Liberal Party sweeps U of T ridings in re-election as minority government

Results demonstrate electoral disparities, need for parties to cooperate

Liberal Party sweeps U of T ridings in re-election as  minority government

The 2019 Canadian federal election saw the Liberal Party remain in power, although it lost 27 seats compared to the 2015 elections and was reduced from a majority to a minority government.

Liberal incumbents won all three of U of T’s ridings: Chrystia Freeland for University–Rosedale, where UTSG is located; Iqra Khalid for Mississauga–Erin Mills, where UTM is located; and Gary Anadasangaree for Scarborough–Rouge Park, where UTSC is located.

For students, the Liberal Party platform promised a two-year grace period on paying off student loans, increasing the loan repayment threshold to $35,000 a year, and increasing grants by 40 per cent.

Electoral disparities

Even though the Conservative Party won fewer seats than the Liberals, it comfortably topped the popular vote at 34.4 per cent compared to the Liberals’ 33 per cent. The other big shifts occurred with the Bloc Québécois (BQ), which gained 22 seats to reach a total of 32, and the New Democratic Party, which lost 15 seats to fall to a total of 24.

The election displayed the disparity between votes and seats under the first-past-the-post voting system. While the Green Party won 6.5 per cent of the total vote, it only won three seats. Meanwhile, the BQ’s 7.7 per cent of the vote translated into 32 seats in Québec.

In 2015, the Liberals promised electoral reform to even out these disparities. The Liberals abandoned this commitment in 2017 and appear to have benefitted from that decision, as they won the election despite more Canadians voting for another party.

Leading a minority government

“I do think that the shine has come off of the Liberal brand a little bit in the last four years,” said U of T political science professor Andrew McDougall on the election outcome. “When Trudeau came in, he had sky-high expectations of doing politics differently, and he projected this sort of young, energetic leader who was going to really sort of change everything for a better progressive future. And of course, perhaps inevitably, he couldn’t live up to any of that, or even live up to a lot of that.”

Looking into the future, McDougall predicts that this government is “not going to last the full four or five years… The opposition parties are going to give the Liberals some time to govern… but they’re going to be waiting for their opportunity to bring down the government about 18 months to two years, and [hold] an election at a time that they feel is best for them.”

Unlike with their previous majority government, the Liberals will now have to gain support from the opposition parties in order to govern and pass legislation. Having rejected a coalition government with other parties, the Liberals will “have to work on an issue by issue basis with these parties on their platform. But the parties are going to have a say now in what those policies look like,” said McDougall.

Candidate Profiles for Mississauga–Erin Mills

Meet your candidates for UTM’s MP

Candidate Profiles for Mississauga–Erin Mills

On the final day of voting, here are the federal candidates for UTM’s riding of Mississauga–Erin Mills.

Iqra Khalid, Liberal Party MP candidate

Iqra Khalid is the Liberal candidate running for re-election as MP for the Mississauga–Erin Mills riding, where the UTM campus is located.

After her election in 2015, Khalid came to national attention in December 2016 for tabling Motion 103, which called for a condemnation of  “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” The motion was opposed by some Conservative MPs, who called it an attack on free speech and freedom of expression. Although the motion passed, it stirred debate online and caused protests and demonstrations throughout the country.

In August 2018, Khalid made national news again after giving a community service award to Amin El-Maoued, the public relations chief of Palestine House, who was accused of anti-Semitism. Though Khalid later apologized and rescinded the award, she was criticized again this September for meeting with El-Maoued at his home in Mississauga, prompting the Conservative Party to call on Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau to “fire” Khalid.

Most recently, Khalid spoke out in support of Trudeau after several photos and a video emerged of him wearing blackface and brownface. Khalid emphasized that the prime minister’s actions do not detract from his term in office. “I’ve seen him put his money where his mouth is. I’ve seen him really go above and beyond to make sure that he’s standing with vulnerable communities to really speak out against racism,” she said.

Hani Tawfilis, Conservative Party MP candidate

Hani Tawfilis is the Conservative candidate for Mississauga–Erin Mills, where the UTM campus is located. Tawfilis declined to attend a candidate debate at UTM, instead opting for a meet-and-greet with the UTM Campus Conservatives, according to Mississauga.com.

Tawfilis is a pharmacy store owner, licensed pharmacist, and according to the Conservative Party website, a spokesperson for the Coptic Orthodox Community.

The Varsity has reached out to Tawfilis for comment.

Salman Tariq, New Democratic Party MP candidate

Salman Tariq is the New Democratic Party (NDP) MP candidate for the Mississauga–Erin Mills riding, where the UTM campus is located. Outside of politics, Tariq connects international students to academic opportunities through his work as a consultant.

Tariq’s top priorities include lowering student debt, implementing universal pharma care, and creating more affordable housing and internet services.

At a federal candidates debate held at UTM on October 2, Tariq elaborated on his promises related to student debt. According to Mississauga.com, Tariq pledged that the NDP would get rid of interest on student loans and criticized the Liberals for not having done this already. In addition, Tariq promised that the NDP would create more grants for postsecondary students.

