NDP introduce post-secondary act in parliament

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MP Niki Ashton’s private members’ bill aims to set up federal support for post-secondary

Emma Godmere
CUP Ottawa Bureau Chief

OTTAWA (CUP) — New Democrat MP Niki Ashton is hoping to better streamline federal funding and increase general support for post-secondary education through a private members’ bill, introduced in Parliament last week.

Bill C-635 would establish “criteria and conditions” when it comes to dedicated cash for post-secondary education –  namely that not-for-profit, public institutions are supported and that better student-to-faculty ratios and improved accessibility are encouraged.

It also seeks to divide the existing Canada Social Transfer into two components: One for general social assistance and social services programs, the other strictly for post-secondary education.

“The main objective is to really set a framework for federal leadership when it comes to supporting accessible, affordable, quality education for Canadians,” said Ashton, also the NDP caucus post-secondary education critic.
While education is officially under provincial jurisdiction, Ashton believes it’s still up to the government to provide adequate support to ensure colleges and universities are getting the funding they need.

“Absolutely its part of the provincial responsibility, but the federal government also has a responsibility to ensure that something that’s so integral to the way we move forward as a country is being invested in,” she said.

Ashton also highlighted the importance of easing the financial burden on students, pointing to the recent increases to the Canada Student Loans lending ceiling as an issue that has only continued to leave young people shouldering education-related debt.

“What we’re saying is, why don’t we deal with it before by investing at the front end by working with the provinces – and all the while seeing the goal of making education more affordable and more accessible for Canadians,” Ashton offered.

The NDP has tabled similar post-secondary education-related bills in the past, most recently in fall 2007. While private members’ bills can continue from one session of Parliament to another – if prorogation occurs, for example – they are swept off the table when Parliament dissolves, such as before an election.

Ashton knows this reality, and hopes to keep the emphasis on post-secondary education as an attention-worthy issue – whether or not an election may be right around the corner.

“We’re also calling out to Canadians,” she said. “Bring this up with your representatives, tell them that you need this – and not just students, but people across the board.

“We need federal leadership when it comes to post-secondary education and working with the provinces, and here’s a document that provides that.”

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