NewsStudents' Union

Student leaders ‘excited’ to work with newly elected NDP government

For 44 years, the University of Alberta’s Students’ Union has been lobbying Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government. As of May 5, that’s changed.

The SU will now start working on new initiatives with the new government following the election of the Alberta New Democrat Party (NDP) majority government on Tuesday.

Alberta voted in 49 new NDP MLAs to the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, catapulting them from four seats in 2012 to 53 seats out of a possible 87. With so many new representatives, the SU is looking forward to building new relationships in the government while working towards new goals regarding advanced education, SU Vice-President (External) Dylan Hanwell said.

SU President Navneet Khinda added that the SU is expecting less resistance and more possibilities for their lobbying initiatives. Post-secondary students can expect greater stability in their education with the new government, as the NDP proposed a tuition and fee freeze, which would give students more predictable financial situations — not just a cap that would allow tuition to be raised based on current economy. The current tuition cap, which regulates the cost of tuition as per inflation, expires in August, 2016. The Alberta government reportedly floated the idea of eliminating the tuition cap earlier this year.

“I don’t think (the NDP) will let (the tuition cap) expire, so that’s a really good starting point,” Khinda said. “I don’t think we’ll be as fearful of negative changes to post-secondary anymore.”

Greater stability in government is also likely, Khinda said. In the last six years, the Tories have had four different Ministers of Innovation and Advanced Education, the most recent being former Fort McMurray-Conklin MLA incumbent Don Scott. Khinda said she doesn’t expect similar, large leadership changes with the NDP.

“That means we’ll probably have the same Minister for four years, which is super exciting,” she said.

Currently, there’s no word on who the next Minister of Innovation of Advanced Education will be.

Also currently unavailable are demographics data from Alberta Elections. This means the percentages of the youth vote and the university student vote are currently unknown.

Because there is currently no data on the student vote, success of the Council of Alberta University Students’ (CAUS) “Get out the Vote” campaign can’t be measured yet. Khinda said she hopes the number of university student voters increased from the 2012 election.

The “Get out the Vote” campaign was launched in April to encourage students to vote in the provincial election. The campaign used peer-to-peer contact to encourage students to vote. The campaign gave students the opportunity to pledge to vote. If they agreed to pledge, they were be contacted on election day as a reminder.

Hanwell said student feedback from the campaign was positive.

“Lots of people (said) they already voted (when we called),” he said. “Even when we’d leave messages, they’d call the front desk back, asking about it.”

For Hanwell, the new government will mean change for future students in Alberta post-secondary, but the specifics aren’t yet known.

“The possibilities are very different than they were before,” Hanwell said. “I think that’s the biggest thing that’s going to change when we look at our goals.”

The SU will be meeting with CAUS this weekend to discuss their priorities for working with the new provincial government.

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