The Conservative candidate for the same riding, Hani Tawfilis, was absent from the debate, opting instead to attend a meet-and-greet organized by the UTM Campus Conservatives. Tariq responded to Tawfilis’ absence at the debate, writing to Mississauga.com, “all people who put their name on the ballot should be available to speak to the constituents.”

The Varsity has reached out to Tariq for comment.

Remo Boscarino-Gaetano, Green Party MP candidate

Remo Boscarino-Gaetano is the Green Party MP candidate for the Mississauga–Erin Mills, riding, where the UTM campus is located. Currently an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph, Boscarino-Gaetano identified the two most important issues facing students as being the climate crisis and the rising cost of living.

“I chose to run for the Green Party not only for its clear commitments on climate change, but also for its socially progressive values,” wrote Boscarino-Gaetano in an email to The Varsity.

The Green Party plans to make all postsecondary education free and forgive all student debt owed to the federal government. It also plans to remove the two per cent cap on increases in funding for Indigenous students. On the topic of student mental health, Boscarino-Gaetano wrote that he agrees that the federal government needs to do more.

Regarding the environment, Boscarino-Gaetano firmly believes that “universities should absolutely divest from fossil fuels,” and “[invest] in clean technology, as that is the clear path that the rest of the world is travelling and we cannot afford to get left behind.”

“I’m disgusted by the Ford government’s attacks on students,” wrote Boscarino-Gaetano, calling the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) “an affront to our rights as students.” He hopes that the SCI will be overturned in the ongoing court case.

 

Candidate profiles for University–Rosedale

Meet your candidates for UTSG’s MP

Candidate profiles for University–Rosedale

On the final day of voting, here are the federal candidates for UTSG’s riding of University–Rosedale.

Chrystia Freeland, Liberal MP candidate 

Chrystia Freeland is the Liberal candidate running for re-election as MP for the University–Rosedale riding, where the UTSG campus is located. She is the current minister of foreign affairs and is the former minister of international trade. Following a career in journalism, Freeland began pursuing politics in 2013.

“We are seeing in too many countries — where you have a group of people in the country who are left behind — that that creates an opportunity for irresponsible politicians to whip up a sort of angry nativist sentiment,” Freeland said in a recent interview with the CBC.

In recent years, students and young people have emerged as a significant force in advocating for the environment. U of T students have been critical of the government’s decision to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline.

In response to such criticism, Freeland said, “We need to be a combination of ambitious about our goals, [and] pragmatic about how we’re going to get there.” She further noted that “unless a person is prepared to say we can stop using fossil fuel tomorrow, there is absolutely no reason to say we should not be using fossil fuels that come from Canada.”

The Varsity has reached out to Freeland for comment.

Helen-Claire Tingling, Conservative Party MP candidate

Helen-Claire Tingling is the Conservative MP candidate for the University–Rosedale riding, where the UTSG campus is located. She has experience in both the private and public sectors, including as a consultant for the Ontario government. Tingling was slated to attend an all-candidates debate for the riding, but cancelled due to an illness.

In a self-published article, Tingling wrote, “I chose the [Conservative Party] because it recognizes that if we work hard, we should be able to buy a home, save for retirement, and care for our children and parents as they age.”

The Varsity has reached out to Tingling for comment.

Melissa Jean-Baptiste Vajda, New Democratic Party MP candidate

Melissa Jean-Baptiste Vajda is the New Democratic Party (NDP) MP candidate for the University–Rosedale riding, where  the UTSG campus is located. Her background is in law, and she currently works at a legal clinic focusing on housing and worker’s rights.

At a debate earlier this month, Vajda said that her motivation for running in the election derives, in part, from her work at a legal clinic dealing with housing issues.

“The housing crisis is really affecting our community. Young people are having a hard time starting out and it’s not getting any better. We’re spending less and less on a national housing strategy.” To combat the housing crisis, the NDP’s plan involves building 500,000 rental units across Canada.

Vajda wrote to The Varsity, speaking on mental health at U of T: “I support students organizing for mental health support in recognition of the university-wide mental health crisis, and especially in light of the recent tragic death at the U of T campus. I support the call for accessible 24-hour counseling and a commitment to include students in all potential reforms around these issues.”

Repeating her party’s stance on cuts to postsecondary education, Vajda wrote, “[The NDP is] committed to working with our partners at the provincial level to expand access to grants and stabilize funding for internal college and university clubs and media.”

Tim Grant, Green Party MP candidate

Tim Grant is the Green Party MP candidate for the University–Rosedale riding, where the UTSG campus is located. Grant also ran as an MPP candidate in the 2018 provincial election for the same riding. The former chair of the Harbord Village Residents Association (HVRA) runs his campaign out of his office tucked away in the Korean Senior Citizens Society on Grace Street.

