AMS to lobby federal government

Executive to join other schools to advocate for student issues

The AMS executive will head to Ottawa this month.
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After consulting with other universities, the AMS executive will head to Ottawa at the end of this month to lobby the federal government on student issues.

The AMS, along with other student governments, will be lobbying Members of Parliament and other government officials on international student support, student loan programs and student employment. 

The initiative was spearheaded by the student government at the University of Western Ontario (UWO), and the student unions have been consulting on drafting a proposal. 

Speaking to The Journal, AMS President Kanivanan Chinniah said the AMS usually strays away from federal issues and that the lobbying is a “one-time initiative”. 

The AMS decided to lobby now due to the change of leadership in Ottawa — Trudeau’s Liberal Party won a majority in October — which presents them with an opening to lobby for changes to federal policy. 

“The first few years of a government are mainly preoccupied by policy change. With all of the priorities that the government signals, we thought this was the best way to make an impact on these programs.” 

Joining UWO and Queen’s are the student governments at the University of British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Toronto and Waterloo. 

“What we have basically is a relatively loose coalition of schools, so like, these are the people that are in right now, and any other school can join in, if they would like to,” Chinniah said. 

Together, the student governments will provide the federal government with information as stakeholders in the policy-making process. From there, the government can decide if and how to use that information. 

Chinniah said the AMS was unable to consult with students outside of AMS Assembly on their decision to get involved with the lobbying effort due to time constraints. 

“We broadly took what our students have told us, in terms of what they wanted to see [and] what broadly their interests are, and used that to inform our advocacy position,” he said. 

“I will say that, you know,  we could have just went ahead and lobbied. Previous AMS administrations have just gone ahead and lobbied without letting Assembly know.”

Chinniah added that the AMS executive asked for Assembly’s authorization to lobby the federal government over the past two meetings to garner their input. 

He highlighted the Blue Dot Campaign, during which the previous AMS executive “engaged and used AMS resources, specifically in the Commission of the Environment and Sustainability, to lobby the federal government, to petition the federal government, to change the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Chinniah said he was “around” last year and that the issue was never brought explicitly to Assembly. 

“It was just a pet project by the commissioner at that time,” he added. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainability at the time was Leah Kelley, ArtSci ’16.

For the Blue Dot project, the previous AMS executive collected signatures from students-at-large to demonstrate support. 

Chinniah said that regardless of the merits of that policy, there needs to be a balance between the flexibility of the AMS to advocate for student interests at the opportune time and gaining enough input from students before speaking in their name. 

When asked, he didn’t state any specific goals the AMS wishes to achieve through lobbying, adding that “especially with the federal government, we don’t like to publicize our specific targets.” 

“Another thing you have to understand is that we’re also currently still talking to the other schools to solidify the policies that we will be bringing forward.” 

However, he said they want to be “very clear” on how the AMS is representing students. 

“We have set a standard as the AMS, where we want to ensure that our representation policy is as representative of students as possible.”

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