredericton, N.B. with his single mother. He worked all summer every summer and almost 30 hours per week during the school year to try to pay for his education. This year, he decided to apply for a student loan to supplement his income so he could cover his tuition. The loan only came to $2,000 which would not even cover half of his $5,195 tuition cost, never mind mandatory fees and living expenses. The reason? LaPointe’s student loan assessment said his mother was required to cough up $4,000.
“She works like a dog… Still, I can’t see any possible reality where she can fork up $4,000,” he says. He was forced to drop out of university in October. He will take a year off to work and try for a loan again next year but, at this point, there’s a lot of uncertainty. “I’ll try my luck,” he says.
Q&A with a professor after his outburst
At a recent lecture on democracy at St. Thomas University in Fredericton N.B., Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson asked a room full of journalism and political science students why young people don’t vote. A journalism student raised her hand and said it’s because the political system is complicated and many don’t understand it. Shaun Narine, an associate professor and international relations researcher, blurted out that she should, “Read a book for God’s sake!” Some clapped. Some were angry. Jane Lytvynekno spoke to Narine over the phone from Ottawa.
You told [that student] to “read a book.” Why?
I was as surprised by my outburst as anybody else. I was listening to the student speak and I became increasingly frustrated with the fact that she seemed to be saying that she did not know anything about politics. It wasn’t the arcane facts [she didn't know]. It seemed to be the most basic things like what does it mean to vote? What is Parliament? All those sorts of things. My frustration was very great. I guess I felt that this was the sort of stuff that every responsible citizen should know. … Out of that frustration I ended up doing something which I sincerely regret doing. I apologized to the student. … I sincerely believe academia is a place where we should have rational and reasonable discussion. I don’t believe in heckling people and I don’t believe in embarrassing students and I don’t believe in screaming at people in frustration and in all of those respects I certainly did not live up to my own standards or expectations.
Prof. Pettigrew on the reaction to an email that went viral
Once, when I was just a young professor, I dashed off an angry email to a colleague regarding a certain administrator who, in my judgement, had not lived up to his promises when it came to funding a project I was working on. But after I sent the email, a troubling thought struck me. What if the person I sent it to forwarded the message to someone else, who ended up copying the administrator in question, and so on. And if he were to scroll down…
Fortunately, nothing came of it, but I made a rule for myself that I try to follow to this day in my professional life: never email something that you wouldn’t be willing to have everyone read. Because you never know—everyone might.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Rachel Slocum devises a similar rule for herself in the future. Slocum is the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse professor whose email blaming right wing Republicans for the fact that her students couldn’t access course material—all owing to the partial government shut down caused by Washington gridlock over the budget—caused outrage after it was widely circulated on the internet.
A Trudeau beachhead in Yarmouth?
“You can’t change the macro-economic climate of the province, the country or the world, but we can hopefully make positive steps towards our goals.”—Zach Churchill, a Liberal MLA in Yarmouth, N.S. who was re-elected with 82% of the vote
Zach Churchill used to be a screaming maniac at Saint Mary’s Huskies football games. Now, he’s the kind of guy who wins re-election to the Nova Scotia legislature with 82 per cent of the vote. Quite a ride for the former student leader who still counts himself among the under-30 set.
Churchill has always been careful with his words. He lived in Ottawa for a couple of years, and spent plenty of time on Parliament Hill. When he was the national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and I was a reporter with Canadian University Press, we spoke frequently about tuition, student loans, and whatever else lay within the association’s various lobbying efforts and pre-budget submissions. He wore a lot of suits.
Churchill was always cautious, careful not to misspeak. His counterparts at the Canadian Federation of Students, the larger student lobby, were less guarded. The organizations enjoyed a famous rivalry, though maybe enjoyed is the wrong word, and they fought for the attention of politicians and reporters.
Whatever the merits of Churchill’s approach, his two years as CASA’s national director obviously paid dividends. In 2010, when he was elected in a Yarmouth by-election with over 50 per cent of the vote, Churchill’s portfolios included advanced education and youth. He was 26 years old. Now, he’s 29. Last night, he won 68 per cent more votes than his nearest competitor. Nobody else in his party thumped their opponents so handily. And now, after three years in opposition, Churchill sits on the government benches.
