By Michael Friscolanti
Federal finance minister Paul Martin said this year’s budget is about postsecondary education and health care, but some students who watched his speech Monday afternoon said they aren’t impressed.
“I’m not going to notice any of these changes in the long run,” said Jamie Walls, a second-year aerospace engineering student. He was among several students watching the television budget coverage over drinks at the Ram in the Rye. “I’ll never see the tangible benefit.”
A student who earns $20,000 a year, for example will get a tax cut of $49 next year, increasing to $137 by 2004. Other budget measures are meant to benefit students. Martin said $2.5-billion will be spread among the provinces for postsecondary education and health care, $900-million will be spent creating research positions at colleges and universities, and students will get tax exemptions for scholarships under $3,000.
But Gina Minugh, a third-year graphics communication management student, wasn’t impressed. “Politics is all just a show,” she said. “What matters is I still need to get an education and get a job.”
RyeSAC president Erin George agreed Monday’s budget is nothing for students to get excited about. “The $2.5-billion [for the province] is peanuts,” she said. “It does nothing to address debt crisis, both for students and the institutions.”
She said the projected federal surplus over the next five years is $95-billion. “People should be insulted that this is all we got.”
George, who will become chair of the Canadian Federation of Students- Ontario in June, also criticized the announcement of $900-million for research chairs, saying it is only a repeat of an announcement made in last October’s Throne Speech. “THey were too short on education stuff,” George said.
“They had to recycle [the announcement].”
Students were happy about receiving tax-free scholarships, though. “This is the one thing that is positive for students in this budget,” Walls said.
While George agrees, she said it’s convenient the government announced the cut after being criticised over the Millennium Scholarship Fund—students were being taxed on $3,000 federal scholarships instead of enjoying tax-free debt forgiveness previously provided by the provinces.