Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Free Money

As predicted, the coalition talk is fading away- at least for Ignatieff- the only focus now seems to be entirely on Harper's historical problems, which are never resolved. Today, the campaign moves to the real debate, and the Liberals begin to frame a clear, what I believe, compelling choice. A 1 billion dollar expenditure, based on the premise "you get the grades, you get to go", a sizeable commitment on education.

When the Liberals decided to put out their corporate tax position last year, my first comments mentioned that this pledge opened the door for new spending initiatives. Previously, there was a "sucking and blowing" component, but the corporate tax savings instantly gave the Liberals fiscal room to put items in the window, without looking overtly irresponsible. Today, Ignatieff wisely puts out the education pledge on the back of the corporate tax cuts, the link is clear, it provides superficial financial cover, but it also puts out the distinct choice. Do you want money for fat cat corporations, or money to send your kids to post secondary education? For all the polling focus, let's not forget the Liberals win all day long on this question, every moment spent on this frame, a net positive.

It's not a huge amount of money, particularly when contrasted with the 6 billion corporate tax figure, the untold billions for planes, further billions for prisons. In fact, the allocation looks a pittance, easily incorporated into a coming fiscal platform to get us to balanced budgets. There is no blowback with this commitment, every conversation will lead to the Conservative commitments, a weakness they simply can't hide from. No matter what the Liberals offer, the Conservatives have given them fiscal cover with their own big ticket items. We are then left to CHOICE, and you can't overstate the significance of this discussion. Also worth noting here, Harper is in such a fiscal bind, his signature announcement yesterday is left to offer far in the future promises, that's all he can do now, his "room" now non-existent, further spending risks mockery.

People can argue about the corporate tax cuts, what the real price is, that is a debate that never ends or brings clarity. That debate is also entirely irrelevant to this frame we now see taking shape, with more to come. Do you want help with education for your kids or help for the big banks? It's a slam dunk proposition, and it explains why Ignatieff didn't bite on the lingering coalition question this morning (even though offered a softball, clear shot at Harper over Flanagan contradicting), because this is our ground and it's rock solid. Today, the campaign turns, let's see if the Liberals can keep it on here.


Gayle said...

Help with education costs is badly needed. This is a great idea and hopefully an easy sell.

Steve V said...

Should be, every parent I know is concerned about post secondary costs, everyone wants the best for their kid.

Sean Cummings said...

I don't think Canadians see/understand the net benefit of corporate tax cuts in how it will impact their lives in a positive way. I don't even *get* corporate tax cuts, but I do understand that any investment in post secondary education is long overdue, because of this, I think this policy is a winner for the average middle class family.

What I would like to see from the parties in this election is something greater than lip service to skilled trades as a viable option for kids when they finish high school. There is a huge skilled labor shortage in Canada, particularly in the west where I live. I know of many home repair and contracting companies that have to go overseas to get the skilled labor. I'm 43, they used to teach this stuff in school. My son is 20 and he can't turn a wrench. None of his friends can either.

Shiner said...

The Con talking point on this is pathetic, some nonsense about it being a give away to the financial services industry.

Another official line being that it benefits spoiled rich kids... this from the party that just announced a possible future kinda maybe income splitting policy whose maximum benefit goes to people earning $120,000+.

Steve V said...

I don't think they have a coherent way to hit back.

Morakon said...

Good first major policy announcement. Can't wait to see if the have a great Healthcare policy next. That is another major Con weakness.

Kirk said...

I'll miss the whole coalition thing.

It was very revealing of Harper's psychosis.

JohnH said...

This is a great start as many student associations are saying. Blows the
Conservatives out of the water. That said, I do really wish there was less
on offer for upper income families and that money were shifted to lower
income families.

I graduated in 2000 when tuition was about $4000 a year, now I understand
it's about $6000 a year. So the $1,500 a year is still going to leave LOTS of families unable to afford PSE. Tuition goes up 3% a year and I'm not sure if this grant will increase in fluctuation with that.

Wasn't Martin's 50/50 plan in 2006 offerring more than this? To cover first and last year's tuition regardless of cost? The last platform offerred 300,000 needs based bursaries of $3500-$4000 a year based, what was wrong with that plan? So how is this the biggest offer ever as claimed? Personally I preferred the one from the last platform but I guess this one is better politics, but worse policy.

I'm fortunate to come from an upper income family who never needed any
financial assistance to fund my university education. To have given my parents an extra $1,000 a year really is just "free money" and I think a poor use of taxpayer's money.

This plan would have been better to have given like $200 a year to families with household incomes above $150,000 and $3,000 to lower income families (probably still at same the overall cost). Then the "you get the grades, you get to go" mantra would really prove true.

Anyways I still want this policy put into law. I will most definitely be
voting Liberal. The Conservatives have ZERO plan for PSE (and their budget had no long-term plan for much of anything). The NDP cannot replace Harper and a vote for them helps another Conservative get elected.

