The parties’ stances on education

Voters can send text messages to the four major political parties requesting information and receive a response within minutes.
Voters can send text messages to the four major political parties requesting information and receive a response within minutes.
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Elections are often like an auction, where the most votes go to the highest-bidding candidate. To evaluate this year’s bids, the Journal spoke to representatives of four of the parties and analyzed their platforms to gauge what each has to offer the youngest voting demographic.

The Liberals

The Liberal platform stresses its party’s track record, mentioning the $9 billion given annually to support post-secondary education and promising to invest an additional $4 billion over the next five years.

Andrzej Antoszkiewicz, deputy campaign manager for Kingston and the Islands candidate Peter Milliken, said accessibility is key to improving post-secondary education.

“Fundamental access to post-secondary education for everybody, the idea of exempting the poor students from tuition, that is the most important thing,” Antoszkiewicz told the Journal. “Educated students create an educated society, and an educated society is just economically guaranteed a better future than one that is not.”

The Liberals have introduced a “50/50 plan,” which would pay half of a student’s tuition, up to $3,000, in the first and last years of an undergrad degree. Students beginning their first degree or diploma in Canada in the year 2006-07 would be eligible for the plan, but they would have to choose between this plan and the existing Tuition Tax Credit and Education Expense Deduction.

Mark Sholdice—who represented the Queen’s Liberals at the recent on-campus debate between political clubs—praised the 50/50 plan, as well as the work of Paul Martin and the Chrétien government on research and development.

“The fact that we are committed to research and development is something to boast about,” he said.

The Liberal platform also proposes expanding the existing Canada Access Grant, in order to pay for up to four years of undergrad study for students who come from households that earn $35,000 or less annually.

One billion dollars would be provided to help modernize and improve post-secondary infrastructure, and $135 million would be earmarked to enhance access to advanced education for students with disabilities.

The Liberal platform also pledges to provide $150 million over five years to assist with the extra financial cost that international study entails, and to increase the support currently given to masters and doctoral students by 50 per cent. Over the next 10 years, the party says it will increase the number of apprenticeship graduates to 75,000 annually from the current 37,000.

To address the issue of proportionately low Aboriginal enrolment, the Liberals promised to increase the number of Aboriginal post-secondary graduates by 14,800 over the next five years, and to provide more scholarships to encourage young Aboriginals to go to college and university.

The Conservatives

John Baird, the Conservative candidate for Ottawa West-Nepean, told the Journal the Tories’ fiscal policies would support post-secondary education.

“We’ll try to deal with fiscal imbalance, which has a huge effect on the provinces’ ability to provide operating funds for colleges and universities,” Baird said. “Also, research and development is very important—it has a huge effect on academics.”

Support for training in skilled trades—as an alternative to university—forms a significant part of the Conservative platform on education. The Tory plan promises to provide tax incentives for young Canadians to learn trades as apprentices and for businesses to hire new apprentices.

Jeff Parker, who spoke for the Queen’s Conservatives at the campus debate, said that because only one in five Canadians goes to university, increasing grants and opportunities for trades will provide good policies for the other four-fifths of Canadians.

For university students, the Tories have said they would invest an additional $500 million over the next five years to support university-based research, work with the provinces to increase family income thresholds for student loan eligibility, and exempt the first $10,000 of a student scholarship or bursary income from taxation.

Students would also receive a federal tax credit for their spending on textbooks. Parker said this tax credit is the most important Tory plank.

“When you go to purchase your books, you are going to be able to deduct that from your taxes,” he said. “More importantly, since most students don’t pay enough taxes to really matter, you’ll be able to transfer that to your parents.”

The NDP

Greg Frankson, an NDP campaigner for Alexa McDonough, said the NDP is the party most supportive of students.

“The NDP is the strongest advocate [in] the federal parliament on issues of post-secondary education,” Frankson said. “There has to be a holistic view of how to address the funding issues both for institutions and for individual students. [There has to be] strong recognition that society benefits from an educated populace and not just individuals being educated.”

