Advocating for Change with UCRU: Lobby Week 2024 Highlights

Published: Monday, February 26, 2024

Did you know that the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities (UCRU)’s Federal Lobby Week ran from February 12th to 16th? Representatives from WUSA, including our very own VP were there to support the efforts and initiatives at Lobby Week. 

Now, you might wonder how Lobby Week might affect you as an undergraduate student. Well in recent years, the landscape of post-secondary education in Canada has undergone significant changes. As the cost of living rises and mental health concerns among students become more prevalent, it is imperative that the federal government takes proactive steps to address these issues.  

Let us take a listen to what Katie, our VP, has to say about the Lobby Week: 

“This week I had the pleasure of joining UCRU constituents from the Student’s Society of McGill University, McMaster Students’ Union, Alma Mater Society of Queen’s University, and some of our virtual constituents to lobby Federal MPs at the House of Commons in Ottawa. While we were in Ottawa, we had the pleasure of discussing the urgent need for increasing student financial aid, increasing the purpose-built student housing stock, increasing support for mental health at post-secondary institutions, and increasing work and job-related opportunities for international students. In addition to lobbying MPs, UCRU also held its AGM (Annual General Meeting) to decide its future federal advocacy direction and discuss board transition for the 24-25 year!” 

Lobby Week looked at catapulting attention initiatives to political representatives to address these issues and challenges faced by different populations. Some key recommendations that UCRU has been lobbying on to help support students across Canada include: 

The Creation of Purpose-Built Student Housing Units 

UCRU recommends that the federal government allocate $800 million to create 18.5 thousand purpose-built student housing units over six years. These units would be exclusively accessed by non-profit organizations and cooperatives, ensuring that students have access to safe and affordable housing. Research has shown that stable housing is a cornerstone of academic success, yet 72% of students currently spend less than 30% of their income on housing. By investing in purpose-built student housing, we can redirect funds away from for-profit landlords, making housing more accessible to students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.  

Upholding the Canada Student Grants Program 

We further recommend that the federal government maintain the increase to $4,200 per year maximum on the Canada Student Grants Program. This increase, from the pre-COVID maximum of $3,000 per year, is crucial considering the rising barriers students face in accessing post-secondary education. With the cost of living, including housing and food, on the rise, students require additional financial support to pursue their studies. By maintaining the increased funding, the government can ensure that students have the necessary resources to afford their education, thus mitigating the risk of financial barriers hindering their academic pursuits. 

Establishment of Post-Secondary Mental Health Infrastructure Fund 

Lastly, we recommend the establishment of a $1.5 billion, four-year post-secondary mental health infrastructure fund. This fund would provide capital funding to applicant post-secondary institutions and affiliate student associations to enhance access to mental health support networks and programs for students. Studies have shown that mental health services at post-secondary institutions often do not meet students’ diverse needs, with barriers such as long wait times and limited-service quality. By investing in mental health infrastructure, we can address these shortcomings, ensuring that all students have access to the support they need to thrive academically and emotionally. 

UCRU TL;DR: 

In conclusion, UCRU’s advocacy efforts during our recent Lobby Week represent critical investments in the future of post-secondary education in Canada. By prioritizing the creation of purpose-built student housing, maintaining increased funding for student grants, and establishing a dedicated mental health infrastructure fund, the federal government can empower students to succeed in their academic endeavors while promoting overall well-being. It is imperative that we act now to ensure that all students can thrive in their educational journey. 

If you are interested in learning more about WUSA’s plans for its federal advocacy, feel free to contact vp@wusa.ca. 

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