While post-secondary education is primarily a provincial responsibility, the federal government plays a key role in providing loans and grants to students, directly funding research, and transferring funds to provinces and territories for post-secondary institutions through the Canada Social Transfer.
NDP and Greens will work towards free tuition
Both the NDP and Greens envision a future where cost is not a barrier to post-secondary education. The NDP commits to work with provinces to cap and reduce tuition fees, as well as eliminate interest from federal student loans and increase access to the Canada Student Grant program.
The Greens commit to spend $10 billion on post-secondary institutions and trade schools to address the effects of chronic funding shortfalls in the sector such as precarious employment. Moreover, they vow to eliminate tuition for all colleges and universities and forgive the federal portion of existing student debt.
Both the NDP and Greens say they will support post-secondary education for Indigenous youth through dedicated initiatives.
Liberals focused on incremental improvements
The Liberal party promises a series of incremental improvements to post-secondary education. Most significant among these are increasing the Canada Student Grant by up to $1,200 per year and making student loans more affordable and flexible. The latter will be achieved by allowing new graduates two years before they are required to start paying back loans, interest-free.
Moreover, payment could be put on hold at any time if annual income falls below $35,000. And, as a measure of support for new parents, loan repayments could also be put on hold until the youngest child turns five.
In addition, Liberals pledge to work with the Ontario government to build a new French-language university.
Bloc Québécois and Conservatives offer limited vision
The Bloc Québécois commits to increasing the Canada Social Transfer in support of post-secondary education and boosting funding for university research, both by unspecified amounts.
The Conservatives hold by far the most limited proposals on post-secondary education of all federal parties. Their key initiative is to boost the government’s match of RESP contributions from 20 to 30 per cent up to the current limit of $2,500 per year.
Furthermore, Conservatives want to work with universities to adjust curricula to meet labour market demands and say they will tie research funding to "free speech and academic freedom.” This last item is borrowed from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who recently made a similarly unnecessary imposition on Ontario universities that the Canadian Association of University Teachers condemned as “an unprecedented interference with institutional autonomy” and “a solution in search of a problem.”
The Bloc and Conservatives also promise to support the establishment of a French-language university in Ontario.