5 days of action: Student group rallying this week against Sask. budget cuts

Monday marks the first of five days of rallies against the Saskatchewan government's 2017 budget.

Students Mobilizing Against Cuts opposing cuts to schools, libraries, STC

Emily Barber (right) said there are services that she says are already underfunded that could be further impacted. (Lyssia Baldini/Radio-Canada)

Kelsey Morrison describes herself as a low income student — she works three jobs to make ends meet and she relies on student grants.

Morrison, a representative of Students Mobilizing Against Cuts, says she has a line of credit and student aid which pushes her student debt to about $50,000.

Morrison said cuts in last month's provincial budget hurt current and future students.

"Being a student in Saskatchewan is becoming less and less accessible," Morrison said, as she spoke in front of a crowd of students and community members. 

"I personally chose Saskatchewan for my schooling so I could be close to my family and feel more at home. However, I deeply, deeply regret this decision."

SMAC addressed post-secondary concerns on Monday at the Legislative Building, surrounding issues involving tuition costs and potential impacts to already under-funded services.

"There are so many cuts that have come from this most recent 2017-18 budget that the government of Saskatchewan has proposed," said Emily Barber, Students Mobilizing Against Cuts representative and University of Regina student. 

The group gathered at the Legislative Building on Monday morning to address post-secondary budget concerns. (Lyssia Baldini/Radio-Canada)

Barber mentioned the five per cent cut to post-secondary institutions, which she is concerned may impact services that she said are already under-funded. 

Barber said counselling services at the U of R are underfunded and continuing to underfund it will only deter students from accessing it. Barber highlighted the stress of acquiring a post-secondary education.

The stress also affected her mental illness, Barber said. To manage it, she has turned to counselling services though she said navigating university is difficult even when it's well managed.

"The fear of spending time getting to know a counsellor and them being forced to abandon me after only five sessions allotted per student, per semester deterred me personally from getting help," Barber said.

Eventually, in her third year of schooling, she said she had to leave for a semester to get back on track. 

The province reduced base funding to post-secondary institutions by $30.1 million in the provincial budget. The Ministry of Advanced Education's overall spending was reduced by $44 million. 

The week ahead

The group hopes to draw attention to the "hardships" imposed on residents through cuts to the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, libraries, and primary and secondary schools.

Morrison said there will be teach-ins, workshops and art builds.

Kelsey Morrison (middle) said she hopes the five days of action will give hope to other sectors impacted by cuts after the libraries funding decision was reversed. (Lyssia Baldini/Radio-Canada)

Funding to libraries has been restored to the tune of $4.8 million after people in cities and towns across the province criticized the cuts.

Morrison called the reversal "fantastic."

"We would just like to give other movements a little bit of hope and that they too can reverse the cuts in their sectors," Morrison said.

A rally against the scrapping of STC will be held Thursday. 

Morrison called the efforts against the province's austerity budget "holistic," involving other movements and groups.

"Each movement needs to come together in solidarity and pressure this government to create the change we wish to see in society."

With files from Radio-Canada's Lyssia Baldini