Grant’s priority for students is addressing housing affordability. “The students face the same problem that everyone faces, which is the lack of affordable housing anywhere in the city,” he said. He cited his time on the HVRA, where he regularly interacted with students.

In an interview with The Varsity, Grant also expressed concern about landlords taking advantage of student renters.

He also talked at length about his party’s universal basic income plan, as well its intention to make postsecondary education free.

“Providing universities with the support that compensates them for the loss of tuition income [from free tuition] also helps them become more independent institutions and not dependant on corporate dollars,” said Grant, who also condemned the Ford government’s postsecondary education reforms.

On the Green Party’s postsecondary education platform, Grant described the plan to incentivize universities and colleges to increase professor-student ratios, and reduce contract positions in favour of tenure positions.

 

What students need to know before the 2019 federal election

Breaking down policy platforms for the four major parties

What students need to know before the 2019 federal election

As young people are part of the biggest voting bloc in the country, each of the major parties have platform proposals made with students in mind. With the final voting day quickly approaching, The Varsity looks into all four major party platforms on the biggest issues for students.

Cost of university

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has vowed to increase Canada student grants and provide a two-year grace period after graduation before individuals need to begin paying off their student loans. Additionally, graduates will not be obliged to begin loan payments until they reach an income of $35,000 per year. 

Andrew Scheer’s Conservative Party platform does not specifically address tuition; however, it does promise to increase government contributions to Registered Education Savings Plans, from 20 per cent to 30 per cent for every dollar instead. Also, in order for colleges and universities to be eligible for research grants, they must meet a “commitment to free speech and academic freedom” requirement. 

Jagmeet Singh promises that the New Democratic Party (NDP) would work with the provinces to move toward making “post-secondary education part of [the] public education system.” The NDP also pledges to increase student grants and end interest on federal student loans.  

For the Green Party, Elizabeth May would make “college and university tuition free for all Canadian students.” The Greens also noted that postsecondary education access for Indigenous Peoples is a key part of treaty obligations. 

No party mentions plans specifically for international student tuition in their platform.

Repatriation of Indigenous artifacts and remains

All four major parties affirmed their commitment to reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission emphasizes, among other things, the importance of returning Indigenous artifacts and remains to their communities upon their demands. The Liberals specifically highlighted repatriation of Indigenous cultural property in their platform.

According to a 2017 investigation by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, out of the 12 universities contacted, U of T “has the highest number of Indigenous human remains, with 550 individuals, all of which are bone fragments.”

Transit 

The Liberal platform pledges to make federal funding for public transit permanent and predictable to keep up with rising costs of construction. 

Scheer would implement a “Green Public Transit Tax Credit” which promises a credit for transit passes that allow unlimited travel on subways and busses. The Conservatives would also prioritize infrastructure projects, including the expansion of TTC services. 

The NDP committed to working with provinces and municipalities to move toward fare-free public transit. In addition, they would “modernize and expand” transit with a focus on low carbon projects. 

The Green Party would develop a national transportation strategy with the goal of reaching net zero carbon for on-ground public transportation by 2040. This would focus on developing rail services and building high-speed rail connecting Toronto, Ottawa, and Quebec City. 

Housing and health care

Trudeau’s platform notes the National Housing Strategy the Liberals implemented which built affordable housing. In addition, they promise to reduce cell phone bills by 25 per cent, and implement universal pharma care. 

The Conservative housing policies relate specifically to homeowners and buyers. Scheer says widespread tax cuts would increase the money in Canadian pockets. Their platform makes no mention of universal pharma care, but they promise to “improve access to medications.”

Singh promises to create 500,000 affordable housing units over the next ten years. The NDP would cap cell phone bills to align with the global average. It would also implement universal pharma care and take steps toward providing more accessible mental health care. 

May’s platform pledges to make housing “a legally protected fundamental human right for all Canadians and permanent residents.” The Green platform supports universal pharma care and would also see the implementation of a “Guaranteed Liveable Income,” a “negative income tax” to replace other federal transfers such as social assistance, disability support, and child tax benefits.

Employment and wages

The Liberals vow to take a more “intersectional” approach to job initiatives, such as making the Youth Employment Strategy further consider racialized and Indigenous youth. Additionally, Trudeau’s party would create a federal minimum wage of $15, rising with inflation, per hour starting in 2020.   

The Conservative platform includes a promise to work with colleges and universities to ensure that their curricula prepare students for the demands of today’s job market. 

As well as implementing a $15 federal minimum wage covering 900,000 workers, the NDP would ban unpaid internships that are not part of education programs. The platform also vows to add gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation to the Employment Equity Act.

The Greens would also implement a $15 federal minimum wage. Their main focus is creating new jobs in a “green economy” and allowing for a “just transition” for workers in fossil fuel sectors. 

Immigration

The Liberals commits to making the citizenship application free for permanent residents.  

The Conservative Party states that international students educated in Canada “are ideal candidates” for economic immigration and it would work to keep them here after graduation.  

