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Federal student lobby group sets priorities

By Scott Strasser, November 24 2015 —

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) held their annual policy and strategy conference in Halifax last week, where they set lobbying and advocacy priorities for the year.

CASA is made up of 22 student associations across Canada. They advocate and lobby the federal government on student issues.

Students’ Union vice-president external Romy Garrido is the primary CASA delegate for the University of Calgary.

“We went over CASA’s current policies and any updates that need to happen to those policies,” Garrido said. “We’re given a list of priorities and we rank them. We have a discussion on which ones should be our top four.”

CASA’s four priorities for the year are financial and repayment assistance, research, youth employment and marginalized groups.

Garrido said the focus on student employment includes student jobs, transitioning to the workforce and professional development.

“It’s significant because about $1.5 billion from the Liberal platform was allocated to it,” Garrido said.

Garrido is particularly excited about the new emphasis placed on marginalized groups in post-secondary.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about a lot, but there hasn’t been an opportunity for change,” Garrido said. “When it comes to aboriginal students, I see they’re greatly underrepresented in so many areas of society, including post-secondary education.”

According to Garrido, delegates were optimistic about the Liberal government’s attention to post-secondary during their fall campaign.

“There’s a lot of hope because [students] were mentioned quite a bit,” Garrido said.

Focusing on undergraduate research is another priority for CASA.

“Seeing how this current government has talked about research within its platform and has two ministers of science, we thought it’s a pretty good time to talk about undergraduate research,” Garrido said.

The policy and strategy conference is usually held during the summer, but was delayed this year due to the federal election.

Garrido said the conference functions as a warm-up for CASA’s annual lobbying week in Ottawa this winter.

“The priorities are what we’re going to be focusing on when we go to Parliament in February.”

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