Trudeau’s Year in Review from a student’s perspective

How did Trudeau’s changes impact students?

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“Sunny ways my friends, sunny ways,” said an ambitious and freshly-elected Justin Trudeau in a reference to Sir Wilfred Laurier’s famous doctrine. 

A year into their first mandate, the Liberals have been busy implementing the enthusiastic agenda that Canadians were promised during the 2015 campaign trail. Promises like putting a price on carbon, renewing Canada’s middle class, marijuana legalization, improving Indigenous affairs, and a host of other policy proposals. 

So how do the promises stack up a year later? 

For starters, one thing is for sure, “real change” has certainly transpired. The Liberals have fulfilled 34 promises since forming government and have 64 more in the works. Fulfilled commitments range from cutting the middle class tax bracket from 22 per cent to 20.5 per cent, restoring mandatory long-form census, to launching an investigation into missing and murdered Indigenous women and, most recently, is challenging the provinces to impose a price on carbon pollution. 

Last year’s election showed that, above all, young Canadians and first-time voters were motivated sincerely by Trudeau’s strategy. According to Statistics Canada, voter turn-out for people aged 18-24 increased by a dramatic 12 points, with a similar 11-point increase for voters aged 25-34. 

So what have young Canadians chosen for themselves? 

Within the 2016 Liberal budget, there’s a direct emphasis on the accessibility and sustainability of post-secondary education. Primarily, and perhaps the most exciting, is the 50 per cent increase in funding to the Canada Student Grant. This policy increases grants for both low and middle-income household, however, is most beneficial for low-income households, with an increase from $2,000 to $3,000 per year. 

The 2016 budget also looks to increasing the student loan repayment threshold. This would assure that students graduating with debt wouldn’t have to begin repaying until they are earning at least $25,000 per year. 

These changes are being paid for largely by eliminating student tax credits, reinvesting them into grants and simplifying the financial aid system. 

Despite the positive impact these strategies will have on undergrads, it may feel the opposite for graduate students, who don’t receive federal grants. Correspondingly, many graduate students with incomes seek tax credits to ease the load, suggesting that they may struggle the most due to the shift.

Alongside the Liberal’s rewiring of financial aid for post-secondary education, they also haven’t forgotten about the sometimes-gloomy nature of finding summer employment as a student. 

Starting in 2016, the Liberals plan on pouring $339 million over three years, into the Canada Summer Jobs program. With this investment, Trudeau committed to creating 5,000 green jobs for young people annually, many of which will be guides and interpreters for Parks Canada.

However, despite the large budget commitment, there were only 1,636 students employed by the agency this summer. 

This was an increase of 435 from the previous year and it’s expected to surpass 2,000 by the end of the fiscal year, however, despite being a massive improvement, it falls short of the committed target. 

Another benefit of the Liberal’s focus on Canadian youth is the creation of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council. The council will consist of young Canadians aged 16-24 and will advise on matters of domestic policy. With the first round of 15 youth selected, there is excitement around the perceived inclusivity of the Trudeau government.

One year in and Trudeau’s Liberals have largely made a good impression on students, with policy showing that they take youth employment and post-secondary affordability seriously. 

It appears that the Liberals not only garnered youth support, but have also started to deliver on it. Time will tell whether the financial investments into student well-being will pay off.

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