With a federal election set for June 28, CAUT has launched a national campaign aimed at ensuring post-secondary education is a key issue on the minds of voters.
"This federal election gives us the opportunity to focus public attention on the challenges facing universities and colleges in Canada and to highlight what the federal government should be doing to protect the quality and accessibility of post-secondary education," said CAUT president Loretta Czernis.
CAUT's non-partisan election strategy focusses on the need for the next federal government to increase funding for post-secondary education and to reform the way Ottawa transfers money to the provinces in support of universities and colleges.
Currently, Ottawa provides cash transfers to the provinces for post-secondary education and social services in one block grant. The provinces are not required to account for how this money is allocated.
"Canadians are demanding more accountability from government on how their tax dollars are spent," Czernis said. "That has to extend to the billions of dollars transferred to the provinces every year. It's critical there be greater transparency in how funds earmarked for post-secondary education are actually being spent."
CAUT has proposed that Ottawa implement a Post-Secondary Education Act, modelled on the Canada Health Act, that would provide the provinces with long-term and stable federal funding for post-secondary education in exchange for greater accountability over how transfers are allocated.
"We'll be pressing candidates across the country to support the Act," Czernis said, "and it will be important for member associations to be echoing that message with their local candidates."
She added that it is vital that local faculty associations get involved in the election campaign to ensure that the voice of Canada's academic community is heard.
"CAUT's ability to influence the political agenda during this campaign is directly related to the ability of our associations to get involved," she said.
To assist local associations during the campaign, CAUT has produced an election kit outlining ways associations can get their voice heard during the campaign by organizing local events and activities. The kit also contains sample questions to ask local candidates, fact sheets on the key issues and links to further resources.
This will be a pivotal election for universities and colleges, Czernis said.
"It's important for those of us committed to improving public post-secondary education in Canada to get involved so that all the candidates hear a common message in this election," she said.
CAUT's executive director James Turk agrees that the involvement of local associations will be critical to the success of the campaign.
"I want to encourage all associations to get involved in this campaign, no matter how modest or ambitious," Turk said. "I also want to encourage associations to contact CAUT staff who are ready to assist in organizing local campaign events and activities."
Copies of CAUT's election kit and fact sheets are available at www.caut.ca.