June 10, 2004  
Volume 98, Issue 04  

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London candidates talk education

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

With the federal election coming in less than three weeks, The Gazette decided to ask London North-Centre candidates about a topic students might be interested in — post-secondary education.

“Our government over the past number of years has done a number of things educated-related,” said Liberal incumbent Joe Fontana. He cited examples such as enhancement to the Canada Student Loans Program, increased money for grants and graduate students, the Millennium Scholarships and an increase in the Research and Development budget.

“I’ve delivered tens of millions of dollars to Western [in recent years],” Fontana said, adding along with these grants comes an increase in operating dollars to help upgrade university facilities.

“The big picture is to make sure we have more grants, loans and bursaries available,” he said, explaining that tuition is out of the federal government’s jurisdiction and lies with the provincial government.

According to Conservative candidate Tim Gatten, there has been “a lot of Liberal neglect in [the area of education] over the past 10 years.

“I teach at Fanshawe [College] and I’ve seen firsthand good students who are affected by the economy in a direct way,” Gatten said. “The main problem is costs and debts, and we want to try and do something about it. [The Conservative Party’s] focus is accessibility.”

Gatten also explained the Conservatives’ plan to revamp the Canada Student Loans program to make funding more accessible for students who slip through the cracks.

“One of the main things we believe is that a healthy, strong economy will provide good jobs for students once they graduate and also good summer jobs to take stress off students during the year,” Gatten said, noting a Conservative government would want to work in closer partnership with the provinces in regard to the issue of education to ensure stable funding.

“Higher education is a key to success and we have to recognize that fact,” he added.

New Democratic Party candidate Joe Swan said his party is focusing on three main areas of post-secondary education. “Post-[graduation] debt is not getting [graduates] off to a good start in their careers,” he said.

Swan explained the NDP would make the interest paid on Canada Student Loans a tax credit on income tax.

Tuition fees would also be cut by 10 per cent and then frozen at that level, with the aid of increased federal funding. Swan said the NDP would be “providing literally billions of dollars” and dedicating resources to the provinces for this program.

Finally, the party would look at research programs and what Swan said is the “corporate creep into the research area.” He added the NDP would focus on stimulating public interest research.

“I’m somewhat disappointed in the timing of this election for students,” he said, explaining that a summer election makes it difficult for students who are in transition or moving to other cities.

“It’s got to be tuition costs,” said Bronagh Morgan, the Green Party candidate, when asked what she considered to be the main issue with post secondary education.

There are intelligent people who cannot even afford to go to school anymore, she said, adding the Green Party would increase the number of grants and the amount of federal funding.

—with files from Megan O’Toole



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