author: taylor balfour | news writer
100 strong march descended on Legislative Building
Students Mobilizing Against Cuts, also known as SMAC, staged a protest on March 30 to make known the displeasure students have in the cuts taking place against universities since the province’s budget was released earlier in March.
The budget detailed cutting 5 per cent to the University of Regina’s operating grant for the 2017-2018 term. This cut is around a loss of 5.4 million. However, detailed in a Student Affairs email sent around after the budget’s release, Vianne Timmons, the President of the University of Regina, stated that this “follows the $1.66 million mid-year reduction in funding for the current fiscal year that the Province announced in November 2016.”
Overall, the budget detailed a crippling loss to the university’s funding.
“Saskatchewan currently has the second highest tuition costs in Canada. With the 5 per cent reduction in post-secondary funding, this financial burden will be placed on students,” SMAC Representative, Samira Wagner explains.
“Many students are in the low-income tax bracket and will have their income tax credits cut as well. Similarly, with the government’s decision to cut the PST exemption of [sic] children’s clothing, insurance premiums and restaurant food, students will be adversely affected.”
The protest aimed to make known the opposition students had to the cuts, as well as that those wanting an education won’t be silent about the issue.
“Students Mobilizing Against Cuts (SMAC) is a group of students and their community allies,” Wagner details.
“These cuts greatly impact all Saskatchewan residents as they have drastically reduced funding to services necessary for our province’s sustainable growth and high quality of life for all who call Saskatchewan ‘home’. In order to see the change we wish to see in government, SMAC has a platform to pressure the government toward making changes to the budget.”
Around 100 students and allies came out on March 30 to march and make their voices heard. The march’s slogan of “not our budget” rapidly caught on as it was placed on shirts, posters, and encouraged the chants that sprung forth out of the crowd.
“As students and our supporters, we are here to stand for our future, a future where all Saskatchewanians regardless of generation or age, whether settler or Indigenous have uninhibited access to community services like transportation, libraries, education, and care. Our vision is to foster communities where all feel included and valued, and where their government’s budget reflects that vision,” Wagner explains.
“The aim of this action is to focus attention on the distress the 2017-18 budget will cause students, who now face increased tuition, lack of access to libraries and reduced travel opportunities across Saskatchewan due to the loss of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC),” a mass email written by SMAC representatives stated after being sent out to the student body on March 27.
“SMAC would like to highlight that the Saskatchewan government has released that there will be a 5 per cent reduction in post-secondary education funding. This financial burden will be placed on students. SMAC has the formal support of the University of Regina Students’ Union.”
After the march, the Students’ Union claimed on their Facebook, “We were joined by members of the public, the official opposition and community organizations as we made our voices heard during a march from Victoria Park downtown to the Saskatchewan Legislative Building.”
As well as reinforcing their support, claiming that “these cuts have an effect on all of us and we ask that you join us to take action and hold our government accountable.”
“The 2017-18 budget released on March 22, 2017, adversely affects students and campus life. Both international and domestic students are already paying high tuition among other student-related costs (housing, transportation, books…etc.),” Wagner explains, detailing exactly why students need to keep speaking up.
“Libraries, for example, provide extra study space, and access to affordable of free resources, programs, and services. On campus, food costs will rise, fewer classes offered, and negative impacts to university-provided services.”
Public libraries in the province also took a massive hit from the budget, losing around of 60 per cent of their funding. SMAC also posted on their Facebook before the march that “the 2017-18 SK Budget presents elimination of personal income tax credits for education and tuition, and cuts $2 million from scholarship funding.”
Scholarship funding being cut affects both current and future students, making affordability of education that much more difficult.
“SMAC has made 13 demands of the Government of Saskatchewan in relation to the recent austerity cuts. These 13 demands are available on the SMAC Facebook page and have been presented to the Government of Saskatchewan,” Wagner emphasizes.
“We hope to be meeting with the Premier, Deputy Premier and Ministers of Advanced Education and Finance very soon.”
Leading up to the march, SMAC also held poster-making sessions in The Owl, and posted pictures of custom designed shirts on their Facebook, appreciating the support the community and student body continued to give. One of their slogans of “say no to the budget” was also frequented on posts encouraging students to come out to the march, as well as make their voices known in any way they could.
SMAC has plenty of social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook where events and updates will be posted.
“Volunteers are always needed, welcomed and appreciated,” Wagner explains.
“We encourage all students to ask questions and reach out. We are excited to be growing our community and looking to grow relationships within the student body!”
However, the importance of speaking out is SMAC’s key message, and they hope that students continue to do exactly that.
“SMAC would love to inform students that fighting for our rights can and will make a difference, we must protest against these cuts so in future we do not this [sic] becoming a reoccurring issue.”
For more information, SMAC is open for contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.