The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), 1981––an organization born from the fires of dissent, and fanned into a powerhouse lobby group by student action across the country. Hundreds of thousands of students coming together to fight for accessible post-secondary education for all Canadians, and joining the fight for a better Canada.
The Canadian Federation of Students, 2013––an organization on death’s doorstep, slowly withering away from the bane of their existence, separatism; their demise hastened by undemocratic and secretive policy. Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in legal fees to prevent locals from becoming independent, while post-secondary education has become less important than taking left-leaning social stances.
Do we still need the CFS?
On September 4, fifteen schools, the largest unified group action since thirteen universities that attempted to leave in 2009, have launched their petitions in an attempt to disaffiliate from the CFS. Those include such schools as the University of Toronto, York University, Ryerson University, as well as McGill University.
The CFS has been open in their dismissal of resolutions on the national level to make their lobbying and finances more transparent—those on the inside who attempted reform are called dissenters. Should MUNSU-Local 35 be dissenter number 16?
Post-secondary education in Canada is a jurisdiction controlled solely by the provinces. There are no national standards for post-secondary institutions, there is no federal ministry of post-secondary education, and there is a considerable lack of funding from the federal government for Canadians wishing to attend post-secondary institutions. Because of this, is there any reason to be lobbying federally? In every administration since its founding, from Trudeau to Chretien, and from Mulroney to Harper, each administration has turned down requests from the CFS to increase federal funding and involvement in post-secondary education in Canada.
Cash transfers for post-secondary education in the last decade have declined by 50 per cent when measured as a proportion of GDP, and are down $400 million from 1992, all occurring with CFS lobbying ongoing. Today, they persist to pester and what do we have as a result 32 years later, exactly what we started with 32 years ago. No standards, no ministry, and no increased funding. On a provincial level, we have seen much advancement on the front of further socialized post-secondary education.
Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest tuition in Canada, outside of Quebec post-secondary institutions for native Quebeckers. We are at a point where an increase in the Advanced Education and Skills budget by $130 million would see post-secondary education in the province would be completely subsidized for all students attending our institutions. It is because of MUNSU, and its predecessor, the Council of the Student’s Union here in the province, that we are able to see full provincially funded tuition on the horizon for students in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is because of heavy provincial lobbying, not the provincial branch of the omnipotent CFS, that has brought us to this point.
CFS-NL currently runs on a surplus budget of over $200,000, and yet we see no campaigns towards further socializing PSE in the province. What we do see from the provincial unit of the CFS are campaigns towards boycotting businesses in the province, chastising the government for making standardized cuts to a program failing to produce comparable results, and taking orders from Ottawa about bottled water and Anti-Harper propaganda. Because attention is diverted elsewhere during the entirety of the year, save the dropping of the provincial budget, why do they exist? A more frivolous question is, why do we continue to fund a lobby-group for post-secondary education that focuses on everything but?
The national board of the CFS operates on almost $4 million of membership fees. One would expect that this would be spent on campaigns lobbying the federal government, albeit in vain, for more federal involvement and funds towards PSE in Canada. Unfortunately, these funds go towards the Band-Aid court cases that plague the Federation and keep separatist locals in the lobby group, they go towards announcing that the Federation condemns Israeli occupation, they go towards keeping aggressive staff and lobbyists that insist their budget be a private document to the Federation.
The funds that we pour into the CFS have now lost their way from the lobbying of the federal government for a better post-secondary education system in Canada, and now are being used as life supporting for a slowly dying, self-absorbed, sole ember of a once great flame of action. What we must ask ourselves, is it worth it? Do we stay in an organization that has lost its way and fights for its own existence instead of student issues? Or do we fight for our independence and call for referendum? It’s time for our province and MUNSU-Local 35 to take lobbying in its own hands and separate from the Canadian Federation of Students.