Motion to increase payments to provinces, remove cap on Indigenous education spending passes at NDP convention
The federal New Democratic Party (NDP) passed a motion at their convention Sunday that makes free post-secondary education an official policy plank.
John Hutton, 28, a student at Concordia University wrote the proposal and worked to win support for it. By the time it hit the convention floor a 47 riding associations, clubs and unions supported the idea.
“It took a lot of organizing with a lot of young folks and allies and it felt really great to have a national party that is viable and mainstream adopt free tuition for the first time ever,” said Hutton.
Originally from Halifax, Hutton wants to go to law school, but can’t afford the tens of thousands of dollars in tuition that it would cost him at Dalhousie University where he did a bachelor’s degree in international developments and economics and was the vice-president of the student union.
The NDP’s policy will now be in favour of eliminating tuition and administrative fees by working with provincial governments, which are responsible for delivering education.
The NDP would help provincial governments eliminate tuition by increasing the transfer payments to the provinces. The new policy also states that the party would be for creating student debt relief and forgiveness programs for students who have already accumulated student debt.
Canadian families owe an estimated $37 billion in student loans.
According to the most recent National Graduates Survey college students with debt had an average of almost $15,000 while university students had an average of debt of $26,000.
A statement from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) on Facebook said that they are celebrating the NDP’s new free education policy and look forward to seeing it in the party’s election platform.
“I hope other parties follow suit or see the value and equity in increased access to education like the NDP do,” said Coty Zachariah, the national chairperson for the CFS.
The policy also added language that the cap on funding Indigenous education be lifted. Currently there is a two per cent cap on increasing federal funding for Indigenous education that was put in place by the Liberal government in 1996.
In the 2015 election, the NDP said that they would increase funding for Indigenous education by boosting the Post-Secondary Support Program by $1.8 billion over four years. In the 2017 federal budget the Liberals allocated an additional $90 million over two years, effectively lifting the two per cent cap.
“We’re not a poor country, we have lots and lots of resources,” said Hutton who said the NDP would work to close tax loopholes to pay for free education. “But we’re letting them sit in offshore bank accounts.”
For Hutton, the policy fight was just the start of organizing for free education in the NDP.
“We’ll take this discussion into the streets, into our campuses and into our communities and to the news, so people know that free education is not only possible, it’s coming soon and we’re going to make it happen.”