Thursday, September 18, 2008

Day 11 Recap: The Choice on Child Care and Education

Notwithstanding the recent Tory troubles...I'd still hope it wouldn't completely overshadow the excellent Liberal policies that the Liberals put forth. Education and child care are two major issues where there is a stark difference betweens Cons and Liberals.

I was very impressed with the Liberal Post-Secondary Education plan. I believe it is the strongest we've ever seen proposed. Students will be far better off. Currently, most students don’t earn enough money to take advantage of education tax credits, I know I have experienced that. The Liberals would make the tax system simpler and fairer for all students, ensuring they receive up front support throughout the school year adding up to approximately $1000 per student combined with the GST rebate, instead of only receiving that money as tax credits after they've graduated and have a full time job. Students who work while in school would receive another $250 (as outlined in the Green Shift plan). The Liberals would also improve student aid so that no matter how much money you or your parents make, you can get financial support. The education plan would also provide 200,000 bursaries of up to $3500 a year and 100,000 access grants for disadvantaged groups of up to $4000 a year (by the 4th year of the plan). The plan would further make all students (regardless of parental income) eligible for guaranteed student loans of $5000, reduce interest rates on loans, and extend the grace period to two years for repaying them.

It's no wonder this policy has been fully endorsed by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations fully endorsed it:"CASA believes the measures proposed by the Liberal party will help students and families cope with the accelerated costs of education," said Zach Churchill, national director of the alliance. "The proposed plan, if implemented, can significantly enhance access to post-secondary education system, by providing funding to students who need it the most, while helping to lower the epidemic growth of student debt in this country."

The plan does not only focus on making PSE more affordable though, but also in helping to drive the ideas of tomorrow through support to Research and Development. Research funding has given us cures for diseases and technological innovations such as the Blackberry, but to be a world leader in the knowledge economy we need to go much farther. Liberals understand that. The Liberals would bolster funding for the indirect costs of research by 60%, increase support to Canada’s research granting councils by 34% (which would help graduate students and faculty alike), fund greater support for interdisciplinary research, and extend the tax credit for private sector R&D.

It’s about time we had a party willing to take the reforms necessary on education. The Conservatives by contrast offer no plan on education except to give students less than $10 a month for textbooks, I think we know who cares more about our post-secondary education system. Conservatives seem to think we don't need universities as they mock all those who attend and teach at them. Well the Liberals understand that the knowledge economy will crucially depend on a well educated population and well funded research. We know how to manage the economy and our education system, Conservatives don't.

The Liberals are also taking us in the right direction on child care. The Liberals remain committed to a national high quality early learning and child care system. By the 4th year of the plan the Liberals would spend $1.25 billion annually. This would be in addition to maintaining the $100-a-month cheques that have children six and under (as many have come to rely on these) and the new refundable $350 child tax benefit for every child under 18 (mentioned in the Green Shift plan) . The Liberal plan would also make federal maternity and parental leave programs more flexible for parents by providing them with the choice of taking a shorter leave with higher benefits, or a longer leave (up to 18 months) with lower benefits. Finally, the Liberals would provide up to an additional $1, 225 to low-income families with children under 18 as part of a new Guaranteed Family Supplement.

The contrast with the Conservatives could not be more clear. They offer $1200 a month to some parents, but this hardly creates "choice in child care" since without spaces there is no choice and the Conservatives haven't created any child care spaces. The Liberal plan gives MORE money to parents, particularly those with low income and will create well over a hundred thousand child care spaces. That's the system families in this country need. Without a national child care system, families continue to have to choose between work and family and that's not fair to families or our economy, yet the Conservatives just don't seem to realize. That's why they can't be trusted with the economy during troubled times: they don't understand it.

The Liberal plans will be carried out with prudent budgeting, with the entire platform including the $3 billion surplus cushion Mr. Flaherty DID AWAY WITH in his last budget. Liberals would never put us in deficit, but I'm quite concerned Mr. Flaherty already has though, just as the Harris/Eves government did (of which he was Finance Minister) when they claimed they balanced the books when there was really a $5.6 billion deficit. Mr. Flaherty's budgetary projections have been far off in the past, the Conservatives simply have no credibility to be preaching about fiscal responsibility. It's completely obvious which party has the better record on protecting public finances.

So on education, child care, and yes certainly fiscal responsibility, there's just plainly no competition. The choice is clear: The Liberal Party once again has the best plan.

UPDATE: Day 12: Strong plan for infrastructure for the Liberals Vs. “Controversy dogs Tories.” More later….

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