Chris Davidson, Law ’08, who represented the Queen’s NDP at the campus clubs debate, agreed. “Post-secondary education benefits all of society [through] increased productivity, [and a] better educated workforce,” Davidson said. “The NDP will transfer $2.5 billion, phased in by 2010, to address core funding concerns.”

The NDP has promised to work with provinces and territories to create a binding commitment to stable, long-term funding in education through a transfer of funds, in return for an equally binding commitment to better access and lower tuition fees.

The party has also pledged to protect education and research from privatization. This would mean increasing federal funding of university-based research and ensuring that money from private companies should not be the only funding towards research projects in public universities.

An NDP spokesperson added that because universities are public academic institutions, research carried out there should be for academic purposes and not specifically for the benefit of private companies.

National employment insurance would become a key resource for public training strategies and programs. Eligibility for employment insurance training benefits would be broadened to include employees who participate in full-time training programs and unemployed workers who do not otherwise qualify for employment insurance.

Special grants would also be provided for Aboriginal and rural youth.

Davidson noted that the Canadian Federation of Students recently gave the NDP the highest mark for increasing accessibility to post-secondary education, while the Conservatives received a failing grade.

The Greens

During an interview with the Journal, Green Party leader Jim Harris said the nation’s focus must be shifted to a knowledge-based society.

“We have to invest in our education system,” he said. “We have to work to help our students, instead of giving handouts to the richest companies in Canada.”

The Green party’s platform pledges to invest $8 billion in education, including $4 billion in “core funding,” which media spokesperson Luca Palladino defined as “funding that goes directly to postsecondary education through a direct transfer that is exclusively dedicated to [post-secondary education].”

Jared Giesbrecht—the Queen’s Greens member present at the debates—said education is an important investment that should be expanded and diversified.

“We don’t consider [education] to be an expense ... but something we can invest in as a government,” he said. “We need to boost participation in co-operative education programs and apprenticeships, and broaden the way we look at post-secondary education.”

The Greens also promise to work with provinces and higher learning institutions to do the following:

•freeze, and then lower, tuition fees

•boost participation in co-operative education programs and apprenticeships

•encourage more hands-on learning

•restructure loan programs into a single needs-based grant system

•remove GST from books and education supplies.

“There are three legs to the education stool,” Harris said. “There’s core funding, which affects tuition levels. There’s bursaries and grants, to students who need help, and then there’s debt remediation. We’ve focused on investing in all three.”

Kingston and the Islands deconstructed

Population

Total population
115,830

Total males
56,420

Males, ages 18 to 24
6,490

Total females
59,410

Females, ages 18 to 24
6,365

Language, Mother tongue

English
96,925

French
3,775

Non-official languages
10,940

Labour force

In the labour force
60,035

Unemployment rate 7.4

Legal Marital Status (15 and older)

Never legally married (single)
32,485

Legally married (and not separated)
45,565

Divorced
7,660

Widowed
6,560

Total visible minority population
6,295

Education (20 and older)

Less than grade 9
4,590

Grades 9 to 13
23,935

College
22,180

University
25,955

—Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 Census, Federal Electoral District Profile of
Kingston and the Islands

2004 election results

Peter Milliken,
Liberal Party
28,544 votes (52.5%)

Blair MacLean,
Conservative Party
12,582 votes (23.1%)

Rob Hutchison,
NDP
8,964 votes (16.5%)

Janina Fisher Balfour,
Green Party
3,339 votes (6.1%)

Terry Marshall,
Christian Heritage Party
481 votes (0.9%)

Rosie the Clown Elston,
Independent
237 votes (0.4%)

Don Rogers,
Canadian Action Party
179 votes (0.3%)

Karl Eric Walker,
Independent
100 votes (0.2%)

Total number of valid votes
54,426

Rejected ballots
175

Total ballots cast
54,601

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