In a press release earlier this week, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that the first cabinet meeting of 2016 will take place in Saint Andrews, NB over three days, January 17 to 19.
In the press release, the Prime Minister’s office states that the meeting is being held in New Brunswick to show Canadians from all regions that their needs are being listened to and factored into decisions.
“I think (the meeting) is a message to New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada that Justin Trudeau recognizes the contribution the region made to a majority government, and I think it’s a nice gesture,” says Wayne Long, MP for Saint John Rothesay, who hopes he will be able to use the opportunity to help Saint John.
“I’ve invited Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to come (to Saint John) on his way back through and meet with us and come visit some priority neighbourhoods.”
The cabinet is expected to review what has been done since taking office in 2015 and to discuss its priorities for the new year, which are expected to centre around job creation and the economy.
While Jordan Tracey, president of the UNB Students Representative Council, agrees with the current priorities of the government, he hopes that post-secondary education will be added to the list:
“ I would like to see education included into that bracket, I believe that under jobs and employment, education is a crucial to the youth of New Brunswick.”
As for specifics Tracey would like to see improved summer job opportunities and a restructuring of the Canada student loan repayment rules: “shrinking the time between completing a degree and finding a job would reduce debt for students.”
Lindsay Handren, Executive Director of the New Brunswick Students Alliance, hopes that having the ministers in the province might bring attention to proposed cuts, saying:
“We are certainly hopeful that the Trudeau Government’s commitment to an accessible and affordable education does rub off on the provincial liberal government who seem to have been moving in the completely opposite direction.”
The provincial government has proposed reducing or freezing university operating grants in the upcoming budget in hopes to save between 15 and 45 million dollars a year.
“Unfortunately, I think that the reality right now is that we will see a cut to post-secondary education in the budget which is only 3 weeks away, but there certainly still is that possibility that Trudeau coming to New Brunswick and holding his cabinet meeting here will have some positive impact on post secondary education in New Brunswick,” Handren continues.
Long prefers to take a more positive tone.
“Let’s wait and see what happens in the provincial budget. I know that Premier Gallant has a very tough road in front of him and very tough decisions to make. What I am hoping you will see is a refocus of education spending,” he argues, stating that the way the federal government can help stop cuts to education is through the federal transfer payment system.
“At the (federal) liberal party, we are committed to sitting down with the Premiers and re-jig the formula, recalculating the formula so that it is more fair for provinces in need with special cases, such as New Brunswick.”
Much is anticipated from the meetings over the next three days. Time will tell if the federal government will move forward on their commitments to post secondary education.