NDP tables bill to make higher education more affordable

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Canada Post-Secondary Education Act would hold provinces to standards to receive federal dollars

OTTAWA – After decades of cuts from consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments, Canadian universities are struggling and students and workers are suffering as a result. NDP Member of Parliament Heather McPherson (Edmonton Strathcona) tabled the Canada Post-Secondary Education Act to help restore public funding for post-secondary institutions and make higher education more affordable for students. The bill was seconded by MP Blake Desjarlais (Edmonton Griesbach), NDP critic for post-secondary education.
 
“Over the past two decades, declining federal funding for post-secondary education has led to higher tuition costs, outsourcing of academic and support labour, and diminishing quality. It is putting academic institutions at risk of failure,” McPherson explained. “This bill brings the federal government back to the table as a partner with the provinces to make access to post-secondary education a priority in Canada.”
 
The act creates a separate post-secondary financial transfer to provinces and requires provinces to meet qualifying criteria to receive federal support. McPherson’s bill would make federal support conditional on provinces limiting the use of short-term contracts and casual labour for workers as well as and ensuring reasonable access to academically capable applicants regardless of their financial situation.  
 
“Young Canadians are struggling as tuition fees have doubled across Canada. Student debt is at an all-time high while provinces like Alberta are slashing post-secondary budgets. This is not sustainable,” said Desjarlais. “If Canada is going to have a 21st Century economy, the federal government must restore funding for higher education and ensure that every qualified student can get the education they need to thrive.”
 
Instead of helping students who are struggling, from October 2020 to October 2021, while the pandemic raged on, the federal government collected almost $3.2 billion worth of student loan payments
 
McPherson’s bill is welcomed by educators and groups who advocate on their behalf like the Canadian Association of University Teachers. 
 
“The impact of provincial cuts to post-secondary education are devastating and the federal government can’t abandon workers or the future of our county – the system needs support. Recent government investments in childcare and mental health, along with a clear federal role in research and health care, show that the age-old excuse that education is exclusively provincial jurisdiction simply doesn’t hold up to reality and the federal government can’t simply abandon these issues in education to the provinces alone,” said Brenda Austin-Smith, President of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
 
Students are also supporting the bill. The Canadian Federation of Students, which represents student unions at colleges and universities across Canada.
 
“Today, we stand in solidarity with the millions of students, teachers and workers calling on the federal government to invest in high-quality, affordable and accessible post-secondary education by urging Members of Parliament to support the Canada Post-Secondary Education Act,” said Alannah McKay Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students.

“Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have allowed Canada to fall behind other countries when it comes to public funding for post-secondary education,” said McPherson. “This bill is an important first step to restoring our economy and making Canada a leader again in higher education.”