New Brunswick students are taking over the provincial legislature in February.
The New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) is holding its first advocacy week in the first week of February when the legislature sits.
“We’re going to try to get as many students as we can from across the province into Fredericton and meet with as many of the MLAs, party leaders and government staff as we can to talk about post-secondary and put forward some of our recommendations,” said Pat Joyce, executive director of the New Brunswick Student Alliance.
The NBSA got the idea from other organizations they work with. The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations hosts an advocacy week on Parliament Hill every November. The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance also holds an advocacy week at their provincial legislature.
“One of the benefits we have here in New Brunswick is we have a relatively small legislature. There’re only 55 seats, which makes it logistically convenient to try to arrange meetings with as many MLAs as we can,” Joyce said.
Most of the recommendations the NBSA will be making during advocacy week will regard student financial aid. It’s expected the province will have an announcement about the program in January, but Joyce said most of the changes would occur in the spring budget.
“There will still be an opportunity for us to get our message out there and what our reaction is to that financial aid announcement,” he said.
The NBSA has worked with the province’s Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour in the past, but hasn’t worked with the provincial legislature. Luke Robertson, vice-president education of the St. Thomas University Students’ Union said the week is an opportunity to give PSE more attention in the legislature.
“It’s important to let our elected representatives know more intimately and more directly about student issues in New Brunswick, and an advocacy week is a great opportunity to get some eyes on student issues,” Robertson said.
UNB Student Union vice-president external Greg Bailey said students need to be engaged if they want their needs met.
“It’s impossible to think of any scenario for a prosperous New Brunswick that doesn’t involve an educated population, but it seems like ‘knowledge economy’ has become a buzzword that government trots out occasionally to satisfy the universities,” Bailey said.
“It’s crucial that students get involved and meet with their representatives because . . . MLAs want to do what’s good for their community, and when their constituents talk, they listen.”
With a provincial election coming up this year, he said the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
“With an election coming up and the parties working on their message for voters, this is the perfect time to have this,” Bailey said.
“Parties are developing their platforms and making the promises that will shape the next four years, and by talking to them now, we really have a chance to shape the conversation for years to come.”