BY PATRICIA O'BEIRNE
MONTREAL - The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) has called for a cross-Canada day of action to be held on February 7 against cuts to education and social programs by the federal government. In his February 1995 budget, Finance Minister Paul Martin announced his intention to reduce the transfers to provinces for health, education and welfare, as well as funding for unemployment insurance by Can$7 billion (Can$1 = US$0.72).
The protest will condemn the newly-created Canada Health and Social Transfer, by which funding for health, social assistance, and post-secondary education will be merged into one lump-sum transfer. Each provincial government will then decide how these funds are spent. In Canada, provincial governments administer health, education, and welfare partly with funding from Ottawa. Many students say the new policy is in part a maneuver to decentralize protests against cutbacks.
The application of these cuts by the Quebec government could reduce by 15 percent budgets for community colleges, universities, and loans and bursary programs.
Publicity for the day of action produced by the CFS states that these latest cuts will "decrease funding gradually until it eventually reaches zero... put an end to national standards for health, post-secondary education and social assistance... deregulate and increase tuition fees," and cause students' debt load to "skyrocket."
In January 1995, some 100,000 students protested across the country against cuts to education, the biggest student action in Canada's history.
In Montreal, over 20 student associations at universities and community colleges have formed the Student Coalition Against the Cuts to build a demonstration. The march route will pass by three of the four universities in the city. It will also pass through the financial district to highlight that banks and corporations are making huge profits while students and working people are being made to bear the burden of the capitalist depression.
One of the speakers at the Montreal demonstration will be a spokeswoman for the Common Front, a coalition of community, unemployed, women's, and union groups.
It was formed at a 500-strong conference held here January 19-21 to organize fighting back against the cuts to social programs.
Marches, teach-ins, and round table discussions are planned in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Quebec City, Lethbridge, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, St. John's, Guelph, and London among others. For more information, call the Canadian Federation of Students at (613) 232-7394.
Patricia O'Beirne is a member of the Young Socialists and of Lodge 205 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union at Domtar in Montreal.
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