But I do hope that this Liberal education plan evolves over time to provide more help for low-income families and less help for the families that really don't need it. A 1% raise in the sales tax would cover the full tuition cost of every single low-income student (and probably even households with incomes of up to $200,000) in the country. That's never going to happen unfortunately, but it is possible to do better than this.

Dame said...

Great step Forward a Winner !!

marie said...

My grandson is in his 2nd year In University and his funds to continue the four year program have quickly run dry. His parents funded him for the first year and that took up all their savings. He has always been a miser with his money. Always was a smart guy from kindergarten on to post secondary school. He is studying in the business world and to become and hopes to get his degrees in business science accounting and actually greatly favors economic matters. I would right now place his brain against Herr Harper on his intelligence and knowledge he has amassed in less than 2 years.

He has to pay for tuition, books parking and room and board. He has always been a miser when it came to money and any monetary gifts he has ever received went strictly to his bank account. He had a good summer job and earned what should have been enough to see him through his second year. I am talking about the mid Island University keeping in mind that the majority of the students attending this university live in other countries, most already have paid return fares to their countries have been locked out with a general strike with picket signs and one month wasted and barely enough time to catch up.

In other words, these students and their families have wasted thousands of dollars and by being delayed one year of their paid education and thousands of their hard earned funds. By the time they actually finish this year, all student jobs will have been taken and they either have to go to work full time and start all over again. What I am getting at is that this announcement for post education will be of the greatest value to these young people and their families, instead of the Harper crap announcements. Guess who the teachers support? Union workers and the NDP, and take a guess on who these students and their families will ultimately support? My guess is certainly not the cons or the NDP.

Yesterdays Harper campaign was full of blatant lies that he might be criticized by the Media, (not likely according to what we are actually seeing these days)

People in Libya and Arab countries are losing their lives fighting to have Democratic rights and here we are, fighting to keep a dictator who is campaigning on lies about trying to make this campaign appear as if they were defeated on the budget that never even came up for debate to vote on. Harper clearly wanted an election. All one has to do is listen to his rants for 2 minutes to come to this conclusion.

It doesn’t seem to embarrassment him or his supporters in the least that he was defeated by the majority of the house for contempt of Parliament

Sorry for this long post and my rant but by golly, I sure feel better writing this is very good for my health. It helps lower my blood pressure and helps me to prevent another stroke from happening any time soon.

Steve V said...


I understand you can always do more, but by your own math this is a 25% commitment to tuition. I'd add if you put that money in at 14, it will be worth more by 18, that's how RESP's work, or are supposed to anyways ;) I take the point, but this isn't window dressing, it's a serious commitment. I suspect more is on the way, and I wonder if there is something on student debt that couldn't be implemented.

Jerry Prager said...



JohnH said...

Indeed it is a serious commitment and a welcome one I'd like to see become law, all I'm saying is that the last Liberal platform offered more money to low income students (300,000 $3500 to $4000 a year bursaries) than this one does ($1500 a year). The reason this one offers less to low income students but actually costs more overall is because of the $1000 a year going to families who don't need the money (I see that as a lot of money subsidizing something they could easily afford anyway). I do look forward to the Liberals building on this in goverment. I feel they've run an excellent campaign so far and that this policy will sell to a wider audience than the one in the last platform (which only helped lower income canadians), but I still can't but think the old plan was better policy and wiser use of taxpayers dollars.

Kirk said...

The Liberals are overselling this plan. Some of the adjectives they're using to describe it as basically "better than hot coed sex" will turn people off. Let the customer think they've come to the conclusion themselves, cool the hyperbole.

Steve V said...

Who is saying that? I watch Rae on CBC, Lake from CP had little in the way of retort, looked a pure winner.

ottlib said...

What, there is someone else besides the leader of the Liberal Party talking to the media about their election platform?

That can't be.

Kirk said...

I'm hearing this on CBC radio news. Reporting that it is being claimed to be the best program in the world, a "revolution" in education etc.

JohnH said...

I agree it is oversold. It is an excellent start but just look at the comments on facebook and twitter by Liberals or even the liberal.ca website insinuating this the boldest proposal on student assistance in history.

The Globe and Mail's reality check echoes what I said earlier, it would have been better to improve the existing grants system (like the last platform proposed) than tinker with RESPs which will add new complications and not help the needy as much as the previous Liberal plan did. The CBC reality check says most people will not get more than $442 net a year rather $1000 because of the tax credits that are eliminated in conjuction with this plan (though fortunately they note that very low income people would likely still get $1500 net because they weren't eligible for those credits in the first place)

Anyways again, good plan, good start but that's all it is. I'm not sold on the idea that this will measurably change access to education all that much when tuition could rise another $1000 a year over the next 5 years.

On the plus side, if/when the Liberals win this election, the plan can be easily modified for the better in the next budget. If people get similar or more amounts through grants rather than RESPs I hardly think anyone will complain.

I look forward with some bit of optimism for the Liberals plans on infrastructure and democratic reform that should be coming soon :)