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Students in a post-election Canada

With a 40 per cent win, Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government became the majority leader of Canada last week, with the NDP close behind at 31 per cent. Despite all of their attempts to attract a larger voter turnout from citizens, the CBC reported that 61.4 per cent of Canadians voted – a slight jump from the 2008 59.1 per cent turnout. Despite all of the statistical data and party promises, the real question on the minds of students is: what does this mean for us?

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Date Posted: May 13, 2011
Print Edition: May 13, 2011

By Amy Van Veen (The Cascade) – Email

With a 40 per cent win, Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government became the majority leader of Canada last week, with the NDP close behind at 31 per cent. Despite all of their attempts to attract a larger voter turnout from citizens, the CBC reported that 61.4 per cent of Canadians voted – a slight jump from the 2008 59.1 per cent turnout. Despite all of the statistical data and party promises, the real question on the minds of students is: what does this mean for us?

In their platform, the NDP promised to “make post-secondary education more affordable by directly attacking skyrocketing tuition costs with a designated $800 million transfer to the provinces and territories to lower tuition fees”; to “increase the funding in the Canada Student Grants Program by $200 million a year”; and to “raise the education tax credit from $4800-per-year to $5760-per-year to help with increasing education costs.” Harper’s Conservative party, on the other hand, included few actual figures in their platform and opted instead to call attention to what they have already done, such as having “established the Canada Student Grants Program for low- and middle-income students, part-time students, students with dependents, and students with permanent disabilities”; having “made scholarships and bursaries tax-free, introduced a tax credit for textbooks”; and having “increased greater flexibility in the repayment of student loans.” Their future plans are basically described as building on what they have already set in place; they hope to “enhance the Canada Student Loan Program for part-time students”; “double the work exemption for Canada Student Loans”; and “support research partnerships between college and university researchers and students.”

Despite the parties’ focus on post-secondary education and tuition costs, a poll done by the Historica-Dominion Institute revealed different attitudes than those expected of students. Tuition is not the only thing on the minds of Canada’s next generation, and with so many other issues finding priority, it seems to pale in comparison.

According to Macleans OnCampus, the number one issue on students’ minds is “that [their] standard of living will be lower than [their] parents.” The fragility of the economy has Canadian youth thinking further into the future than just their four years in university. As much as the Conservative and NDP parties have advertised their post-secondary plans, students desire national economic stability to be in place in order for individual financial stability to allow them to move out of their parents’ homes and become self-sufficient adults.

Another concern students have is “that the health care system won’t be there for [them] when [they] need it.” With the highly publicized healthcare controversies south of the border, Canadian youth are reportedly thinking long-term when it comes to being able to survive both financially and physically in a post-election Canada.

Another big concern for students is “the erosion of democracy” and, particularly, how this relates to international affairs and “foreign threats to Canada.” Surprisingly, the Macleans poll found tuition and the environment, which are stereotypical student issues, at the bottom of the list for what Canadian youths are prioritizing.

With these findings regarding the Canadian student population’s main concerns on the table, political leaders may have to rethink their attitudes toward student voters. A platform emphasizing hopes for easier post-secondary finances and a greener earth may be less effective in drawing the student vote than expected as youth are reportedly becoming increasingly concerned with what it means to have physical and economic security in the future, and, more specifically, what it means to have this kind of a future in Canada.

Sources:

http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2011/04/27/where-did-the-idealists-go/

http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2011/05/03/monday-vote-sees-modest-bump-in-turnout/

http://xfer.ndp.ca/2011/2011-Platform/NDP-2011-Platform-En.pdf

http://www.conservative.ca/media/ConservativePlatform2011_ENs.pdf

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