Why this budget’s a loser

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By Rob Granatstein

Jean Chretien wanted last month’s federal budget and the Millennium Scholarship Program to be his legacy.

Sorry Jean, your legacy will be failure.

While this budget is chalk full of wonderful initiative that will bring some relief to students — now known to all Canadians as the “$25,000-in-the-hole-club” — Chretien, Finance Minister Paul MArtin and the Liberals screwed up.

Instead of throwing us, the drowning in debt students, a life jacket, he tossed it over our heads to try and save the next generation.

Thanks bud.

As Tory leader Jean Charest said: “It would have been great to help the students in this millennium instead of the next millennium.”

He was only partially right. Students in the next millennium aren’t going to be helped all that much either.

The Millennium plan is supposed to help more than 100,000 students a year for 10 years starting in the year 2000 by providing grants for low and middle income students. How much? We don’t know. In fact, details were sketchy at best, and that doesn’t exactly boost our confidence that the $2.5 billion pumped into this plan can or will help any students.

What about is at Ryerson, the school most likely to be slammed by tuition rising without limits starting next year? Will we get more? We don’t know.

And will this money be indexed according to tuition hikes or stuck at a set amount, like the cash students graduating high school used to get for an A average?

Remember that? The Ontario government used to give all honour students $100 for their work. That started when tuition was less than $1,000 a year. It was outstanding, one out of every 10 bucks of tuition was paid for by that money. It was discounted about six years ago when tuition soared past the $2,000-a-year mark and your $100 bonus barely bought a textbook (or a mediocre night at the bar).

I know it is insane for us to say, but maybe giving the money to the universities instead of putting it towards students’ Acapulco fund would have made more sense. Our schools are falling behind and saving a couple of bucks on tuition isn’t going to make a hill of difference.

Saving a couple hundred dollars leaves no one further ahead in the long run.

Thanks anyway, Jean.

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