Now, take a look at Twitter. Take a look at Churchill’s profile photo. Spot the name on his sweater. Now, draw your own conclusions about what this all means for Churchill’s federal cousins.
Protesters want evidence-based policies
OTTAWA – Hundreds of frustrated scientists clad in their telltale white lab coats descended Monday on Parliament Hill to demand that the Harper government stop muzzling scientists and cutting research funding.
“What do we want? Evidence-based decision-making!” chanted the protesters as they gathered in the shadow of the Peace Tower, complaining about what they see as the government’s efforts to commercialize research.
The very fact that such a typically apolitical group felt the need to make their voices heard speaks volumes, said Jeremy Kerr, a biology professor at the University of Ottawa.
“As a commentary on the state of affairs, when people like me start showing up wearing their lab coats having come from their laboratories, things are pretty bleak,” Kerr told the crowd.
The fundamental message is “simplicity itself,” Kerr said: “Sound policy needs sound science.”
“The facts do not change just because the Harper government has chosen ignorance over evidence and ideology over honesty.”
Old Instagram posts emerge after criticism of CFS agendas
When students at the University of Manitoba got their Students’ Union agendas this fall, missing were the pages dedicated to the Canadian Federation of Students and its Manitoba branch, lobbying groups all students at the Winnipeg school pay mandatory fees to each year.
Al Turnbull, UMSU’s new football-playing president, says his executive ripped the CFS material out of every single book by hand as a political protest, “to try and send a message to the national and provincial components [of CFS] that what they’re doing isn’t right.”
Turnbull is angry that, in the final days of previous president Bilan Arte’s term, UMSU contracted with the CFS to produce agendas for $60,000. Not only did Turnbull see that as too high a price but he thought the decision should have been left to the new executive, as it was the year before. He also says it was wrong for Arte to sign because, after losing the UMSU election to him, she ran for and won the chair seat of CFS Manitoba.
Why mainstream students need to get out and vote
When I attended my first student union meeting at the University of Toronto last February, I knew that many students involved in campus politics are radical leftists so I was unsurprised when those present passed motions endorsing the Aboriginal movement Idle No More and to lobby the provincial government to ban unpaid internships, in which students freely choose to participate.
But when the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) published a statement endorsing Idle No More and sent a letter to the Ministry of Labour calling for a ban on unpaid placements, they claimed to represent 46,000 University of Toronto students and that is simply not true. Many students have no opinion on these issues, while many others, like me, are strongly opposed.
We have no idea how most students actually feel because only 3,161 voted in the last UTSU election, a turnout of less than seven per cent. Munib Sajjad, the president, received around 2,000 votes, which means less than five per cent of students voted for him—despite running unopposed.
“Like every other person I knew back in the ’70s”
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter says he smoked marijuana in university but too much is being made of the issue since federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau called for the legalization of pot.
Dexter said Thursday he tried marijuana as a university student.
“Like every other person I knew back in the ’70s when I went to university, some of whom are actually in this room, I would have tried it, the same as other people at that time,” he said.
Dexter said he will leave it up to the federal government to worry about whether marijuana should be legalized because there are more important things for the provincial government to be concerned about, such as federal health-care funding and caps on immigration to the province.
New report shows how we ‘get political’ between elections
A new national survey on the ways Canadians “get political” between elections contains good news and bad news about youth participation in democracy.
The good news is that, contrary to the stereotype, people aged 18 to 34 say they are more engaged in civic activities any other age group.
The bad news is that Canadians in general have become “lightweights” when it comes to political participation and that fewer young people bother to formally engage in the party system which, as the report points out, has the power to make the big decisions about how tax dollars are spent.
Platform also includes ferry rate freeze
British Columbia’s Opposition New Democrats promised Wednesday to freeze ferry rates for two years while conducting an audit of BC Ferries’ operations, targeting a service that coastal residents have made a sport of griping about in the face of increasing fares and reductions in service.
