2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Student issues ignored during provincial election campaign

By Fabian Mayer, May 14 2015

Taxation, healthcare and K-to-12 education were all hotly debated during Alberta’s election. Student issues, on the other hand, were all but ignored.

Both post-secondary funding and the tuition cap were left out of the election’s lone televised debate and they were seldom mentioned on the campaign trail. Students’ Union president Levi Nilson said he was disappointed by the lack of attention paid to post-secondary.

“It was something we hoped parties would take notice of since we’ve been the ones taking the brunt of everything that’s gone wrong in the budget the last couple of years,” Nilson said.

When the SU called on parties to clarify their stances on post-secondary issues, only the Alberta Party and the New Democratic Party did so.

SU vice-president external and newly elected chair of the Council of Alberta University Students Romy Garrido said the timing of the vote around exams contributed to the lack of discussion surrounding student issues.

“Post-secondary education isn’t quite the ballot box issue that we want it to be, but we’re hoping to get there,” Garrido said.

She’s optimistic that the relatively high number of students elected to the legislature will help bring more of a focus to post-secondary.

“They’ll be representing students. They’re within our demographic so we’re excited to be working with those students specifically,” Garrido said.

Corey Hogan, a former political strategist who ran the Alberta Liberals’ campaign in 2012, suspects the narrative of students being unlikely to vote is largely responsible for student issues being ignored.

“It’s very tough when you’re in those meetings talking about platforms to argue for student initiatives,” Hogan said. “Ultimately you’ve got a billion dollars. You can spend it on post-secondary students who will not show up to vote for you, or you can spend it on seniors who will.”

Nilson said challenging that narrative is a priority for the SU.

“That’s why we ran the Get Out The Vote campaign,” Nilson said. “I think once we get the breakdowns of what demographics actually voted we’ll see a much different picture than what’s normally believed.”

Hogan believes these efforts could have an effect on how political parties engage with students.

“If students begin to vote, a winning party somewhere is going to come and talk to student issues and really drive that agenda,” Hogan said. “I don’t think it’s too engrained to change.”

Nilson said he was encouraged by the NDP’s victory in last week’s vote.

“They want to roll back market modifiers, which is music to my ears. And they want to protect the tuition cap,” Nilson said. “We’ll have to see if they follow through on some of their platform points but it’s potentially a good day.”

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