By Jillian Terry
Voting as one student voice
If you’ve driven around St. John’s recently, you know the drill by now: every 20 feet or so, another splash of colour with a headshot and some slogan about being our representatives.
If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all and there are a lot of them.
The sudden appearance of red, blue and orange placards littering lawns and public green space around the city this week signals the official start of campaigning in anticipation of the Oct. 9 provincial election. And while it may seem like the winner has already been named, casting a vote and having a voice as a student is more important than ever.
In March of 2005, amidst protest preparations by the Canadian Federation of Students, Education Minister Tom Hedderson and Premier Danny Williams said that they would freeze tuition at all post-secondary institutions in the province for the rest of their government’s term.
While the 2007 budget reiterated the freeze, the future is uncertain when it comes to tuition fees, which are rising rapidly in most other parts of Canada.
And while the benefits of a tuition freeze are certainly debatable, especially considering the tight budget the university is currently under and the limits such a freeze imposes on new hiring and research investment, making education a priority for the provincial government can only come from the actions of students across the province, in voting and other forms of political participation.
When it comes time to mark an X on the ballot, it’s important to consider what a candidate and their party has said that they will do for education. Get answers before you go to vote ask questions to canvassers, visit your candidate’s campaign headquarters it is in the days and weeks before an election that politicians want to talk to you and address your concerns, and it is our responsibility as students to raise the real and crucial issues that we all face during and after our education.
Despite record-high approval levels for the current government, meeting the status quo is simply not enough for students, many of whom will be entering the competitive workforce in the next four years. We need change, and a commitment to ensuring not only low tuition, but a dedicated and efficient program for handling student loan debt as well as maintaining an open job market in this province. So many of Memorial’s best and brightest graduates are forced to leave each year in search of work the government needs to remember that students’ lives don’t stop after they leave the halls of post-secondary institutions.
Voting isn’t just about politics. It’s about getting answers to the issues that are important to us which is why, whether you’re politically active or not, voting is your responsibility not only as the citizen of a democratic society, but as a student. Because it is only with a unified voice that students of this province can be heard. So get out and vote on Oct. 9, either through a polling station or through mail-in ballot for your home district.
The Memorial student community is nearly 20,000 strong, and while not all of us are eligible to vote in next month’s Newfoundland and Labrador election, we are all able to make a difference in our education by making an informed choice when it comes to our elected representatives. The campaign over the next three weeks will surely bring candidates to our campuses across the province, making big promises in the hopes of attracting our votes, because politicians know the importance of the student vote. Let’s hope that we know it, too.