News  NDP promises a thousand bills in students’ hands

Postsecondary education plan to be financed by shelving corporate tax cuts

The NDP wants to give $1,000 to Canadian students who qualify for student loans.

Anne Lagacé Dowson, the NDP candidate in Westmount—Ville-Marie, noted that the party’s grant plan would help students struggling with tuition and ancillary fees at the beginning of each school year.

“It’s a big commitment to sign on for college programs. The idea to give people a bit of a leg up,” Lagacé Dowson said.

Zach Churchill, National Director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), a student advocacy group, thought the NDP grant program, while a step in the right direction, lacked specifics.

“It seems to be a pretty consistent theme throughout the NDP platform that we don’t have enough information on the plans they are proposing,” Churchill said. “We don’t know who they are targeting the grants to. Is it targeted to all students, those with the highest need, or those who are under-represented in the system?”

Accoring to Churchill, CASA would urge the NDP to ensure the grants reach demographics marginalized by the postsecondary education system, such as First Nations, northern, rural, and disabled students.

Lagacé Dowson suggested the education platform be financed by reversing tax cuts and by shifting money currently funding the war in Afghanistan.

“The Harper government is intending to go forward with 50-billion in tax cuts to companies who are seeing record profits right now. This should be put back into the hands of students to make it possible to study.”

Katherine Giroux-Bougard, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), Canada’s largest federal student association, argued that more tax dollars should go toward education to make university accessible. She noted that universities have suffered since the 1990s, as students faced rising tuition fees due to cuts to federal postsecondary education.

“[The cuts have] resulted in less tenure track profs being hired, less refurbishment to buildings,” she said.

Sarah Woolf, co-president of NDP McGill, suggested that the federal government needed to collaborate with universities, students, and provincial governments to find appropriate solutions to funding woes.

As well, Churchill said the problem of making college education more widely available involves focusing on several issues, such as cost. He said that some students are unaware of the benefits of attending university and decide very early in life not to pursue postsecondary education.

“We’ve seen through research and data that students are making up their minds at a much younger age: elementary and junior high school. That points to something, that there’s other barriers at play here.”

The plan is part of the NDP’s $51.6-billion platform released September 28.