Platform: Liberal Party of Canada

OTTAWA (CUP) — Post-secondary announcements from the Liberal Party of Canada will be tracked here throughout the campaign.

Non-repayable student assistance

On March 29, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff unveiled a portion of his party’s post-secondary education-related platform on day four of the campaign. The Liberals are promising to dedicate $1 billion annually for their “Learning Passport” program, which would funnel non-repayable student assistance directly to families through Registered Education Savings Plans — people would not be required to contribute to the RESP to receive the funding, though they would need to open an RESP account.

The Liberals are promising $1,000 per year to a maximum of $4,000 for high school students who want to attend university, college or CEGEP, and will bump that up to $1,500 a year and $6,000 over four years for students from low-income families.

The program would be included in the first Liberal budget with a projected launch in September 2012. Government contributions would be collected in the RESP as the student is finishing high school and would be paid out in increments at the beginning of each school year. If a student completes a program in under four years, the additional funds would be available for further post-secondary studies in later years.

The “Learning Passport” would be tax-free and provided alongside existing financial assistance programs — and while the Tuition Tax Credit would remain, this plan would replace the existing Education and Textbook tax credits.

The funds would also be made available to students who do not choose to pursue studies directly after high school, and a “transition period” would be implemented so current students would be able to benefit from the program as they complete their studies.

Educational support for veterans

In a platform announcement on April 3, the Liberals outlined a new Veterans’ Learning Benefit where men and women who have completed service with the Canadian Forces could receive complete funding for up to four years of university, college or technical training.

This support would cover tuition, books, accommodation and living expenses, and would be available to any current and future Canadian Forces members after they are honourably discharged. Additionally, the support could be transferred to a spouse if the veteran isn’t able to take advantage of it.

The Liberals estimate this would require an investment of up to $120 million over their first two years in government.

Also, under the Canadian military section of their platform, the Liberals would invest $25 million in year one and $15 million in year two to restore College Militaire Royal de Saint-Jean in Quebec to full university status.

Support for Aboriginal students

The Liberals would propose lifting the cap on post-secondary education funding for Aboriginal students, an investment of $200 million in the first two years. They would also create a Canada Métis Scholarship program, where $5 million would be invested annually.

The Liberals also stated they would re-finance the First Nations University of Canada in Saskatchewan. In the government’s second year, another $300 million would be invested in improving K-12 education for young Aboriginal students.

Youth unemployment

The Liberal platform briefly outlines a Youth Hiring Incentive, which would apply to small- and medium-sized businesses who hire young people aged 18-25. A 100 per cent Employment Insurance holiday would be available to every new youth hire for three years and would affect an estimated 170,000 young Canadians. This represents an annual investment of $130-160 million and is described as an “immediate” step.

Emphasis on innovation

The Liberals also indicated they would “concentrate on three key sectors expected to be sources of growth in the global economy in the coming years,” including clean resources, health and biosciences, and digital technologies. The platform also mentions a Canadian Learning Strategy with “major new investments in the knowledge-based workforce of tomorrow.”

A new Innovation Gateway program would also see what the Liberals call “business incubators and innovation clusters” when it comes to partnerships with colleges and universities, and the platform also calls for an increase in investments for science, technology and basic research “as the country’s financial situation improves.”

Additional post-secondary assistance

Another aspect of the Liberals’ Learning Passport includes some loan forgiveness: $1,500 in student loans will be forgiven for students who complete at least 150 hours of community service through a Canada Service Corps program. This volunteer initiative would replace the Canadian Volunteer Initiative cancelled by the Harper government and would require an investment of $180 million over four years to “fund training and capacity building programs to encourage, sustain and support volunteerism.”

About $160 million of the money would be dedicated to the student loan forgiveness aspect and would create up to 26,000 volunteer positions for students to take on after graduating from their post-secondary education studies.

Additionally, while the Liberals would end the Textbook and Education tax credits to further support their Learning Passport program, the tax credits would still be available to graduate students.


A compilation of the Conservatives‘ post-secondary promises

A compilation of the Greens‘ post-secondary promises

A compilation of the NDPs‘ post-secondary promises

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