The NDP released its plan for BC Ferries on the second day of the campaign for the May 14 election, including it among a list of platform promises that also pledged hundreds of millions of dollars for skills training programs and post-secondary education grants.
The Liberals immediately attacked the announcements, saying the NDP had already committed to spending $1 billion, which the governing party said was far more than the province can afford.
If elected, an NDP government would launch an audit to determine how BC Ferries can save money or shift resources to keep fares low and ensure the service is meeting the needs of coastal communities, said party Leader Adrian Dix.
If this province doesn’t grow up, I might leave
As a Montrealer of Greek origin who is fluent in Greek, French and English, I look at Quebec and all the incidents that have occurred in the past few months and I ask myself this one, simple, question: what the hell is going on?
But there’s another question Anglophones and Francophones should be asking themselves: why can’t we embrace bilingualism in this province? Why can’t we accept that Quebec is a province of two official languages and both will be equally represented from now on? Why do we insist on pointing fingers at each other and accusing the other side of undermining the other’s language?
Since the election of the PQ government, things have seriously worsened. The Office quebecois de la langue française found new life after receiving unnecessary funding from the provincial government and put it to absolutely no use by attacking restaurants like Buonanotte, ultimately making fools of themselves and of the PQ in the process. These are old-school techniques that the younger, more open-minded generation of Quebecers simply doesn’t appreciate.
Elections bring music videos, apps, streaming & more
Student elections are underway across the country. Increasingly, student politicians are turning to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to get their messages out. On top of that, in an attempt to attract more students to polling stations, those who administer campus elections have also taken advantage of these tools. Here are five innovative examples from 2013:
1. YouTube music video. At Western University, Ashley McGuire, Blake Barkley and Jordan Sojnocki teamed up to run for the University Students’ Council executive. Along with a sleek campaign website and a detailed platform, the trio created a music video and uploaded it to YouTube. What’s impressive is that, since posting it on Jan. 28, the video has received 10,500 views. However, members of Team McGuire were not successful in their election bids.
2. iPhone app. Team Whelan (Patrick Whelan, Amir Eftekharpour and Sam Krishnapillai) ran against Ashley McGuire’s team at Western University. This team’s electoral victories may have been aided by their iPhone app. I tested it on my iPod Touch 4G. To my surprise, it ran flawlessly. Under the Get Involved tab, users are able to join the team’s mailing list, suggest an idea and become a volunteer. The team’s platform is also easily accessible via the app.
3. The QR Code. When campus election season comes along, buildings are plastered with posters. So how are student politicians attracting students to their websites? Simple! They’re incorporating Quick Response (QR) codes to their posters that make it easy to access their sites without even having to type in a URL. Apps such as ScanLife, QR Code Scanner and Optiscan use one’s phone camera to scan a two-dimensional barcode. Once scanned, the app brings users to the site. Sarah Lavers, Kelsey Marr and Anastasia Smallwood all ran for president in the recent University of Prince Edward Island Student Union election and incorporated QR codes. Smallwood came first.*
4. Blogs. Platforms such as Blogger and WordPress allow users to create blogs free of charge. Student politicians have seized the opportunity to communicate directly with their electorates. Candidates like Caroline Wong, who ran for and won the position of president in the University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society elections, used WordPress to create her campaign website.
5. Video streaming and recording. When organizing all-candidate debates, election officials will never accommodate every student’s schedule. In an attempt to make these debates as accessible as possible, election officials have taken to live streaming and/or filming the debates and posting the videos to YouTube. Free video live streaming websites such as USTREAMand Livestream allow anybody with a video camera or an iPhone to stream free of charge. The Argosy, Mount Alison University’s student newspaper, posted videos of candidate speeches to its YouTube account.
Brandon Clim studies political science at the University of Ottawa. Follow him @climbrandon.
*Due to an error in editing, this post incorrectly stated that Lavers came first and Marr came second in the UPEISU election. In fact, Smallwood came first, followed by Lavers and Marr.
