(Left to right) Courtesy of The Green Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada, the Conservative Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party of Canada.

In the coming weeks, Canadian students will have the opportunity to help elect a government that will best serve their interests. Those interests? The cost of education, the impending effects of the climate crisis, and affordable housing, just to name a few.

Over the past few decades, Liberal and Conservative governments have not done enough to address these issues for Canada’s youth. It’s up to us now to start a movement, created by us but represented federally by Jagmeet Singh and the New Democratic Party (NDP), to enact real change on these issues and shape a bright future for young Canadians.

Earlier this year, the Ford government made sweeping changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) that bit hard into the financial security of many students. Federal Conservatives have shown a disdain for universities, and one can only imagine they will “find efficiencies” the same way the Ontario government did — putting money back in the wallets of the wealthy, while cutting into social services that average Canadians rely on.

Liberal and Conservative governments have passed as tuition costs have skyrocketed — why? Since 1990, the federal government’s share of university funding has fallen by nearly 50 per cent, and tuition costs have easily outpaced inflation.

In 2018, Canadian students owed $28 billion in student debt, with $19 billion owed to the federal government. A survey completed in 2015 of 18,000 graduating university students showed that the average indebted student owed more than $26,000 in student debt.

Young Canadians should not have to begin their adult lives drowning in debt that can take years to pay off, in addition to its tremendous toll on mental health. Instead, young Canadians should be able to put that money back into the economy, and back into their wallets. A New Democrat government wants to bring to the federal level what five provinces have already decided to do — an elimination of interest on student loans.

in 2015… the average indebted student owed more than $26,000 in student debt

Canadians are also worried about the climate – as everyone around the world should be. Millions of people globally have participated in climate strikes in September alone, and it’s time Canadian voices are represented by a party willing to act on climate change. The Liberals have talked a big game on the climate crisis but have pathetically failed to create any meaningful change. The so-called ‘progressive’ Trudeau government declared a “climate emergency” one day, and approved expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline the very next.

Meanwhile, the Conservative plan for climate change is projected to miss its 2015 Paris Climate Agreement targets by a margin even worse than under current Liberal policy. The status quo means catastrophe — just one taste of this is the danger facing low-lying coastal areas, home to millions of people, due to rising sea levels.

The climate crisis cannot just be tackled by individual action, nor by ‘market-based’ reforms. To avoid this catastrophe, the world needs bold leadership on climate issues, and for Canadians, a New Democrat government would push this leadership forward and confront the largest emitters — big corporations.

The NDP have not only committed to a day-one elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, but A New Deal For People would support communities across the country by creating 300,000 jobs through re-investment into carbon-free energy sources. Canadians need a better way to get around — our cities and infrastructure are car-centric and it’s time to evolve cities through cheaper, cleaner and more convenient public transit.

‘How are we going to pay for it?’ is the inevitable question that accompanies any proposal to strengthen social services that benefit ordinary people. Part of the NDP’s answer is a super-wealth tax. According to the parliamentary budget officer, the policy would apply a one per cent tax to assets worth more than $20 million, raising nearly $70 billion over the next ten years.

the world needs bold leadership on climate issues, and for Canadians, a New Democrat government would push this leadership forward

The tax would only apply to the top one tenth of the one per cent of Canada, generating abundant revenue to fulfill the monetary requirements of other NDP policies. Hence, the NDP’s platform on taxes is the vanguard of necessary social reform, which posits tackling the strenuous issues of economic inequality and tax fairness.

The revenue generated from this tax would be necessary and practical in fulfilling platforms such as universal pharma care and publicly funded dental, mental, and vision care.

Inequality is a growing issue for Canadians — 87 of the richest families own the same wealth as the 12 million poorest Canadians. Inequality burdens society by rupturing and weakening the social fabric that allows liberal democracies to progress; the byproducts of inequality include reduced life expectancy, lower economic growth, and poorer quality social services.

In Canada, the issue of wealth inequality can be blamed on the abundant loopholes in the tax system — regularly exploited by the wealthy to escape paying the defined tax rates. For example, money made through stocks or real estate recieves a half-off on taxes, and money made from corporate dividends rewards a tax break.

The NDP proposes to seriously reform the shallow tax system, not just through the super-wealth tax, but through other reforms, including increasing the corporate tax rate from 15–18 per cent and bumping the top income tax rate for those making over $210,000, by two per cent.

If we vote for a fake progressive, what we’ll get is a fake progressive. The disease of corporate influence plagues both parties.

Additionally, closing tax loopholes such as the CEO stock option deduction strengthens the tax system, and creates a healthy, productive, and just economic landscape by enforcing tax fairness.

Thus, the NDP platform on tax reform is distinct in its character from other parties’ policies towards the same; the NDP champions economic justice to a dysfunctional and hollow tax system which fails to mitigate the challenges of inequality. Voting NDP means changing this and constructing a more just society for all Canadian, and setting a popular fiscal precedent in tax reform.

Finally, we realize many young Canadians are thinking about strategic voting. Some of our peers understandably seek to avoid an Andrew Scheer government, and are willing to put aside their dissatisfaction with Trudeau’s Liberals toward that end. I heard a classmate ask, “are we going to let Trudeau’s blackface scandal be the reason Scheer wins?”

To these concerned students we say — let’s aim higher. The failures of the Trudeau government will be to blame should they lose. If we vote for a fake progressive, what we’ll get is a fake progressive. The disease of corporate influence plagues both parties. Instead, let’s make actual progress.

Firaz Alvarez is a third-year Political Science and International Development Studies student at UTSC and the New Democratic Students of Scarborough External Co-Director. Shehryar Shaukat is a fourth-year Political Science student at UTSC and the New Democratic Students of Scarborough Communications Director.

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