Cherise Letson
Canadian University Press

Fredericton (CUP) – “Students Nova Scotia is looking forward to working with the province’s new Liberal government,” says executive director Jonathan Williams.

On Wednesday, the Liberals ousted the NDP government in the provincial election. Winning 33 of 51 seats in the legislature, Stephen McNeil is the new premier of the province.

“We’re looking forward to working with the new government,” said Jonathan Williams, executive director of the student advocacy group. “There were a couple commitments that they made in the context of the election that are going to have a significant value for students.”

These commitments include investing $3.7 million in graduate scholarships and eliminating interest on student loans.
“Those two policies, if they’re done this year, will be a really good start to our relationship with the new government,” Williams said.

StudentsNS did an evaluation of the party platforms before the election and gave the NDP the edge over the Liberals. Williams said the organization had a good working relationship with the previous government.

“We had built a really strong relationship by the end in terms of collaboration with, in particular, improving the student assistance program,” he said. “They almost doubled the funding to the Nova Scotia student assistance program in three years in ways that would have impacted the student debt levels in Nova Scotia.”

However, Williams said StudentsNS wasn’t with the NDP allowing tuition to continue to increase faster than inflation. That aside, he said he hopes the organization can build that collaborative relationship with the new Liberal government, including working towards raising minimum wage.

“We are very hopeful that, with the new government, we’ll be able to build that collaboration quickly and basically pick up where we left off with the previous government in terms of designing programs and policies to improve the situations for students and young people in Nova Scotia together,” he said.

While students in Nova Scotia just finished a provincial election, New Brunswick students are preparing for one. The province will have its 38th general election next fall, and the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) is already planning on how to make post-secondary education a priority.

“Everything is still in the works and being debated by our board,” said Pat Joyce, executive director of the NBSA.

“But we’re looking at directing a lot of our efforts towards making sure that students are out there to vote, making sure students are participating in events throughout the campus campaign and making sure post-secondary becomes a broad topic of discussion.”

Joyce said the NBSA plans to speak with Nova Scotia student leaders for suggestions and ideas and plans to focus on getting students engaged in the election.

“When it comes to an election, parties are watching closely and looking at who is going to be showing up to the polls and whose support is going to be crucial for winning the election,” Joyce said. “We want to be communicating the value that students have when it comes to winning an election. This is a significant block of voters—if you make commitments that are beneficial and benefit their post-secondary education, then you have an opportunity to win based on the student vote.”

He said one of the challenges they face when trying to bring post-secondary to the forefront is showing how it’s an issue that affects everyone.

“Students understand very intrinsically the value of post-secondary and the value of making post-secondary affordable and accessible, because they are going through the system,” Joyce said. “But it also requires making sure folks understand that post-secondary saves costs on health care, reduces crime rate, engages citizens more, and that post-secondary stimulates a more productive economy.”

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