Trudeau criticized Premier Doug Ford for his cuts to education funding. JUSTIN TRUDEAU/CC FLICKR

Liberal Party leader and incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled his party’s full platform at a town hall event held this Sunday at UTM. In it, he set out a “real plan for the middle class.” The platform is set to increase spending on student grants, child benefits, and the environment by billions of dollars, at the expense of the wealthiest one per cent of Canadians. He also took questions from students, community members, and the press.

Restructuring of student grants

In introducing his plan to support students, Trudeau brought up Premier Doug Ford’s changes to education in Ontario.

“Doug Ford slashes education funding and makes it near impossible to pay for tuition.”

Under a Liberal government, Trudeau vowed to increase the Canada Student Grants by another 40 per cent, a move he claims will provide students with an additional $1,200 per year for tuition, books, and rent. The maximum Canada Student Grant will be raised to $4,200, up from $3,000.

He will also institute a two-year interest-free grace period with a minimum $35,000 income requirement, which is an increase from the previous six-month grace period. This means that even after the two-year grace period elapses, students will not have to start their student loan repayments until they are making at least $35,000 a year. Parents with student debt will also have the option to freeze their loan payments until their child reaches the age of five.

When asked about her thoughts on Trudeau’s plan for students, UTM student Maha Taieldien said in an interview with The Varsity, “I think it’s a step in the right direction. There’s obviously a lot more that they can do, but it’s baby steps.”

Tax cuts for the middle class

Trudeau kicked off the event with a scathing criticism of conservative politics, both federal and provincial.

“When he was campaigning, Doug Ford said that not a single person would lose their job to pay for his massive cuts. Well, tell that to the 10,000 Ontario teachers who are losing their jobs. Andrew Scheer is asking you to double down on Conservatives. That’s twice the handouts for big polluters and the wealthy, and twice the cuts for you and your family.”

In response, he promised to make Canadian lives more affordable. He plans to achieve this with tax cuts for the middle class — cuts that he claims will save the average family $600 a year and lift 38,000 Canadians out of poverty.

In addition, the platform, which was titled “Forward: A Real Plan for the Middle Class,” aims to cut phone bills by 25 per cent, provide interest-free loans of up to $40,000 for families who wish to retrofit their homes, and boost the Canada Child Benefit so that families with newborns will receive up to $1,000 more in payments.

On climate action

Trudeau said that Canada will reach net zero emissions by 2050 under his government, and that fossil fuel subsidies will be phased out by 2025.

“In the process, we’ll become world leaders in clean technology.”

He also defended his Liberal government’s move to greenlight the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, promising that profits from the pipeline will go directly back to funding clean energy projects and an initiative to plant two billion trees in the next decade.

“I’m glad that they’re doing something about it but I just feel like 2050 is very far into the future,” noted Taieldien.

Emphasizing the point of her fellow classmate, UTM student Amanda Hammad said, “especially based on how much limited time we have, I agree, it’s something that needs to be done sooner.”

Media response

When taking questions from the press, Trudeau faced multiple queries regarding how he plans to fund his tax cuts and benefits for students and the middle class, while continuing to work toward a balanced budget.

His answers often repeated the same sentiment that increased investment in the middle class would result in greater economic output. These answers weren’t well received by journalists who were looking for specific plans on when and how Trudeau might curb his spending.

Trudeau also faced scrutiny for continuously mentioning Doug Ford, a provincial politician. One journalist asked if Trudeau was attempting to associate Ford with Scheer. In response, Trudeau noted that, “Mr. Scheer is the person who has associated himself with Doug Ford.”

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