The NDP prioritizes family reunification and promises to end the cap on applications to sponsor parents and grandparents. Earlier this year, the cap was reached in less than 11 minutes.  

The Green Party vows to speed the family reunification process, and ameliorate the pathway for international students to apply for permanent residency and citizenship.

The Varsity endorses a Liberal minority government — with an NDP-Green balance of power

A progressive partnership will best serve students, youth, democracy

<i>The Varsity</i> endorses a Liberal minority government — with an NDP-Green balance of power

Ahead of the 2015 federal election, our editorial board asked students to vote strategically for progressive candidates and kick Stephen Harper out of office. The Conservatives did not stand for students four years ago and certainly do not now.

From billions in tax cuts that would inevitably jeopardize programs and services that youth and vulnerable communities rely on; to inadequate action on the climate crisis; to tying postsecondary research grants to ‘free speech’ which we know in Ontario is a “dog whistle for far-right voters it is clear that we cannot afford another Conservative government. 

That being said, the Liberals have failed to live up to progressive expectations. They do not deserve a second majority mandate. 

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau broke his cornerstone promise on electoral reform. He broke ethical rules in the SNC-Lavalin scandal, and he expelled two women cabinet ministers from his caucus for publicly standing up against conduct. He nationalized a major oil pipeline despite Indigenous resistance. And he is challenging a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that calls for federal compensation to First Nations children who were separated from their families by child welfare services.

We should not have to settle for another Liberal or Conservative majority that governs with a blank cheque. While the two are in a close race for first place, fortunately, neither is projected to approximate the required 170 seats for a majority. Instead, we must embrace the increasingly likely outcome of a minority government this election. 

Under this hung Parliament scenario, a dominant party would have to solicit the confidence of one or more of the smaller parties in order to govern. Although minority governments are criticized for instability and gridlock, they provide an opportunity for true democracy: parties must compromise, collaborate, and build consensus. 

We should not have to settle for another Liberal or Conservative majority that governs with a blank cheque.

Ideal for youth who want positive reform is a Liberal minority government that partners with other forward-looking national parties — namely the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Green Party. If the NDP and the Greens win enough seats to hold the balance of power in Parliament, they can hold the Liberal Party to account for its claim to progressivism and demand more action on key issues that youth care about. 

That could mean a bolder climate plan that does not contradictorily commit to oil pipelines, meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, electoral reform, and student debt relief. 

To make this a reality, we must vote strategically once again. Vote for the Liberals if you live in a Liberal-Conservative battleground riding. Vote for the NDP, Green, or a progressive Independent candidate if they have strong support in your riding, instead of the Liberal or Conservative. Reviewing comprehensive, riding-specific polls — such as the 338Canada project — can help you make your decision. 

Youth have more power than ever this election. For the first time, voters aged 18–38 will constitute the largest voting demographic — so let’s make the most of it. Below, you can find our review of six key issues that matter to youth voters. We hope it will convince you to make a progressive choice on October 21.

 

Education

The cost of education is the one topic that concerns all students. An ideal education platform would ease financial burdens, especially through free tuition and student debt forgiveness. 

Parties should especially dedicate resources toward Indigenous students, who have historically seen lower educational attainment due to the many institutionalized barriers set against them.

The party that comes closest to this ideal are the Greens, who have promised to tackle all of the above. It has committed to abolishing tuition, forgiving existing federal student debt, and increasing support for Indigenous students.

The NDP promises to eliminate federal interest on student loans while working toward free tuition by capping and reducing costs in conjunction with the provinces and territories.

Instead of lowering tuition, the Liberals and Conservatives opt to use band-aid solutions, such as increasing grants and support for the Registered Education Savings Plan, respectively. While helpful, neither plans would tackle the root issue of rising costs.

Ultimately, only the Greens and NDP are addressing the rising costs of education with plans to lower overall cost and provide real relief for students.

 

Climate crisis

The climate crisis is our generation’s greatest challenge. In order to bring us closer to a sustainable future, we must take immediate and bold action to reduce carbon emissions in line with Canada’s Paris Accord targets. 

Given their loyalty to oil and gas development, the Conservatives naturally lack any real climate plan. They oppose the Liberals’ federal carbon tax, even though it is a centrist, market-based strategy that mainstream economists claim is an effective strategy to reduce emissions. 

However, both parties agree on building the controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion (TMX). This will only amplify Canada’s emissions problem and delay the necessary transition away from fossil fuels. 

The NDP and the Greens intend to do more to tackle emissions. Both oppose the TMX and support stronger versions of the carbon tax.

The NDP is committed to ending fossil fuel subsidies and investing in the transition to renewable energy and hundreds of thousands of new, green jobs. The Greens have promised millions of green jobs and have, by far, the boldest climate strategy, which includes an end to all new fossil fuel projects. They intend to double Canada’s Paris Accord targets, which is more than any other party. 

The Liberals, NDP, and Greens all agree, to varying degrees, to incentivize or invest in zero-emission or electric vehicles and transit. 

