Roundtable: What Horwath means for the youth vote

How the NDP’s plan for the province would affect student voters

Andrea Horwath.
Photo illustration by Tessa Warburton

Rising tuition costs and a dicey labour market are significant sources of stress, anxiety and economic insecurity for young people—and especially for students.

In 2013-2014, universities in Ontario collected more student fees and received the smallest proportion of provincial support than any other province.  If elected, NDP leader Andrea Horwath will retroactively forgive all interest on outstanding provincial student loan debt.

Student debt has made pursuing a future career for young people a crippling task, in effect hindering our provincial economy.

And the problem is that this an issue that keeps growing.

Under Horwath, the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) will transition entirely to non-repayable grants, which will allow students to finance their education without accumulating debt owed to the province. Non-repayable grants will allow students to focus on their education and prospective careers instead of the burden their debt carries.

Currently, the Liberal party’s free-tuition program only covers university tuition costs up to $6,160, which is roughly $1,700 short of the national average. The free-tuition program simply doesn’t account for tuition fees of faculties beyond Arts and Science. The Progressive Conservative Party, too, have yet to present a formal strategy regarding tuition affordability, which ultimately displays a widespread lack of concern for students and their outstanding debts.

Horwath recognizes that the challenges facing young voters don’t end when they graduate.

In order to assist students with finding employment, an NDP government will invest in the creation of 27,000 paid co-op internship opportunities for students in Ontario. Co-op opportunities are a valuable tool in ensuring students are aptly prepared to enter the labour market. Moreover, they will lower levels of student debt because young people will have steady streams of income earlier than they otherwise would have.

The Liberal’s recent increase to the minimum wage also means certain young workers are left behind.

For instance, with a Liberal government, students working in food services—i.e., servers and bartenders—are exempt from a $14 minimum wage. The Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, will cancel the minimum wage increase outright and replace it with a tax credit that will leave workers making minimum wage with $1,553 less on average than a $15 minimum wage would deliver. 

By contrast, Horwath is committed to a $15 minimum wage for every type of employee.  

For young people who are not covered by a parental or public benefits plan, prescription drugs and trips to the dentist have often become almost unaffordable. Although OHIP+ currently covers prescription medication for Ontarians up to age 25, this demographic is the least likely to require health care resources. 

Horwath will respond to the gap in health care by introducing province wide pharma-care and dental coverage for all Ontarians.  The universal nature of this legislation improves the sustainability of a health-care system that we, as young students, will one day inherit.

With your vote, I ask you to carefully consider your options and avoid settling for worse when offered change for better.

Aaron is a third-year Health Studies major. 

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