New Brunswick opposition calling for overhaul of free tuition program

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Opposition calling for overhaul to free tuition program
WATCH ABOVE: The Gallant government is trying to push some key pieces of legislation through, but opposition is stalling saying it’s necessary to ensure bills such as the tuition access bursary are given their due. Global’s Jeremy Keefe reports – Jun 29, 2016

New Brunswick’s official opposition is taking aim at the provincial government’s motion to give free tuition to low income and middle class families.

Premier Brian Gallant’s April announcement would see students of families with an annual income of $60,000 or less receive free tuition to publicly funded universities and colleges.

Since then House sittings have been scarce with only ten taking place in April and that number dropping by two each following month.

READ MORE: Free tuition comes at a cost, NB Tuition Access Bursary critics warn

Now that things are back in full swing, opposition leaders say rushing the Tuition Access Bursary (TAB) bill through is not giving it due process.

“Why can’t we work to make sure we don’t take away so much [from] those 44,000 people that are disadvantaged?” said opposition leader Bruce Fitch.
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“If you’re a family income over $60,000 it’s now going to be harder to get to post-secondary education, harder for you to pay off your student loans, it’s going to be harder all around.”

Fitch points to the cancellation of the tuition tax rebate, which provided recent grads with a credit for remaining in the province, as the main sticking point to the TAB program.

“The government took $50 million out of post-secondary education for student assistance, they put back less than half of that,” he said. “So there’s still a substantial amount of money in that budget that could continue with the tax credit, that could continue to help those above the $60,000 family income.”

Green Party Leader David Coon sides with Fitch and the Tories, tabling more signatures to a petition he brought forth previously calling for the reinstatement of the rebate program.

“Instead of utilizing some of the new revenue from HST they decided to go plunder the tuition tax rebate which in my view is unacceptable, they could’ve done both,” Coon said.

“It says to me that there isn’t a comprehensive strategy that addresses both needs of students and recent graduates,” he said. “The needs of recent graduates have been sacrificed for the particular programs that the government has brought in and that needn’t have happened.”

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“We’re a bit disappointed to see that the conservatives don’t support our free tuition bill,” Premier Brian Gallant said.

Gallant expressed his disdain for recent Tory tactics saying stalling bills is counterproductive to effective government.

“They made it very clear that they would rather filibuster, they would rather try to waste time in the legislature than ensure that the free tuition bill will pass so people from low income and middle class families will be able to benefit from it in September,” said Gallant.

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