 

Reconciliation

The next government must do more for meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Conservative Andrew Scheer is the only main party leader not in support of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), in part to move forward with his proposed energy corridor. He has expressed disagreement with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) inquiry’s final report, which found that genocide was committed against Indigenous women and girls.

While the Liberals have plans to implement UNDRIP and have published the MMIWG inquiry’s report, the Trudeau government’s record is questionable. Despite many promises, key Liberal decisions — such as the purchase of the TMX and failure to efficiently eliminate all long-term boil water advisories — have been disappointing. 

The NDP plans to eliminate all drinking water advisories for First Nations communities and issue a taskforce on mould in reserve housing. It intends to implement UNDRIP and address systemic violence against Indigenous women and girls. 

The Green Party also plans to implement the recommendations of UNDRIP, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the MMIWG inquiry’s report.

 

Health care

Given U of T’s mental health crisis, students are acutely aware of the need for institutional support. Canada boasts free doctor and hospital visits, but citizens without insurance are still largely left to pay out-of-pocket for prescriptions and other services, including psychiatric ones.  

We do not have time to wait for ‘gaps’ to be evaluated — we need a commitment to broader coverage, and we need it as soon as possible.

Many young people face challenges when paying for much-needed medications. When an estimated 700,000 Canadians skip food purchases to pay for prescriptions, the need for health care improvement is clear.  

The Conservatives have expressed a desire to dismiss pharma care plans and instead address the existing ‘gaps’ in coverage.  

Both the Liberal and NDP parties support improving pharma care, with the NDP including coverage for mental health services, dental, and vision care. The Greens plan to extend health care coverage to include universal pharma care, as well as implement dental care for low-income Canadians.

We do not have time to wait for ‘gaps’ to be evaluated — we need a commitment to broader coverage, and we need it as soon as possible.

 

Employment

Finding employment with decent compensation is essential for students who need to finance their education and living expenses.

In 2018, 43 per cent of minimum-wage workers were under the age of 25. Youth need the minimum wage, which varies across provinces, to compensate for their cost of living.  

Accordingly, the Liberals, NDP, and Greens have all committed to raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. A research review by the current federal government has concluded that minimum wage increases would increase job stability and reduce wage inequality. 

The Conservatives have no plans to implement a federal minimum wage.

The Liberals also promise to pass federal legislation for those employed by ride-sharing acts, as well to as establish reliable benefits for seasonal workers, which could improve the quality of life for students in these fields. The NDP and Greens also aim to ban unpaid internships if they do not count for school credit, which could better help students support their studies.

 

Housing

For student renters and new graduates seeking homes, affordable housing remains a major dilemma. 35 per cent of Toronto residents aged 15–29 spend over 50 per cent of their income on rent.

The NDP and Greens have both proposed the construction of new affordable housing units over the next decade, with the NDP’s plan being most ambitious at 500,000 units and the Greens at 25,000 new rental homes and 15,000 rehabilitated homes in the next decade.

The Greens have proposed changes to legislation that protect housing as a fundamental human right and amend laws that prevent Indigenous organizations from accessing Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation financing. The Liberals have proposed a number of financial incentives for retrofitting or constructing homes to meet certified zero-emission status.

The Greens and NDP have made efforts toward alleviating financial barriers for low-income buyers and renters, policies which will have direct benefits for low- and middle-income student renters and first-time home buyers. With a significantly weaker housing policy, the Liberals plan to move forward with their First-Time Home Buyer Incentive.

The Conservatives are alone in providing no means to alleviate financially-burdened low-income renters.

This election, youth have the power to choose a government that actually works for them. On October 21, make your voice heard and vote for the party that has your best interests in mind.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

Op-ed: UTSC NDP — let’s aim higher

It’s time to push forward on climate, student debt, economic equality

Op-ed:  UTSC NDP —  let’s aim higher

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.

What are the greatest issues facing students in the upcoming Canadian federal election?

Comment contributors weigh in on the climate crisis, affordable postsecondary education, rising tuition costs, and access to voter information

What are the greatest issues facing students  in the upcoming Canadian federal election?

In light of the upcoming federal election on October 21, four students weigh in on the greatest issues facing students today.

Turning around our voter turnout

The greatest issue facing students in the upcoming elections is a lack of education on how the federal election actually works. Young voters — citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 — make up the largest eligible voting demographic in Canada. This gives young people a lot of power. However, a lack of knowledge seems to take that power away.

Despite voter apathy, the stereotype that today’s youth don’t care about politics is not necessarily true. Today’s young people seem to be more politically involved than past generations. Students are aware of the effects of political decisions in our everyday lives, from transportation and housing costs to cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). Young people do care, and they have power in numbers. However, there is a need to better inform young people so that they may channel their concerns into political action.

Many young people are not informed on how to register, vote, or on how their vote can impact their nation. Compared to older voters who have been politically engaged for years, youth lack experience and understanding of Canadian politics. This is amplified when considering the understandable lack of faith there is in the system, and the fact that the available candidates and parties do not sufficiently represent their needs and interests.

