He has spoken.
In an event awaited by a slim, yet vocal and interested, minority of students, Canada's newly crowned Prime Minister Paul Martin kicked off his election campaign--err, term in office--with a speech from the throne, read by Her Excellency Adrienne Clarkson, the television host turned faux Queen.
While some student groups called it a coup (I'm looking at you Canadian Alliance of Student Associations), both the University of Calgary Students' Union and the Council of Alberta University Students were able to see through it and call a spade a spade.
The speech made some bold promises to a number of stakeholders, promising tax breaks and cash infusions for Canadian cities, promising significant funds to deal with environmental issues--both specific and general--and it praised students.
Ahhh, there's the rub.
In an attempt to assuage concerns government was shortchanging post-secondary education, the Martin government was more than happy to announce plans to overhaul the backwards and inefficient student loan program. They were also oh-so-gracious in their offer to help make Registered Education Savings Plan investments more accessible to lower income families.
Oh, as I tremble and quake in your generosity King Paul.
Noticeably absent from the list of goodies outlined by the Liberals was the one thing student associations and lobby groups have been screaming for: the restoration of a dedicated federal post-secondary education transfer payment for provinces. Essentially, all Martin and his team have done is make it easier for more students to rack up debt and easier for people to start saving for their children's education at a young age--something becoming more and more necessary with every passing year.
Now, I am in no way suggesting these moves are detrimental. On the contrary, they will truly help students struggling to make ends meet and parents concerned about their young children's intellectual futures. They could very well be considered steps in the right direction.
Guess what? They're not.
Despite what Liberal spin doctors will spew and what CASA will claim as a victory, that students received this little is a slap in the face. You see, Paul Martin is no idiot and neither are his advisors. They know an election is on the horizon, likely to occur this spring. Furthermore, they are well aware the New Democratic Party is rejuvenated and strengthening under Jack Layton and the Conservative Party is not a credible opposition (let's be honest here kids).
So, that said, where is the threat to the regime? On the left.
Martin is a notorious fiscal conservative, pinching more pennies than Ebeneezer Scrooge. This throne speech is clearly a plea to the teetering left of his party, his attempt to keep them around for at least one more trip to the ballot box.
And what do we get? What, in his endless benevolence, does he give students? Crumbs.
Not convinced? Well then, consider this: I am not only agreeing with the stance taken by our SU, I am praising it.
I know kids, I'm scared too...