Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau released his full package of campaign promises today, an 88-page plan to boost support for post-secondary students, clean up the environment and lower the tax burden for middle-class families.
Trudeau unveiled the fully costed platform, A New Plan for a Strong Middle Class, during a campaign stop at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. It includes a mix of previously announced planks and new measures, including a suite of initiatives to help post-secondary students.
If elected on Oct. 19, a Liberal government would increase the maximum Canada Student Grant for low-income students to $3,000 a year for full-time students, an increase of 50 per cent, and $1,800 for part-timers.
It would also work to tackle the persistent problem of student debt, requiring repayments to kick in only after graduates are earning at least $25,000 a year.
Too often, young Canadians are saddled with a huge debt load after finishing university, Trudeau said. "That's a tough way to get your start in the world."
The Liberal education plan would also kick in an extra $50 million a year to support indigenous post-secondary students.
Trudeau committed to work with the provinces and territories to ensure they don't assume additional costs.
The Canadian Federation of Students praised the Liberal campaign proposal, saying it has called for up-front grants for many years.
'Mortgage-sized' student debts
"Students are graduating with mortgage-sized debts and the Liberals' plan will lessen that burden on students and their families," Bilan Arte, national chairwoman of the federation, said in a release.
She said tuition fees continue to be the biggest barrier to post-secondary education.
In 1982, government funding made up almost 83 per cent of university operating revenue, with tuition fees accounting for less than 14 per cent. In 2012, government funding had dropped to just 55 per cent of university operating revenue, according to the federation.
The NDP has promised to immediately begin to phase out interest on student loans over seven years. It has also pledged $250 million over four years to create 74,000 new grants for students who need financial help the most.
The Conservatives have pledged to double the federal contribution to a supplemental grant that benefits low- and middle-income families that have already taken out a Registered Education Savings Plan.
And the Green Party would have tuition-free education by 2020, beginning with lower-income Canadians. It would also eliminate any existing or future student debt above $10,000, abolish interest on student loans and boost funding for bursaries.
Other new commitments include money to help the agricultural sector and to fight climate change as well as policies aimed at getting assault weapons off the streets. A Liberal government would also invest $40 million over four years in the Nutrition North program to make healthy food more affordable for families in remote northern communities.
Trudeau said the "heart" of the Liberal plan is to grow the economy by creating more jobs and opportunities and investing in infrastructure. He said it takes a much different approach than the Conservative government of the last decade..
"Stephen Harper has lost touch with Canadians," he said.
In addition to raising taxes for the wealthiest Canadians to deliver breaks for the middle class, the Liberal plan would free up more money by closing tax loopholes. It would run modest deficits of up to $10 billion a year to invest in massive infrastructure projects and balance the budget by 2019-2020.
As part of the plan eliminate the deficit, the Liberal platform calls for savings through expenditure review. That is expected to find $3 billion in booked annual savings within four years, which would represent less than one per cent of total spending.
Trudeau called that "completely responsible." Asked if the savings would mean more service cuts, he said they would achieved by scaling back in areas such as partisan government advertising and external consulting.
"We, like most Canadians, don't consider finding a one per cent efficiency on your budget is too much to ask for Canadians," he said.