Examining the liberal plans for post-secondary education
The dust has finally settled after the Canadian Election finally came to an end two weeks ago… So what now? Being a university newspaper, the Carillon decided to get an understanding for what the results of the election means for students and post-secondary education, talking to political science professor Dr. Lee Ward, and political science student and recently published author, Alex Cousins.
So what exactly does the election of a Liberal government mean for post-secondary students? Dr. Ward explains that students should be getting more support.
“So much of what has to do with universities is really a provincial matter, so things like tuition and rates. But the federal government does have a role to play,” Dr. Ward told the Carillon. “One of the things the Liberals promised in their platform was to increase the student grant for low and middle income Canadians. The idea was to increase the annual payment to $3000, which would be doubling in some cases. Also, the Liberals have increased in overall funding for student grants for something like $7,500,000 a year, and in that sense, federal support for students should definitely increase.”
As for tuition, Dr. Ward notes that while things might not be ideal, they should get better, and students could end up with slightly fuller pockets.
“Lowering tuition and even the ideal of zero tuition I think would be [great.] Free post-secondary education would be a great progressive ideal. Canada isn’t there right now, but in lieu of that, direct federal aid – putting money in student’s pockets to help pay for tuition, books and accommodations – works much better than the loan model, which acts as a chain around students’ necks going well into their careers,” Dr. Ward states. “And I think the other thing the Liberals promised was to introduce a rule that students wouldn’t have to pay back their student loans until you have a certain income. There’s some awareness of the problem of student debt, but the government could do so much more.”
While Dr. Ward feels optimistic towards change, Alex Cousins doesn’t feel like there will be as big of an impact on him as a student.
“My guess is it’s going to be business as usual, with changes depending on context,” Cousins told the Carillon. “I don’t feel post-secondary education was a huge part of his platform, so I don’t feel that for me as a student, things will change a lot.”
Another major point that Dr. Ward talked about was the election format. Many political scientists have noted the “first past the post” system doesn’t represent how Canadians truly feel, and Dr. Ward touched on that subject of whether or not the preference of the electorate reflected in the results of the election.
“I think the answer is yes and no. 70 per cent of Canadian voters wanted change, and they got that. So the Harper government is gone, and the new government is in, and they will try to change substantively in tone and symbolism to be as different as possible compared to the previous government. I think in that sense, the Canadian pubic wanted something like that, and they are going to get it. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s a fair or accurate reflection of the preferences of the voters, because at the end of the day only 39.5 per cent voted for the new government coming in. Basic math says that 40 per cent is not a majority. The majority of people didn’t vote for this government, they voted against the previous one. They wanted change, but change doesn’t just come in one variety.”
So, while voters got what they wanted in change, they didn’t necessarily all support the Liberals. What Canadians really wanted was cooperation between the major parties, something that Dr. Ward made note of.
“I think the fact of the matter is, most voters got what they wanted in terms of change, but they didn’t want to give all power to one new government. I think what Canadians want is for political parties to work together. They want there to be a degree of power sharing, cabinets that represent more than just one political party… the problem is that our system over-represents the actual proportion of the vote they get,” Dr. Ward stated. “I’ll give you an example. Think about the online petitions to include Elizabeth May in the new cabinet. That reflects to me a new hunger in the country that isn’t simply the party that wins the most seats can do what they want. The Liberal party platform contains commitment to changing the system. There’s going to be reform. It might be a proportional representation system, which I think might be the best reflection of the voters, or a new kind of ballot which gives you the chance to rank different candidates.”
Finally, the Carillon asked what Cousins thought of Trudeau and why Canada was so enamoured with him, instead of the likes of Harper or Mulcair. Cousins offered some words to calm down those who think the sky is about to fall.
“Is Justin Trudeau the best choice for leader of Canada? I don’t think so. Is it going to be a disaster? No. Just like how Stephen Harper wasn’t a disaster. One thing I’ll say about the election is that there was a lot of really interesting, ridiculous rhetoric about Stephen Harper, and I’m just glad that’s done. I heard Stephen Harper was a fascist, and that was just hilarious! He just isn’t a fascist. Did he do some things that I didn’t agree with? Of course, but that’s just politics,” Cousins said with a laugh. “I think if you were going to pick a guy from the left, Mulcair has a lot more experience in legislating. He was the official opposition for a time; he’s a lawyer, so he has relevant experience to legislating. If you wanted to make a competence claim, it’s not Trudeau, but also, the Prime Minister doesn’t make all the decisions. The Prime Minister has advisors, and a representative function, and people wanted to be represented by someone younger, somebody more akin to their own beliefs and philosophies. It probably won’t be the end of the world, but who knows.”