Candidate fourm: a post-secondary tell-all
This provincial election is going to be one of the closest elections in Alberta history. The different political parties are looking for the support of the youth vote, and The Weal has interviewed candidates from across the province to know the position of each party.
ROB ANDERSON, Wildrose Party Candidate for Airdrie
The Wildrose Party considers that an expansion in post-secondary education access is needed especially in the trades, “to help to fulfill the need of trade workers on the oil sands,” said Anderson. The party believes the major issue that students have during classes is the cost of tuition. The Wildrose Party plans to freeze tuition, adjust them to inflation and “no more than that,” said Anderson. The Wildrose sees loan payments as the main issue for postgraduate students. The party plans to “forgive” all the debts of graduate students that decide to work in “key sectors of the economy.” Wildrose considers itself unique among the competition because they won’t require MLAs to vote with caucus, but “MLAs should be free to vote for what they think is best for their constituents,” said Anderson.
GREG CLARK, Alberta Party Candidate for Calgary-Elbow.
The Alberta Party believes a shift in the perception of post-secondary in Alberta is needed. It should be seen as an “investment” and not an “expense,” said Clark. Alberta needs the “best and most accessible” education system possible to be able to compete in the global economy. The party sees the major issue for students as the cost of tuition and life. To solve this, the Alberta Party plans to develop a tax credit for housing costs incurred by students and their families, and the party plans to extend the payment grace period for student loans by two years, and make loans interest-free. The Alberta Party considers itself unique among other parties because of their “Big Listening” strategy to work with and ask communities about problems and possible solutions, said Clark.
CHRISTIAN MCMILLAN, NDP candidate for Calgary-Mountain View.
NDP Alberta said the government is forcing too much of the burden on students and a change is needed. “If debt is bad for the government, why is it good for the students?” said McMillan. For the party, the main issue that students have during class is having to work while they’re studying, to be able to afford school. The New Democrats consider the main issue for students after graduating is finding work in their field of study. The NDP plans to immediately freeze tuition, and reduce it by 10 per cent next year. They also propose reducing individual student debt by $1,000 each year graduates stay in Alberta. The NDP considers itself unique because, “we have people directly involved in the problems we are facing,” said McMillan.
RAJ SHERMAN, Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party and candidate for Edmonton-Meadowlark.
The Liberal Party considers post-secondary education in Alberta as a crisis; having the lowest enrollment and highest tuitions in the nation. Students have to choose between “mountains of debt” or being “unskilled workers,” said Sherman. For the Liberals, the major issues for current students is having to work extra time to afford the cost of living, and being able to receive a mortgage when they have to pay their loans after graduation. The Liberals plan to reduce tuitions by $250 each year until zero with an increase of oil and gas royalties to 25 percent. “Let’s have the lowest tuition in the country,” said Sherman. Each year, the Liberals will eliminate $1,000 in the loans of graduate students who pay taxes in Alberta. The Liberals consider themselves unique because they, “have the most aggressive and comprehensive educational plan in Canada,” said Sherman.
CECILIA LOW, Progressive Conservative Candidate for Calgary-Mountain View.
The PC Party considers that the post-secondary education system “is very strong” and plans to continue improving it if elected, said Low. “We need to continue to build over the strong foundations that we already have” to make Alberta a leader in research and investigation. The PC considers the major challenges for students while they’re studying are different “from case to case,” said Low.
Some students are raising families, or have to work while they’re studying. The PC plans not to increase the tuition cap of 0.35 per cent to match inflation. The party plans to offer grants between $1,000–$2,000 for graduate students, and an additional $1,000 for students who remain in the province working in essential occupations like trade works, said Low. The PC promises to review the tuition system if they’re elected. The PC considers itself unique because of Allison Redford’s leadership. “She is articulating a positive inspiration for Alberta,” said Low.