A common sentiment among youth is that the system is too flawed, or that no matter who you vote for, things never end up changing for the better. If people are not well informed on how to get politically involved, and if the options they have seem like a choice between bad and worse, it could be discouraging for those who are new to voting or not politically engaged.

Voting is a right, but being an informed citizen is a responsibility. Getting educated about how elections in Canada work and what your role and impact are as a citizen is actually quite easy. Canada has made voting considerably accessible, and the tools needed to understand the political system are only an internet search away.

While many challenges still exist for young people to politically engage in this country, this education barrier is one that young people can overcome. And when we do, our influence will be large enough to create massive change in our country.

Hafsa Ahmed is a third-year Political Science student at UTM.

Tuition costs

As our political parties ramp up their campaigns, voters are eagerly waiting for detailed platforms in order to decide which candidate they will be supporting. For many postsecondary students across Canada, there is one universal issue that they can all relate to — the rising costs of tuition.

According to Statistics Canada, the average undergraduate student in Canada during the 2011–2012 school year paid $5,366, compared to $6,571 in 2017–2018.

As costs of living can exceed thousands of dollars for an eight-month academic period — at the University of Toronto, for example — students heavily rely on student loans to survive.

According to Statistics Canada, 40 per cent of graduates from the 20092010 class had to take out a loan for their postsecondary education, with 50 per cent of undergraduate students having a loan, compared to 41 per cent of doctoral students. Moreover, according to the Government of Canada, from August 1, 2015, to July 31, 2016, 490,000 full-time students took on $2.7 billion  in loans, with an average of $5,507 per student. At the time of graduation of the same fiscal period, graduates on average had a debt of $13,306 from student loans.

In sum, when students head to their local voting centre this October, they should inform themselves well and vote for the candidate they believe in the most that will reduce the cost of tuition, in order to keep postsecondary education accessible to all Canadians.

Angad Deol is a first-year Life Sciences student in St. Michael’s College.

Affordable postsecondary education

Premier Doug Ford’s cuts to OSAP are in full swing. In addition to gutting the free tuition program for low-income students, the new program significantly changes the ratio of grants to loans and eliminates the six-month grace period on loan interest. All of these measures have made it difficult for students to find their way back on campus this year. Making postsecondary education affordable is of the utmost concern for students, one that most major parties have already addressed.

Recently, both the National Democratic Party (NDP) and the Green Party have offered proposals to make postsecondary education more affordable for students. Green Party leader Elizabeth May is proposing to eliminate student debt altogether, while NDP leader Jagmeet Singh wants to eliminate interest rates on student loans.

On top of this, Singh recently tweeted that his plan does not stop at eliminating interest, as he believes that “young people should be able to go from kindergarten to post-secondary education, barrier-free.” However, both the NDP and the Green Party have not released any substantial plans on how they would make these proposals sustainable.

Meanwhile, the Liberals have introduced a six-month grace period on interest for student loans after graduation.

The Conservatives have yet to offer any proposal. Though, based on the changes that the Progressive Conservatives have made in Ontario, it is safe to assume that the federal party is likely to make more cuts.

In the next few weeks, other parties will spend a considerable time painting Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer with the same brush: one of contempt, distrust, and disregard for students.

As the election starts to gear up, the NDP, the Green Party and the Liberals have all offered some sort of solution to the affordability of postsecondary education. As long as Andrew Scheer stays silent on the subject, one can assume that the Conservatives hold a similar position on postsecondary education as Doug Ford — and that is not a good look for Andrew Scheer.

Aiman Akmal is a third-year International Relations student at Trinity College.

The climate crisis

The climate crisis is a major issue for voters this federal election. This comes with an ever-increasing awareness and demand for action as communities in Canada and around the world already experienced its detrimental effects. The federal government has followed the lead of countless municipalities across the country by declaring a climate emergency. Voters and activists are demanding a leaders’ election debate solely on the climate crisis.

Voting is a right, but becoming an informed citizen is a responsibility

The incumbent Liberal government’s environmental record has been criticized from both sides of the political spectrum. The Conservatives say they can meaningfully reduce emissions without a carbon tax, instead focusing on big polluters, who will be forced to spend money investing in clean technology if they exceed emissions limits. Their plan has been dismissed by Mark Jaccard, a member of the United Nations (UN)’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as so insufficient that emissions would actually rise. The NDP’s plan builds on the Liberals’ carbon tax and intertwines action on  the climate crisis with settler-Indigenous reconciliation and job creation, in a plan that it says will cost $15 billion and reduce emissions by 38 per cent by 2030.

The Green Party, however, has dismissed all of the above as inadequate. Its ambitious plan calls for an all-party “war cabinet” to address the crisis, as well as a pledge to stop importing oil and instead only use Canadian energy, and double the country’s emissions reductions target from 30 per cent to 60 per cent by 2030 and reach 100 per cent by 2050.

