On Campus

Students targeted in five provincial elections

Candidates promise tuition freezes, bursaries and grants

Photo courtesy of a.drian on Flickr

Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial NDP Leader Lorraine Michael says her party would phase-in needs-based grants to replace student loans in its first year of government.

It’s the latest — and arguably the boldest — election promise made to students by a party leader in the last two weeks. With five provincial elections this fall, leaders are busy courting student voters.

Under Michael’s plan, 8,000 students would have their tuition subsidized entirely. The program would cost $4.7-million in year one, they say.

But the NDP isn’t likely to win on Oct. 11. Corporate Research Associates (CRA), a polling firm, puts the Newfoundland Progressive Conservatives under premier Kathy Dunderdale at 54 per cent support, with the NDP a distant second at 24 per cent and the Liberals in third at 22 per cent.

The province already has the lowest university tuition fees in Canada — $2,624 in 2010-11, compared to $6,307 in Ontario. And tuition fees are a perennial issue in provincial campaigns.

In Ontario, where the Liberal party under Premier Dalton McGuinty is facing a serious challenge from the Progressive Conservatives under Tim Hudak,  the Liberals are promising tuition grants to reduce the cost of post-secondary by 30 per cent. Hudak is promising more access to student loans for students from middle class families. Ontarians will vote on Oct. 6.

In Manitoba, where there is a two-way race between the Progressive Conservatives led by Hugh McFadyen and the New Democrats under Premier Greg Selinger, the NDP promises more funding for universities and to maintain a tuition freeze. Voters there cast ballots on Oct. 4.

In Prince Edward Island, where voters go to the polls Oct. 3, Liberal leader Robert Ghiz has proposed elimination of the interest from the provincial portion of student loans, plus a boost to bursaries. Ghiz leads Progressive Conservative Olive Crane 59 to 31 per cent, says a CRA poll.

Students in Saskatchewan can expect election promises there soon. That election is on Nov. 7.

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