The federal government currently spends relatively little on education – about $10 billion annually. Only one of the national parties talks about changing this substantially.
The Green Party.
Greens would increase federal spending on education by over 50 per cent, adding $5.2 billion in annual spending by 2019/20. This new money will go toward:
- making tuition free for a citizen’s first postsecondary certificate (although this would require provinces to add billions more too, which is beyond the control of the federal government);
- student debt relief; and
- increased postsecondary education bursaries.
By comparison with the Green investment proposal, the Conservatives, NDP and Liberals promise modest investments in education.
The Conservatives propose $288 million in new money. This money would enable:
- Canada student loan recipients to earn more employment income while attending postsecondary;
- Modestly expand eligibility for student grants among low and middle income families; and
- Increase aid levels for some students by reducing the parental contributions that are assumed in calculations of loan eligibility.
The NDP propose $1.2 billion in new money.
- One quarter of this will go toward phasing out interest on student loans, which the NDP propose to eliminate 7 years from now.
- $100 million more per year for the Canada Student Grants program.
- The largest component of NDP education investment would be for Aboriginal children. The party will add $530 million to close the gap in per capita spending for children in grade school on reserve compared to funding levels received by children attending school off reserve in provincially paid for education.
The Liberals will add $719 million in education spending by 2019/20.
- The featured education commitment in the Liberal platform is adding $850 million to the Canada Student Grant program. The Liberals pay for this increase, however, by eliminating $925 million in postsecondary and textbook tax credits. It’s an example of spending smarter, not more, which Gen Squeeze encourages across policy areas, especially health care (see above). Research has shown that it would be more advantageous for students to receive financial support in advance of paying the education expenses, rather than make a claim for a tax-delivered subsidy after they incurred the expenses. Still, this policy change will not result in any net new investment.
- The most significant component of new education spending in the Liberal platform is for Aboriginal education. Liberals will add $300 million on top of the current federal budget to close the gap in per capita spending for Indigenous children in grade school on reserve compared to per pupil funding provided by provincial governments. Liberals also add $50 million in annual spending on postsecondary grants for Aboriginal students.
- Finally, the Liberals propose an additional $80 million annually in education benefits for new veterans.
Dr. Paul Kershaw is a policy professor in the UBC School of Population Health. He prepared this analysis with support from Bob Parker, former Research Director for Students Nova Scotia.