For economic growth, students should vote Conservative

In four years, the Liberals have done little good for the Canadian economy, foreign relations

For economic growth, students should vote Conservative

The federal election is close, and surrounding discussion is focused more on politicians’ pasts than their party’s platform. Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau’s brownface and blackface incidents during his teaching years, and Liberal MP candidate Jaime Battiste’s past homophobic and sexist tweets are both setting the stage. No one seems to be interested in talking about the state of the Canadian economy.

However, voters — especially students — must take economic sustainability into consideration. Growth cannot be achieved if we allow economic policy to continue as it has these past four years. As Matthew Lau wrote in an opinion piece for the Financial Post, “if the most important issue to voters is the economy, then one thing is for certain: the Liberals deserve to lose.”

The Liberal government has been in power since 2015, and during these four years, it has done nothing but present Canadians with failed promises, broken pledges, and an immense deficit. Trudeau has shown his extreme amateurism with a 2015 promise of a balanced budget by 2019 — a promise which was broken after a string of yearly deficits. To rub salt in the wound, Trudeau used taxpayer money to pay for his $215,000 Bahamas vacation. What happened to budgeting? 

Foreign policy has also cost us under the Liberal government. The reality of Liberal foreign policies has been the exact opposite of their 2015 promises. Rather than restoring Canada’s credibility, the Liberals have chosen virtue-signalling over its real diplomacy, which has damaged Canada’s economic relationships.

Take the 2018 scandal between Chrystia Freeland, who is running for re-election as the University–Rosedale MP, and the Saudi Arabian government. As the foreign affairs minister, Freeland strongly criticized the arrests of human rights activists by the Saudi government, leading to the Saudis expelling the Canadian ambassador, withdrawing investments from Canada, and threatening to end Saudi-Canadian student exchange programs.

Canada is not a global superpower, and it is not a smart move to make other countries angry. It’s as if the Liberal Party truly believes Canada could become the world’s first moral superpower. It is time for the Canadian government to think of the economy rather than morals, but it seems Liberals would rather cherish morality in exchange for foreign investments.

The Conservative government may not have been the all-inclusive, welcoming paradise that the Liberals dream of. However, as Lau noted, Canada’s real GDP per capita growth was comparable to that of the US during Stephen Harper’s time in office. 

This was not the case under Trudeau: in the last four years, Canada’s GDP per capita increased by 2.7 per cent, versus the US’ 6.3 per cent — and the Americans have Donald Trump as their president. Not only is GDP growth per capita suffering, but Trudeau’s promises on budgeting and debt also seem to have vanished alongside his other pledges during his 2015 election campaign.

While it may be misleading to solely contribute a nation’s economic status to the actions of its political leaders, the impact of our government’s economic policies on the economy cannot be ignored. Government policies set the stage for positive economic growth.

It’s impossible to have a debt-free nation, but making a promise of a $9.5 billion in 2018, compared to the $19 billion reality is simply a nightmare. For the 2019 campaign, the Liberals are including $9.3 billion in new spending for 2020–2021, with the deficit rising to $27.4 billion. Given the current economic trends, a return to a balanced budget may not appear until at least 2040. On the other hand, Scheer promises to balance the budget in five years, which will surely relieve some of the national debt.

Lau addressed critics who point to the decline of oil prices in 2015 as the reason for subpar economic performance under the Liberals. However, when one considers that the price of oil started to recover in 2016, just as the Liberals took office, it becomes evident that external price fluctuations are not to blame.

The problem is not what the state of the economy was in 2015, but rather Trudeau’s horrific economic policies. While Liberals promise to “make life more affordable for Canadian families,” they are actually adding on to Canadian middle-class taxes. Just consider, as Lau did, the increased burden of the payroll tax, marginal income tax, and small business investment taxes under their administration.

Another concerning policy is the Liberals’ draw to deferred taxes. Lau pointed out that around $75 billion in these taxes were added, which points to future tax bills to be footed by the public.

Scheer has promised to erase the immense trade deficit and cut taxes, cancelling $1.5 billion in corporate handouts and subsidies. It is in Canada’s best interest to trust the Conservative’s promises to fix the Canadian tax problem and trade deficit rather than the Liberal pledge to add more debt to the already indebted country. With the Liberals in power, there is no going forward, only sinking deeper in piles of taxes, debt, and deficits.

With the surge of taxes, public debt, trade deficits, and slow GDP growth, even the Liberal party can agree that the economy hasn’t been at its best under its watch. Overspending, billions in corporate handouts and subsidies, using tax money for unrelated business, and creating billions in deficits and public debt with a stagnating growth rate of GDP per capita, all under the good name that the Liberals are the ‘more moral political party,’ perhaps it is time to think about whether Canada needs morality or diplomacy.

