Federal Election 2019: The Post-Secondary Plans Round-Up

The candidates for the 2019 Federal Election in Peterborough-Kawartha riding. From left to right: Maryam Monsef of the Liberal Party; Michael Skinner of the Conservative Party; Candace Shaw of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Andrew MacGregor of the Green Party, and Alex Murphy of the People's Party of Canada. Images via the candidates' official Facebook pages.

Well, everyone, it’s that time again! Everyone’s favourite: election season! Whether you’re a new member of the Trent family or leaving our loving arms, this election will have consequences for years to come. We – 18- to 25-year-olds, traditionally in post-secondary education at this age – now make up the largest voting block in the country, meaning we hold a lot of power in our hands.

Peterborough-Kawartha is a critical riding for every party, and bellwether ridings usually indicate the election as a whole. Peterborough-Kawartha has a good distribution of ethnic, wealth, and population diversity. The riding’s population is urban and diverse in its. As a result, this riding is a microcosm of Canada as a whole. The importance of it has been indicated by visits from Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer and Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau within weeks of each other.

In 2015, Liberal challenger Maryam Monsef took Peterborough-Kawartha, beating out the Conservative Michael Skinner to win the seat by a margin of about 6000 votes. Although 15,000 eligible voters did not vote, those who did took a leap of faith on Trudeau’s Liberals. The Harper-led Conservatives looked stagnant after eight years in power, and the decisive Liberal majority victory reflected this. Four years later, will those same people that took a chance on Trudeau be left out in the cold?

Trent could swing an entire election in one party’s favour. 9000 students go to school here, and every party wants your vote. Post-secondary education is a critical issue to many, and the parties know this. Let’s take a closer look at each party’s plans for post-secondary education. And because Peterborough is such an important riding, I thought that you, the voters and wonderful readers of this paper, deserve more than just me copy and pasting from the party websites. So, I met with every candidate in this riding from the four major parties.

Candace Shaw, New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate for Peterborough-Kawartha, told me that her party’s post-secondary education plans are not just “costed out,” but “specific and strategic.” She said that her party would begin with making student loans interest-free, as the government making billions a year from an “investment” makes no sense. She said that although the NDP hasn’t “committed to it yet,” she said many members “wish to see a move towards no tuition.”

Incumbent Liberal MP Maryam Monsef took a more moderate approach than Shaw and the NDP. She stated that her plans include increasing the amount of student grants; and placing a moratorium on loan repayments unless you make over $35,000 a year and if you have a child under five years old.

Conservative Michael Skinner contrasted heavily with his opponents from the Liberals and NDP. His plans mostly include making sure that students have a good economy to work in when they get out of school. This means making sure that there’s plenty of high-paying jobs available to help alleviate the stress of paying loans back, including lots of support for small business, echoing Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

Green Party candidate Andrew MacGregor did not respond to my request for an interview on time, so I did have to copy and paste a bit from the party platform here. The Green platform states that “universal access to quality post-secondary education and skills training is a right, not a privilege.” Their approach is two-pronged, tackling both post-secondary debt and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples alike, according to their website. Their plans to pay for it include “redirecting existing spending on bursaries, cancelling tuition tax credits, saving the costs of administering the student loan system, and redirecting the hundreds of millions of dollars of student loan defaults written off every year.”

Alex Murphy of the People’s Party of Canada took the libertarian approach, consistent with party leader Maxime Bernier, telling me that “education is a provincial issue.” The NDP and Liberals have been criticized for having plans with further spending, sparking fears of tax increases, and of running major deficits. Bernier himself said in an interview with Dave Rubin on his show, The Rubin Report, that “today’s deficits are tomorrow’s taxes.”Right now, the Liberals are running a $15 billion deficit, giving plenty of fuel to Trudeau’s critics.

Among the youth, the NDP and Liberal plans on post-secondary are incredibly popular. The Tories are eager to retake the riding after disgraced former MP Dean Del Mastro flipped many to Monsef in 2015. This was after he broke spending cap laws in 2008, leading to a long, drawn-out court battle, and ending with him doing a 30-day stint in Lindsay’s correctional centre, and finally his resignation. Ahead of this month’s election, however, CTV has Peterborough-Kawartha listed as a “toss-up” between the Conservatives and the Liberals.

No matter which way you vote, this issue is critical to many. Make sure to research each party’s stance on the issues that matter most to you. Get out to the ballot box on October 21, or October 11 to 14 for advanced polling at any Service Canada location while you’re at home for the long weekend. Make sure you’re registered to vote at elections.ca.