New Brunswick students took over the legislature last week.
The New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) held its first ever Advocacy Week, where students from four universities met with MLAs and government officials to talk post-secondary education.
“It’s very been very positive feedback, and I think we might be turning some heads downtown,” said Ian Smith, vice-president external of the Mount Allison University Students’ Union.
“Politicians don’t get to hear from students a lot. They hear about student problems, but it’s very seldom that you have students traveling to Fredericton to meet with politicians. They’re always very eager and receptive to meet with us.”
The week kicked off last Tuesday with the government dropping of the provincial budget. For the rest of the week, students met with MLAs and government officials, presenting their suggestions for improved student debt reduction, student financial aid, and in-study and summer employment.
“Education is definitely a big priority right now in the province and they liked the fact that the things we’ve asked for were all very reasonable and easily accomplished,” said Greg Bailey, UNB Student Union vice-president external.
“The thing that people often forget is that MLAs are just normal people who have to deal with all of the province’s issues, so no one is an expert on everything.”
The idea for the advocacy week came for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, who hosts a national advocacy week in Ottawa for all their members.
Bailey said it’s a way for MLAs to hear solutions directly from their constituents about the problems they face.
“It’s important for us to keep doing this because at the end of the day, no one knows our education better than we do, and this is a great way to give the government feedback,” he said.
Pat Joyce, executive director of the NBSA, said Advocacy Week was an opportunity to engage the whole legislature, not just the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour.
“Of course the department is the one that’s most immediately important . . . but every MLA has a role to play in making post-secondary more accessible, more affordable and more high-quality in New Brunswick,” Joyce said.