Parties Making Grabs for the Student Vote

Political parties throw promises as elections season draws to a close.
By Leah Ching

Packed Outpost.TrevorWaytowichThe end of a long and gruelling election campaign is upon us. Every party can be found guilty of making a mad grab for the student vote with their platforms promises. With pledges being made to ease the financial burden on post-secondary students, the federal candidates are trying desperately to gather support from an age group that has been notorious for a low voter turnout.

While all party platforms are now available at a click of a button, most students probably won’t bother to read through wordy documents and budgets to determine whom they’re voting for. Lucky for students, promises about lowering the cost of post-secondary education are being thrown out like singles at a strip club.

 

These promises range from the safe and incremental, to the wild and utopian. The Green Party has made the most remarkable yet; vowing to make tuition free by 2020, cap student debt at $10,000, and get rid of interest rates on Federal student loans.

 

Critics accuse the party of attention grabbing tactics that are unrealistic and unachievable, but the Greens staunchly oppose this stance, arguing that financing post-secondary education is merely a matter of federal priority. Green Party candidate Bruce Hyer pointed out the plan’s feasibility at this week’s candidate debate at the Outpost. Noting that the plan is workable through implementing a tax regime where corporations are taxed at an increased rate of 19%.

 

European countries such as Germany, Sweden and Denmark have all fully financed post-secondary education, having realized the future economic benefits to be reaped from their investments.

 

The Greens aren’t wrong when they say that the economy depends on what is invested in youth, and that the benefits of education are tremendous in the long term. Other countries have recognized this already, and we are deluding ourselves if we believe our government can’t afford this.

 

While it’s evident that the Green Party will not form a government in this election, their promises set a positive precedent, no matter how far-fetched and unattainable they seem upon a first reading. The party raises important questions about the priorities of the government and about the nature of corporate tax in Canada as it stands.

 

Conversations are being started about the cost of education to individuals, and the value placed on getting a tertiary education. The Green Party is highlighting the flaws within the structure of post-secondary financing in Canada. Why is it that a poor student having to take out high interest student loans should have to end up paying more for their degree than students who can afford their education more easily?

 

The Greens are making it known that they believe our economy is depending on our youth. Meanwhile, Canada’s Conservative Minister of Revenue, Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, is tweeting about youths who are voting Liberal saying; “#GenerationTrudeau is exactly why millennials have the worst reputation of all” (since deleted).

 

Though less dynamic in nature, the NDP has also jumped on the bandwagon of making promises to students, announcing a $250 million increase to federal student grants if they are elected, along with removal of interest on student loans.

 

The Conservatives, on the other hand, are targeting parents directly (which makes sense considering the low number of young people that identify as Conservative), promising to increase the federal grant in registered savings plans for low and middle-income earners, (who ironically are the least likely to have an RESP.)

 

The Liberals promises consist of doubling student grants for low-income full-time students and spending $515 million yearly on First Nations education. This is commendable as not only an ambitious plan, but also one that is realistic and specific.

 

All these promises speak mountains about the nature of youth in politics. The parties are all aware that that the youth demographic is a force to be reckoned with if galvanized and sent out to the polls. After elections, whatever the outcome may be, what is to be kept in mind is the accountability that young voters must hold to their newly elected.