It’s not really about the censorship
When Stephanie Wolfe banned her students from citing the Onion, “literally a parody,” and Fox News, “a biased news station,” she was not firing any kind of ideological salvo. This West Liberty University Visiting Assistant Professor was probably, like most of her peers, pressed for time and a little nervous about taking over for a full-time Professor. The syllabus contains typos, internet phraseology, and is generally slap-dash as students have come to expect from the necessarily distracted young paupers who now teach many of their undergraduate courses.
Though the school would of course assassinate the poor woman before letting her make a statement, I think it’s safe to assume she didn’t put up much of a defence of her offhand prohibition. She’s sorry, the school’s president is sorry, the syllabus is corrected, and Megyn Kelly got to indulge her passion for poorly concealed sneering. Shouldn’t we all be happy, now?
Anti-tuition argument never made sense to me
Canada and the United States are broadly similar nations mostly separated by public policy. Last year’s tuition debate in Quebec shined a spotlight on not only the difference in education policy between the two countries, but also on the “Two Solitudes” cultural gap between English Canada and Quebec.
As an American studying at McGill University, I have a unique perspective on the tuition debate, which is sure to flare up again next week during a provincial summit on higher education.
The average price of an American college education has continued to rise, with tuition at four-year private universities now averages $29,056. Ancillary fees like room and board add about an extra $10,000. Similar increases have occurred at public universities. In Canada, the average tuition is $5,581 a year. In Quebec it’s $2,168.
That difference may create sticker shock for Canadians, but in the U.S., unlike Canada, most students receive substantial needs-based subsides that reduce the ‘actual’ average tuition at private universities to just under $13,000. A great redistribution of money from richer to poorer students in the U.S. leads to average student debts that are surprisingly comparable in the two countries.
I had the misfortune of encountering the Quebec tuition debate very quickly after the start of my first year. Still acclimating to the new and somewhat colder environment, I read of the controversy in the campus papers. The sticking point was the former Liberal government’s planned increase of $1,625 over five years for an eventual total of over $3,000. Despite the hike being only $325 each year, the proposal stirred passions. A general strike was called and, at its height, protests numbering in the thousands were a near-nightly occurrence, especially after the passage of the highly controversial Law 78, which restricted demonstrations.
As an American used to far more expensive university tuition—even international rates at McGill were substantially lower than those at several of the universities I considered in the States—the anti-hike argument did not speak to me on either an individual or ideological level.
The Twitter generation is engaged and deserves a say
Should 16-year-old Canadians be allowed to vote? The Parti Québécois thinks so. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, speaking in London, hinted as much following a quiet meeting in Scotland with First Minister Alex Salmond, whose governing Scottish National Party plans to lower the voting age to 16 for the country’s 2014 referendum on independence.
Members of Marois’ party have indicated their support for lowering the age to 16 in the past, and countries like Austria, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil have made similar decisions over the years to combat flagging voter turnout. Considering young people are the biggest drag on Canada’s overall decline in turnout, it’s something we should consider nationally too.
Elections Canada reported 38.8 per cent turnout among people age 18 to 24 in the May 2011 federal election, well below the 75.1 per cent of those aged 65 to 74 who voted. Considering the under-25 set is told from the get-go that they’re apathetic, this isn’t surprising. Civics courses don’t help: I drudged through Ontario’s— a well-known online bird course at my high school.
Liberal candidate weighs in on language bill and free tuition
Liberal leadership favourite Justin Trudeau waded Tuesday into two areas of provincial policy, at one point even taking shots at the Parti Quebecois government, while visiting Quebec.
Trudeau offered his opinions on Quebec language legislation and on tuition fees, while also reiterating his promise to increase federal involvement in education.
He delivered speeches and answered student questions at three schools on Tuesday, two of them English institutions and one French.
The crowds were similarly large at every stop — but the level of warmth of the reception varied from one official language to the next.
