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What the federal parties are offering Ottawa's college and university students

Graduation cap. (Shutterstock) Graduation cap. (Shutterstock)
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OTTAWA -

Ottawa is home to two major Canadian universities and two colleges. Students from all over Canada and the world make Ottawa their home during their studies.

While education is largely a provincial affair, the federal government does have a hand in it and the parties running in the 2021 federal election have platform planks that address post-secondary education and students, largely through taxes and the federal portion of student loans.

Here's what students at the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Algonquin College, and La Cité can expect to hear on the hustings.

LIBERALS

The incumbent Liberals offered some benefits to students prior to the election, including pausing student loan repayments interest-free during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Liberals also increased the Canada Student Grant to $6,000 from $3,000.

During this election, the Liberal Party is promising to keep the Canada Student Grant at $6,000 for another two years. They are also pledging to spend $721-million to help students find jobs.

The Liberals have also said they would change the student loan repayment assistance program to make it so that new grads don't have to start paying their loans back until they make at least $40,000 per year.

The party platform promises to permanently eliminate the federal interest on Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans and Increase the repayment assistance threshold to $50,000 for Canada Student Loan borrowers who are single. The party also promises to create a fund to help hire 1,200 mental health professionals at Canadian post-secondary institutions and spend $500 million and another 10 per cent annually to support Indigenous-governed and operated postsecondary institutions.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at a campaign stop in Quebec City, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

CONSERVATIVES

The Conservative Party platform says a Conservative government would Increase support for francophone primary and elementary education via the Official Languages in Education Program to reflect demographic growth in the minority francophone student population. The party would also work with the Council of Ministers of Education to promote humane education as part of education on the environment and sustainability.

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole has previously promised tax breaks for new graduates of up to $100,000 in the first three years after graduation if he becomes Prime Minister. O'Toole also said students who go into engineering, coding or the skilled trades, could see those tax breaks increase to $200,000 over five years; however these pledges are not in the party's platform in 2021.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole speaks to the media as he makes an announcement on help for people living with disabilities, in Edmonton, Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Canadians will vote in a federal election Sept. 20th. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

NEW DEMOCRATS

The NDP is running on a platform of student loan forgiveness. The party says an NDP government would cancel up to $20,000 per student in federal debt and eliminate student debt interest. The party also pledges to stop loan payments while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The long-term goal of an NDP government would be to work with provinces and territories to cap and eventually eliminate tuition fees for students, making post-secondary education free.

In the shorter term, the party is pledging to double the Canada Student Grant permanently, to reduce the need for loans.

GREEN PARTY

The Green Party of Canada released its platform on Sept. 7. 

In it, the party says it would abolish post-secondary education tuition at a cost of $10.2 billion per year, cancel all federally held student debt, and reintroduce the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, giving all eligible students $2,000 per month starting May 1 and until the pandemic is over. International students and recent grads would also be eligible for this benefit.

The party also says it would remove the two per cent cap on increases in education funding for Indigenous students and Improve funding in federal-provincial transfers to universities and colleges, including $10 billion to post-secondary and trade school supports.

Election Day is Sept. 20.

Correction

A previous version of this article said the Conservative Party was offering tax breaks to new graduates. This was a pledge made by Erin O'Toole when he was running for leadership of the Conservative Party. The author of this article apologizes for any confusion.

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