The Liberal party has created damage to Canada that has significantly affected Canadian society. It is by voting that we can show our concern and make our voices heard. The government has power over a nation, but it is society who gives power to the government of their choice. We can be part of the decision-making process and create changes within our community and country — if you do not make the decision for yourself, others will make it for you.

Everyone wants to be on the ‘good side’ when it comes to voting, but how are you to value the morality of the Liberal government when it has been handing out broken promises and lies during its four years of power? In the coming weeks, students must vote for the party that best understands their economic interests — vote Conservative.

Asal Arefi is a first-year Social Sciences student at University College.

Editor’s Note (October 20, 12:01 pm): A previous version of this article made several references to a Financial Post opinion piece without sufficiently accrediting its author, Matthew Lau. This article has been revised to provide for sufficient accreditation. The Varsity regrets this error.

We’ve had enough

It’s time (no, really) to tackle the student debt crisis

We’ve had enough

According to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), the average Canadian university student has accrued $28,000 by the time they graduate. The number alone is chilling enough, but for some Ontario students, the debt problem comprises more than just a hefty OSAP tab. There’s interest on that debt, collection threats, withheld diplomas, repayment deadlines, and post-degree jobs that don’t pay enough to pay it all back.

Thankfully, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recently axed a condition that cut support to loan recipients making over $100 a week, a policy that effectively ensnared students in a low-income quagmire. Every time they tried to climb out of the debt trap, the government dumped another bucket over their heads, subtracting a funding dollar for every buck earned over the limit. Now, students can reap the OSAP cash to which they’re entitled, while having the option to boost income through employment earnings, allowing them to avoid accruing debt from banks and credit cards.

While this move seems to signal that the federal government recognizes the seriousness of student, Trudeau has made no move to pressure provinces to limit tuition fees themselves. As such, the crisis remains driven by two primary factors: high tuition and lack of individual funding.   

Only 15 years ago, Ontario tuition stood at about half its current level. According to U of T, this is the province’s fault: the 2011 budget report declaimed inadequate government support, which has fallen since operating grants were frozen in 1994. That loss, the report says, is directly to blame for the eight to 10 percent annual tuition increase. And tuition will continue to rise — meaning bigger loans for students — unless universities receive appropriate provincial funding.

In addition to dilated tuition costs, Canada’s student debt problem lies in a disparity between personal loan maximums and the real prices students pay to live and learn. While U of T places the monthly cost of living at $1,500, the 2014 OSAP review manual calculated that single independent students were only in need of $1,124. The gap, when there is one, might be filled with private loans, leading to the aforementioned debt troubles.

Why have governments in the last two decades permitted — nay, fostered — a disparity between what’s financially demanded of us and what’s meted out? 

We took great strides hastening to a debt crisis; we shouldn’t be taking baby steps to get ourselves out of it.

In light of the government’s foot-dragging on the issue, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) recently demanded a tuition freeze. OUSA claims personal grants aren’t enough when university operating costs are “carried on the backs of students,” who, as OUSA’s president Spencer Nestico-Semianiw told the Toronto Star last week, presently contribute more to post-secondary institutions than any other group — including our provincial government. 

Yet Nestico-Semianiw also told me over the phone that he supported Trudeau’s low-ball election promises over something more substantial. The federal government plays more of a “financial aid role”, he said, and ought to stay on that track, but OUSA certainly encourages the feds to push provinces in the direction of tuition fee limits. 

When I asked why we shouldn’t demand the elimination of tuition fees altogether, Nestico-Semianiw argued that a feasibly implementable system requires both grants and subsidies. Grants direct the funding to students who need it most, he said, while freezing tuition helps disadvantaged individuals avoid “sticker shock” when contemplating enrolment. For OUSA, it’s the most practical and fairest solution, one with affordable steps that can be taken as early as next year.

I’m not an expert, but I’m not convinced by OUSA’s piecemeal approach. Other countries have figured out how to provide free tuition without depleting the public purse. Norway, which has a tax rate comparable to Canada, has done it; France, Germany, and Brazil have also figured it out. At any rate, sacrificing a valuable ideal for mere practicality seems to me a scary proposition, a compromise we shouldn’t be willing to make. 

While Ontario has attempted to remedy that shortfall in recent years by providing additional grants directly to students who need them most, this mandate merely helps the poor after they’ve already taken the risk of enrolment, rather than preventing the problem in the first place. We took great strides hastening to a debt crisis; we shouldn’t be taking baby steps to get ourselves out of it.

Malone Mullin is a fifth-year student studying philosophy. Her column appears every three weeks.