HOT TAKE: Party stances on democratic participation

Stakeholder Participation

The MOU Partnership Board is the body that negotiates the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that has historically regulated or deregulated tuition fees, ancillary/auxiliary fees, and university funding. With university Presidents looking out for their own institutions, the current structure of the MOU Partnership Board cannot broadly evaluate the post-secondary education system in Nova Scotia. Students, faculty, and staff are invested in ensuring that the system is sustainable and maintains its high reputation worldwide. The same is true on the institutional level, where, even with substantial cuts in funding, senior administrative salaries have ballooned over the past ten years. Without the power to ensure that university funding is used for core services, students are placed in a vulnerable position.

We asked all major parties if they would commit to putting students, faculty and staff on the next MOU Partnership Board, and if they would sponsor legislation to increase the power of these groups on university boards. Here’s what they had to say:

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We welcome the explicit commitments from both the NDP and PCs to ensure students are part of the negotiation of the MOU. We further applaud the NDP for committing to sponsor legislation to increase the representation of students, faculty and staff on university boards.

We urge the PCs and the Liberals to be more specific in their proposals for student, faculty, and staff inclusion in campus decision-making. Too frequently, student, faculty and staff contributions to on-campus decision-making are reduced to symbolic and non-binding consultation sessions. Increasing the number of student, faculty, and staff who are voting members on Boards of Governors’ would increase the power of those who are most affected by decision-making on campus. 

Fixed Election Dates 

Engaging students in electoral politics should be a top priority for all political parties. One of the best ways to ensure this happens is to have elections take place when a majority of students are on campus. Post-secondary institutions can serve as hubs for students to receive education materials on how to vote and even have early access to on-campus polling stations. Election dates can be guaranteed in Nova Scotia by adopting fixed election dates that make sure polling day is in mid to late October. Fixed election dates will also guarantee that provincial elections do not overlap with municipal or federal votes, thereby helping prevent voter fatigue. Considering that Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada without fixed election dates, this is a long overdue reform to our province's electoral system.

We asked all major parties if they supported fixed election dates. Here’s what they had to say:

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We welcome both the PCs and the NDP’s commitment to implement fixed election dates to support democratic participation, increase accountability, and encourage youth participation.

The Liberals have cited other provincial governments who have not always bound themselves to fixed election dates to justify a lack of action on this matter. While fixed election dates are certainly not the only necessary democratic reform, fixed election dates in Nova Scotia are long past due. At this time, majority governments are accountable to no one but themselves when calling an election, and will inevitably call elections at a time that benefits them and not necessarily voters.

Students were disappointed that the previous Liberal government chose to call the election during the summer when it is hardest for students to vote. Students are often first-time voters, relocate frequently, and their government-issued identification doesn’t always align with their current residence. Because campuses are centralized hubs where students can be educated on how and why to vote, these barriers make it harder for students to vote during the summer when students are not on campus. During the academic year, polling stations can be set up on campus making voting even more accessible for students. During the last federal election, more than 75,000 students voted in advance on-campus polling stations across the country.

 

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