Voters will have the opportunity to evaluate each party’s plan during the campaign. Young people, in particular, should pay close attention. While no one will escape the consequences of the climate crisis, it is we who will be most impacted by it.

The UN recently announced that we only have until 2030 to take drastic action on climate change. Some scientists warn the situation is even more dire, and that the deadline for action is as soon as next year. Therefore, this election may be the last chance to elect a government that will take the necessary steps to solve the climate crisis. Once the world’s temperature rises, there is no turning back.

Oliver Zhao is a second-year Criminology & Sociolegal Studies and International Relations student at Woodsworth College.

A spectre is haunting the Canadian left — the spectre of centrism

Tepid policy will not attract young voters this October

A spectre is haunting the Canadian left  — the spectre of centrism

In 2016, the Broadbent Institute, Canada’s self-proclaimed “leading progressive, independent organization,” declared the nation’s left was having a “moment.” But in 2019, the state of the left in Canada does not seem to reflect the think tank’s claim. 

The piece in question, like a lot of literature from 2016, was overly optimistic about Canada’s left-wing movement. Citing the growing popularity of Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter, and Indigenous rights groups, as well as the fact that socialism was the most “looked-up” term of 2015 on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the Institute implied that this surge of interest in left-wing solutions to growing inequality would translate to public policy initiatives. Based on what we’ve seen in the last three years, this has not been the case. 

On the contrary, it would seem that it is the right who is, in fact, “having a moment.” In Canada and around the world, right-wing parties have harnessed economic anxiety to upset elections, much to the surprise and chagrin of the — often centrist — political establishment.

In Manitoba, Brian Pallister, who came to power on a platform that boasted promises of lower income taxes and deficit elimination (read: social service cuts), was elected premier in 2016. Last fall, Québec elected Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault after he promised to cut back immigration, in addition to increasing private health care services and banning public servants from donning religious symbols (read: hijabs). Around the same time, New Brunswick elected Blaine Higgs, who campaigned on a promise to balance the budget without increasing taxes, which translated to the elimination of teaching and nursing jobs through attrition, which is the practice of not filling positions vacated by retirees.

The last Ontario election repeated an outcome that has occurred so often around the world it is almost farcical. A man that those in the Canadian political establishment made out to be some sort of vulgar clown upset the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne last June. 

In a political victory many said would never happen, Doug Ford disrupted the Canadian political landscape, telling it “like it is” and speaking more like a ‘normal person’ than most politicians out there, shocking pundits and professional analysts. Ford pulled off a majority win almost a year ago, after promising to “find efficiencies” in the provincial government’s budget. This manifested in an outright war on the Ontario public service and institutions, including the very paper you are reading. 

Back to the Broadbent Institute. Part of the issue with the opinion piece, and indeed with the left in Canada in general, is its emphasis on the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) as the natural and obvious choice of Canadians who find themselves sitting left-of-centre on the political spectrum. 

On paper, it makes sense that this would be the case — the NDP website rightly boasts its role in delivering progressive policies like universal health care. In Ontario, the NDP lobbied fiercely for a higher minimum wage long before the Liberals jumped on board. And it is certainly true that the NDP have historically represented the left-wing views of a significant chunk of our population. But in the face of right-wing neoliberal economic, and, to some extent, social, movements and policies sweeping the world and exacerbating the economic inequality they claim to seek to fix, the NDP has failed Canada’s left. 

In the 2015 federal election, then-NDP leader Thomas Mulcair offered a strikingly fiscally conservative platform. Above almost everything, Mulcair emphasized balancing the federal budget. Canadians, feeling the sting of the post-2008 financial crisis, combined with almost a decade of Stephen Harper gutting the Canadian bureaucracy, saw no sense in budget-balancing and trimming social services when groceries were becoming less and less affordable.

In an odd turn of events, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals came out with a platform which sat to the left of Mulcair’s, promising to tackle inequality by investing in social services and infrastructure to grow out the middle class. It is particularly interesting that Mulcair chose this path, since just over a year earlier, Andrea Horwath’s provincial NDP in Ontario had emphasized the same economic conservatism in balancing Ontario’s budget, in contrast with a relatively large spending proposal put forward by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, which later handed Wynne a majority government. 

In the most recent provincial election in Ontario last year, Wynne and Horwath were matched in terms of left-leaning policies, but handed Doug Ford a majority win and a strong mandate to do whatever the hell he wanted. Not enough Ontarians who showed up to the polls in June believed Horwath would serve forward the kind of change this province needed, and with good cause. There is a reason that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have overlapping sympathizers: a very significant portion of the world’s population are beginning to see that there is something very wrong with the political establishment and its centrist policies. 

These policies, which emphasize balanced, gradual approaches to problem-solving and promote fiscal conservatism combined with ‘liberal’ social policy, fail. They fail to result in fiscal comfort for most working people, and increase the disparity between the very rich and the rest of the population, and as such create a deep distrust of this establishment and a new kind of populism, one in which social conservatives and liberals advocate for similar policies to ease their financial woes. In Canada, however, it seems that only the right is willing to harness this energy, while the left has opted for relative fiscal conservatism, a continued obsession with supporting the establishment and social liberalism. We will pay for this. 

