Local MPP candidates address student issues

Clockwise from top left: Liberal candidate Jamie Burton, Green party candidate Stacey Danckert, NDP incumbent Catherine Fife and PC candidate Tracey Weiler

Clockwise from top left: Liberal candidate Jamie Burton, Green Party candidate Stacey Danckert, NDP incumbent Catherine Fife and PC candidate Tracey Weiler

With two universities and one college located in Waterloo region, students are large stakeholders in the community. With the June 12 provincial election approaching, the local party leaders have a particular set of issues to address alongside those of the community at large.

The parties have chosen to engage in a variety of student-related concerns, such as affordable education, job creation and improvements to transit. The Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party and Green Party spoke to The Cord about the issues they’re carrying forward to the election.

Liberal candidate Jamie Burton has been engaging with the post-secondary students in Waterloo through student debates. She outlined the Liberal platform as embodying elements of equal opportunity, innovation and education.

“There are many opportunities with education to invest. We have developed a $150 million plan that speaks to technology and learning. There is real potential to developing strategies that speak to all of our children,” said Burton.

The Liberals are also choosing to maintain the 30 per cent tuition credit, despite the other party leaders noting that it has only been helping 30 per cent of post-secondary students in Ontario.

Burton explained that the Liberal government is also planning to help youth employment rates.

“We have invested in a youth job strategy fund that is going to continue. It has already demonstrated its success by 1,200 positions that were created in January 2012,” she said.

However, NDP incumbent Catherine Fife mentioned that the Liberals are planning on increasing tuition rates.

“The Liberals were planning on raising post-secondary tuition, indexing the tuition to the cost of inflation by two to three per cent,” she said.

Local PC candidate, Tracey Weiler, summarized the objective of the PC platform as addressing issues of jobs and the economy. This can specifically be observed with Tim Hudak’s “Million Jobs Plan,” which has been proven by many notable economists to not add up.

Weiler expressed that students are concerned with finding jobs out of university, and the PC’s plan will remedy this situation.

Additionally, she explained that the PCs plan will ensure the system is more flexible in transferring credits between college and university. They also plan to eliminate the 30 per cent tuition credit for post-secondary students.

“The 30 per cent tax credit … was not meeting the objectives it was meant to meet, including the people, the students that really need the money the most,” said Weiler.

“We would more broadly ensure that post-secondary education is available to all. We want our universities to offer access, as well as when people are there, to produce excellence. It is a broad commitment at this time.”

Weiler has also been engaging with students within the region through student debates, as well as meeting with various student unions.

Fife has also met with student unions, participated in debates and interviews in an attempt to engage with the concerns of post-secondary students.

She explained that the NDPs are committed to freezing post-secondary tuition, and making student loans interest-free in order to avoid debt. In addition, she said the NDPs will work to improve youth employment.

“We are focused on supporting small and medium-sized businesses through targeted tax credits that rewards job creators and incentivizes capital infrastructure investment. We have seen that small and medium sized-businesses are the largest job creators,” Fife said.

In order to improve transit, Fife’s party plans to install a two-way all-day Go train service to be up and running as soon as possible.

Fife concluded, “The reason the NDP could not support the Liberal budget is because it had nothing valuable in it for university or college students. This is a serious concern.”

According to Stacey Danckert, local Green Party candidate, the party’s platform places a focus on job creation, protecting children’s futures and the environment.

Danckert has also participated in various student debates and has had discussions with universities’ student unions.

“We are offering a social innovation foundation, which is essentially a grant opportunity that links mentorship programming with grant opportunities that actually helps students who have ideas they want to pursue actually create their own jobs and employment opportunities,” explained Danckert.

Danckert also plans on implementing a two-way, all-day Go train service between Toronto and the region.

All candidates share student initiatives they believe would be beneficial to post-secondary students, regarding tuition, employment, education and transit. The outcome of this election will certainly impact the experiences of students in the province.

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