Ontario Liberals promise post-secondary tuition cut

The Ontario Liberals promise to cut post-secondary tuition rates by 30 per cent for lower- and middle-class families as part of an election campaign platform released Monday by Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty unveiled the Liberal party's platform on Monday in Toronto. A key part of the platform is a grant that will trim 30 per cent off undergraduate tuition for post-secondary education. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

The Ontario Liberals promise to cut post-secondary tuition rates by 30 per cent for lower- and middle-class families as part of an election campaign platform released Monday by Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The tuition cut, which will apply to full-time students in undergraduate programs, would be available as a grant for students whose families earn less than $160,000 a year, if the Liberals are re-elected in the Oct. 6 vote.

The Liberals say the cut would mean an annual saving of about $1,600 per university student and more than $700 for every student enrolled in college.

The funds from the tuition cut would be sent to each institution, then applied to students' tuition bills.

The Liberals say the grants will cost taxpayers $200 million this year, growing to $486 million a year by 2015-16.

It's the big-ticket item in a package of campaign promises with a projected annual cost of $1.5 billion.

Much of the platform is focused on education, including a $7,300 annual cap on the amount of debt post-secondary students could incur, and an expanded interest-free grace period on student loans for recent graduates struggling to find work.

McGuinty also said full-day kindergarten will be implemented in all schools by 2014.

The Liberals are also promising more health support for seniors, including increased home visits, and a healthy snack program for elementary school students.

The Liberals also plan to spend $12 million to provide a tax credit to employers who hire immigrants for their first job in Canada. The credit applies to new Canadians who live in Ontario and have been in the country for up to five years.

"This is the smartest investment we could possibly make in our future," said McGuinty of his platform's education focus. "It's the single greatest gift the older generation can give to the younger generation and to ourselves."

McGuinty touted his government’s record in a speech to party members at packed downtown Toronto conference room.

The speech trigged chants of "four more years."

Paul Ferreira, NDP candidate for York South-Weston, later called the Liberal platform a series of "empty promises" and said the party has a poor record on education funding.

"This is the same government that has allowed tuition in Ontario to be the most expensive in Canada," said Ferreira. "It's just more empty promises by a premier on the ropes."

Progressive Conservative campaign ads have derided McGuinty as "the tax man." When asked Monday if he would raise taxes, McGuinty said he would not but responded "next question" when asked to state his promise in a full sentence.

The Liberals are the last of the three major parties to anounce their platform.

The Progressive Conservatives rolled out their plan in May. The NDP has published a partial platform they say will be filled out in more detail as the campaign progresses.

The writ on the Oct. 6 election will officially drop on Wednesday.

Some components of the Liberal platform were released Sunday.

These included:

  • Expanded GO Service: The Liberals vow to expand the system of commuter trains that serve Toronto beyond the existing rush-hour service. The move is aimed at the fast-growing, vote-rich ridings that ring the Toronto area, which has some of the longest commute times in North America.

  • Seniors retrofit tax: An annual credit of 15 per cent up to $10,000 ($1,500 annually) on repairs that allow seniors to stay in their homes longer. The credit, which could be used on a senior's home or at the residence of a relative that houses them, is available for upgrades such as stair lifts, hand rails and bathroom retrofits. The Liberals say it will allow seniors to stay longer in their own homes, and take pressure of long-term care and seniors’ facilities.

  • Satellite university campuses: $300 million in new money to set up satellite university campuses. Locations of the satellite campuses have not yet been determined.