Why is this important? The political overlap between the two leftist options has been pretty significant in this country. Canada’s two established left-leaning parties, which both have very similar platforms, risk splitting leftist support across the country, which could hand Andrew Scheer’s Conservative Party a minority government. 

However, there is hope. Since I began writing this article, Jagmeet Singh and the NDP have come out with a platform for the upcoming election in October. In it, he pledges to fund a single-payer pharma care, dental, vision, hearing, and mental health care program, funded largely by increasing taxes on the wealthiest Canadians, defined as those who own more than $20 million in wealth. 

He has also promised to cap and reduce tuition fees and student loan interest, with the eventual goal to establish free postsecondary education, launch a universal basic income pilot program, and introduce a wealth tax. Committed leftists might say that this platform doesn’t go far enough, but, unlike other federal NDP platforms in recent history, it does do the trick of distinguishing itself from the Liberals. 

A scan of the Liberal budget from February will show significant investment in good jobs for young Canadians, a reduction of student loan interest rates, and a universal pharma care program. However, the budget lacks any sort of significant wealth transfer that would help to ease the tension of the growing disparity between the wealthiest Canadians and the rest. This is significant because while the NDP platform is looking sweeter than it has for a long time for Canadian leftists, Jagmeet Singh and his party are currently polling at a historic low among Canadians, competing neck-to-neck with Elizabeth May’s Green Party, while the Liberals and Conservatives are sitting around 30 per cent each.

If the NDP continues to struggle to gain support and the Liberals continue to sit in the centre of the Canadian political spectrum, where does this leave Canada’s left? 

The answer is fragmented. Canada’s true left wing is organized, but is expressed separately in think tanks like the Broadbent Institute, in movements like Black Lives Matter, in media organizations like North99, and in political parties like the NDP, the Green Party, the Marxist-Leninists of Canada, and the Communist Party of Canada. The bits and pieces of the left in Canada do not communicate, come together, or politically organize enough. They cannot currently manifest in any sort of strong political force or systemic change, either within an established political party or in the formation of a new party. 

This has pretty big implications for young people, who in large part support progressive policy measures. As the largest voting bloc in the country, we have a lot of political power, but we lack a credible force behind which to gather and move. So what can we, students and young people, do? After all, we’re the ones who will inherit the policies and failures of today’s leaders. 

The fact that the federal NDP platform swings significantly to the left of the Liberals should be encouraging. It means that one of Canada’s main three parties understands the power of the nation’s young people as a bloc and is ready to harness it with policy measures that appeal to them. 

That means that if a strong enough portion of young voters turn out to the polls, as they did in 2015, Canada could be looking at an NDP government sooner, rather than later. Not only that, but most of the NDP candidate positions in ridings across Canada have yet to be filled, and many of the Liberal and Green party positions are still open. There is precedent for great numbers of young candidates entering the race at election time, most recently in the NDP. Perhaps those 20- and 30-somethings who feel the need for change in this country will throw their hat in the race this time around. Perhaps this will be you, or someone you know.

However, given the dismally-low polling numbers for Singh’s party and its profound lack of organization so close to election time, prospects of an NDP victory seem impossible. As Elizabeth May’s Green Party surpasses the NDP in the polls, it is worth noting that, in addition to  meaningful action on climate change, May has promised free tuition, cancellation of student debt, and a “guaranteed liveable income,” which could manifest as something like a universal basic income or could be a top-up on working incomes, although it is unclear from the party website which the party intends. She also supports pharma care and action on reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous population. 

The rise in Green Party support in the polls, combined with its relatively progressive platform and youth support of these policies could lead to a historic election for the Greens. A strong faction of Greens and NDP in a Liberal minority government could hold Trudeau accountable and swing government policies toward the left. Who knows? The writ hasn’t been dropped yet, the game can change in just a few days. We might see our first NDP and Green coalition.

The results of October 21 are not set in stone. You and people you know can make the difference. As students, we have a particular power as a voting bloc to make our voices heard. So I challenge you to involve yourself in some small (or big!) way. Read up on the party platforms and decide for yourself who you’d like to see as the next prime minister. 

Then apply yourself: speak to friends about our current political moment. Ask them what they think and who they will vote for. Get in touch with the candidate whose party you support in your riding and knock on doors for them. Host a kitchen table party with your friends and discuss the election. Hell, given the space left to fill, candidate-wise, you could even run yourself. You don’t need experience: all you need is to believe that Canada could be better. Know that people our age hold this election in our hands, and that collective action will make the difference. Perhaps next time around, Canada’s left wing can stand united.

Disclosure: Mahoney sits on the board of North99.

Editor’s Note (September 9, 10:08 am): A reference to Jagmeet Singh in the subheading has been removed.