EYENALYSIS: NEW GOVERNMENT, NEW PLATFORM

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By Kerry Wall

News Editor

The never-ending election campaign has finally, mercifully, ended. And now comes the fun part: Waiting to see how many campaign promises come true.

Prime minister-designate Stephen Harper made many promises during this campaign; the Conservative election platform involved roughly $74 billion in tax cuts and spending. And, like just about every other party out there, the Conservatives put forward their solutions for a post-secondary education system that’s been criticized for being costly, inefficient and disorganized.

Here’s what you can expect if Harper and his yet-to-be-appointed cabinet keeps their campaign promises* for post-secondary education. Investment and overhaul The Conservative election platform included a yearly investment of $100 million for Canada’s colleges, universities and apprenticeship programs.

Post-secondary education is under the jurisdiction of the provincial government, suggesting that it might be up to the provinces to decide exactly how to dish it out the cash. The platform would remove post-secondary funding from the Canada Social Transfer (the system that transfers federal money to the provinces for education and social services). Conservatives would start a transfer fund exclusively for post-secondary education, instead.

Between that and Harper’s general plan to “decentralize” Canada’s government and give the provinces more power, Ryerson students can expect Dalton McGuinty’s government to be making most of the educational decisions. But President Sheldon Levy doesn’t want to start speculating just yet.

“The influence on Ryerson is by and large through the provincial government,” he said. “What I’ve read of the Conservative platform doesn’t give me enough information to say what it will mean for us.” The Tories also said they’d change elements of the Canada Student Loans plan.

Parental income would have less of an impact on a student’s eligibility for financial assistance. In other words, students won’t be automatically disqualified for monetary aid if their parents make more than a set amount. Two kinds of tax breaks The Conservative plan would also let students (“or their parents,” according to the official policy platform) claim a $500 tax credit on textbooks.

It would also exempt the first $10,000 of a scholarship or bursary from taxation, which is a $7,000 hike from the current exemption level. This means that students who receive full or multiple scholarships would get the first $10,000 tax-free.

The first $3,000 of any scholarship or bursary is currently free from taxation. Context, location, seats Let’s not get ahead of ourselves — this is a minority government. There’s going to be a certain amount of give-and-take involved. Harper’s Conservatives have 124 seats. The Liberals won 103 seats, the Bloc Quebecois has 51 and the New Democratic Party won 29. There will be one independent MP. This means that the Conservatives will need the help of other parties in order to pass legislation. Funding for post-secondary education was on the NDP’s wishlist when it demanded (and received) changes to the 2005 Liberal budget.

The party supports reductions to tuition fees and increasing funding. The Liberal plan would have paid for the first and final year of undergraduate study for every student starting in 2007. The Conservatives may be hearing about these ideas when budget time rolls around.

We know what they’ve promised, but a minority government yields unpredictable results. It really is too early to tell.

* The Eyeopener acknowledges that politicians rarely, if ever, keep their promises.

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