Speaking at a campaign event at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus on Sunday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau unveiled his party’s platform, with specific emphasis on what he says is his party’s commitment to supporting people throughout their “education journey.”
“In a rapidly changing global economy, education has never been more important,” he said. “Because let’s face it: people around the world are anxious about their futures. As workplaces are re-imagined to incorporate automation and AI (artificial intelligence), workers aren’t sure where they fit in. You’re nervous, and we hear you.”
According to a 2018 Canadian University Survey Consortium report, 50 per cent of post-secondary students graduated with debt last year. The average debt was pegged at $27,929.
“Young Canadians heading off to school should be excited about embarking on this new journey, but are instead losing sleep, racking their brains over how to pay for it,” Trudeau said. “That’s not OK.”
WATCH: Trudeau announces plans to increase student grants, offer two-year grace period for student loan repayment
The Liberal platform outlines a number of measures the party claims will assist students and recent graduates. Here are a few takeaways:
1. Increasing Canada Student Grants
If re-elected, the Liberal government has promised to increase Canada Student Grants — money students do not have to pay back — by 40 per cent to “help with the rising cost of tuition, books and rent.”
The party says this will give students up to $1,200 more per year.
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2. Student loan repayment
The Liberal government says it will give students two years to “get started” before they are required to pay their student loans.
According to the party’s platform, this grace period will be interest-free.
The Liberals have also promised to “alter the rules” so that after the two-year grace period ends, graduates will not have to start repaying their loans until they make at least $35,000 — increasing the threshold from $25,000.
According to the party’s platform, if a graduate’s income falls below this level, their payments will be put on hold.
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3. Students with children
According to the platform, if re-elected, a Liberal government would pause student loan repayments without interest for new parents until their youngest child turns five years old.
The platform also says parents who have graduated but who haven’t finished paying off their student loans would have their loan repayment put on pause.
WATCH: Liberals would allow new parents to ‘hit pause’ on paying back student loans
The party says in total their post-secondary initiatives will cost $280 million in 2020-21, rising to $1.4 billion in 2023-24. The party added that more details regarding the costing will be announced over the course of the campaign.
What have the other parties promised?
New Democratic Party: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said at a campaign event in Montreal last week that if elected, the NDP would lift interest on student loans.
According to the NDP platform, the party will work with provinces and territories to “cap and reduce tuition fees” to build towards “making post-secondary education part of our public education system.”
The party says it will “move away from loans” and significantly increase access to non-repayable Canada Student Grants.
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Conservative Party: The Conservatives have promised to increase matching grants for registered education savings plans.
They have also promised tax cuts for the lowest income bracket and tax credits for maternity benefits. Neither of those is specifically about post-secondary education but each would affect many of the same people as the expected Liberal promise.
Green Party: The Green Party in its campaign platform has promised to allocate $10 billion to post-secondary and trade school supports.
The party says it will make college and university tuition free for all Canadian students and will forgive the portion of existing student debt that is held by the federal government.
WATCH: Greens release full campaign platform
The Greens have also vowed to remove the two per cent cap on increases in education funding for Indigenous students and ensure all Indigenous youth have access to post-secondary education.
-With files from the Canadian Press