At the English-language Dawson College students asked him to sign autographs and pose for photos after the event. At the French-language Universite de Montreal later in the day, he was grilled on the Constitution and one student approached him afterward to debate the subject.
His first stop of the day took him to his alma mater, McGill University, where he offered indications that a Trudeau prime ministership would be a marked departure from a Harper era defined by a hands-off approach to provincial issues.
Trudeau’s plan to enroll more Canadians misses the point
To read more by Colby Cosh, visit Macleans.ca
The Liberal Party of Canada held its third leadership debate over the weekend; you probably heard about how it led to an argument about the terrible things Martha said to Justin and what Marc said about what Martha said to Justin and whether or not there is actually anything in what Martha said to Justin… well, the news-cycle hivemind cannot help making things personal.
Something more interesting actually happened immediately before the debate, when Justin Trudeau published an op-ed on federal education policy—a self-evident attempt to deflect Marc Garneau’s criticisms of him for being a policy lightweight with no specific program. But I’m afraid reading the piece had me saying “If only!”
A Liberal Party led by me would make it the highest national economic priority to raise our post-secondary education rate…The Canadian promise, that if you get educated and work hard, you can guarantee a better life for yourself and for your kids, is being seriously questioned. Canadians are rightly concerned that their leaders have lost focus on the policy that is at the heart of this promise: access to affordable, high-quality education. So what should the federal role look like? It should be principled, specific and targeted at the overall goal of raising our participation rate from just over 50 per cent to 70 per cent.
Prof. Pettigrew on the Ontario PC Party’s plan
The conservative Ontario PCs have released a new policy paper on higher education. Amid the usual boilerplate rhetoric that conservative politicians trot out on such occasions was this little gem regarding student loans:
Decisions about who should receive loans and how much money is to be awarded should involve assessments of future employability and reward good academic behaviour. Rewarding good behaviour means not only making the smart and efficient choice about where to go to school, but also keeping students accountable for how they choose to spend the money the government is lending them. To maintain aid, students must demonstrate a minimum level of academic success. Too often, our loans and grants programs reward mediocrity.
It takes a while for the magnitude of what is being proposed here to hit you. When it does, you realize that the PCs are proposing twisting the student loan system into a bureaucratic nightmare of nearly Orwellian proportions.
What students are talking about today (February 13th)
1. The Queen’s Journal at Queen’s University is the latest to report on a very cool competition that promises to reward two Canadians with a ticket on a commercial flight that will blast more than 100 km into space. The Canadian competitors with the most votes on the Axe Apollo Space Academy website will join winners from around the world on a Space Expedition Corporation expedition sometime after 2014. If the flight doesn’t happen by the2017, winners will get $85,000 instead. Queen’s student Steven Humphries, currently 21st, got support by way of a Tweet from Queen’s president Daniel Woolf.
2. It’s not often that more than 1,000 people show up at a student union meeting but that’s what happened at the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s gathering on Tuesday. They were there to settle the debate over online voting, which has been pushed by reformers. The motion was narrowly approved by a vote of 575 to 567, reports The Varsity. UTSU president Shaun Shepherd and his colleagues are opposed to web voting while several of the college and faculty leaders who backed the motion are frequent critics of the executive. “I’m just so fed up with this school,” Shepherd said. Still, after an emergency meeting of the Elections & Referenda Committee, Shepherd added that “irrespective of whether or not we agree with them, we have to honour them—that’s democracy.”
Marc Garneau would extend grace period
Liberal leadership hopeful Marc Garneau is proposing to make it easier for students to shoulder record debt loads after they graduate.
The Montreal MP would do away with the current requirement that post-secondary students begin paying off their student loans six months after graduation, whether or not they’ve found a job.
He would give them an indefinite grace period, requiring graduates to start repaying loans only after they’ve found a good-paying job of about $40,000 per year.
Garneau, who is touting himself as the most substantive of nine leadership contenders, is to unveil his latest policy proposal Monday.
An engineer and former astronaut with impressive academic credentials, he has made building a more diversified “knowledge economy” one of the cornerstones of his campaign.