The AMS is trying a different approach to lobbying the provincial government; they’re sending Valentine’s Day cards.
The Where’s The Funding coalition (WTF), which the AMS is a part of, launched its first campaign on Tuesday, sending thousands of cards to the provincial government in order to lobby for changes within provincial post-secondary funding. The campaign’s objective is to eliminate the student loan interest rate, increase capital grants funding for post-secondary education and re-establish needs-based grants for students.
Katherine Tyson, VP External for the AMS and the coordinator of the UBC end of the campaign, said they have thousands prepared. “Boxes upon boxes with stories on them.”
The campaign takes a humourous approach to lobbying. One of the cards reads, “Let’s not drag this out…I want to break up with interest rates on student loans.”
Tyson, along with current AMS President Jeremy McElroy, incoming President Matt Parson and incoming VP External Kyle Warwick, are delivering the cards today to the provincial legislature with representatives from other schools. There they will be attending meetings with members of the provincial government in addition to holding a press conference on the coalition and its objectives.
“So far, reception with the province has been very good on both sides,” said Tyson. “Both the BC Liberals and the NDP seem to be very supportive and a lot of what we’re asking for are things that we have a lot of facts and data to back it up and we’ll go in there with that.”
The WTF Valentine’s Day campaign is the second major student-driven funding campaign to occur this month, although the only one focusing purely on the provincial government. On February 2, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) held their National Day of Action, which the AMS did not take part in as a non-CFS member.
Tuesday’s campaign marks the first official event of the WTF coalition. “It’s the first time in history that all these universities actually worked together for some reason,” said Tyson. “Yes we don’t agree on every single policy but we agree on these three fundamentals and we’re probably going to find more to agree on.”
Zach Crispin, chairperson of the CFS in BC, was heartened by the provincial-level activism. “I think that the message of the WTF campaign is very good,” said Crispin, “that now students across all campuses across the province have adopted our central campaign goals. We’re happy to see that and I think it’s an important step forward.”
Tyson is hoping the campaign will put WTF on the map as a lobbying group. They will be working towards more lobbying and awareness events in the months to come.
“This is something that we can all support, and it moves a lot faster than when we focus on our differences,” said Tyson. “We are moving forward in March to do our lobby days together so for the first time ever it’s not just going to be UBC going over, it will be all the schools in the province sending people to come together at the same time.”
First-year student Kavi Bal was one of the students who signed a card and is in support of the campaign. “I think it’s going to increase the longevity of getting funding and improve future generations’ chances of getting affordable education,” he said.