Vote education

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In the upcoming provincial election, students across the province will have the opportunity to communicate their needs at a provincial government level in a very real way. The provincial election is a time when political parties and candidates express their vision for Saskatchewan and people can directly respond to that vision through the vote they cast on Nov.7.

Students and young people are no strangers to democratic participation. However, as a collective group, we continue to be underrepresented at the voting polls regardless of the election. Statistically speaking, people over the age of 55 are two-and-a-half times more likely to vote than people under the age of 25. This year, students in Saskatchewan have a unique opportunity to change that perception and get their voices heard. It is an opportunity that only comes along once every four years in the province of Saskatchewan.

There are a number of different reasons why young people and students do not show up in mass numbers to the polls. However, one thing that is known for certain is that the decisions made by provincial elected representatives will effect students every day over the next four years. Since 1991-92, tuition fees have increased in Saskatchewan by 182% compared to inflation at 45%. This is one of the highest increases in the country. In that time, the average student debt in Canada for a bachelor’s degree has risen to $37,000. Numerous students rely on public student loans in Saskatchewan, and even more rely on private lines of credit. In the last three years alone, tuition has increased 11 per cent.

Meanwhile, government funding for post-secondary institutions has fallen from 80 per cent of its operating budget in 1988 to only 64 per cent of its operating budget in 2008. The First Nations University of Canada still does not have a stable form of funding, even though it nearly had to close its doors last year. This has caused tuition fees to rise almost double in the last two decades.

Finally, only 9.1 per cent of children between the ages of zero and five have childcare spaces available, and the vacancy rate for housing in both Regina and Saskatoon is below two per cent. Even with these shocking figures, the government has refused to increase funding for housing starts even though it is painfully obvious that there are not nearly enough houses for low-income families and students.

This year, the Saskatchewan Component of the CFS is working on an election campaign entitled Vote Education. The campaign aims to equip students with the tools they need to make an educated voted based on the issues that affect them on a daily basis as well as communicate student issues to political parties and candidates seeking to implement their vision for Saskatchewan over the next four years.

The Vote Education campaign touches on a variety of student issues including tuition fee protections, provincial funding for universities and colleges, student aid and student debt, funding for graduate students, the child care and housing deficit across, targeted financial assistance for Aboriginal students, and guaranteed stable funding for First Nations University of Canada.

For more information, please visit voteeducation.ca. I, for one, hope to see students and young people break the perceived trend and hit the polls on Nov. 7.

Haanim Nur
CFS Saskatchewan Chairperson

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