Ottawa budget offers little to students

Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver donned new shoes on Tuesday and released the federal budget.

Oliver was quick to emphasize the fact Canada was back in the black (a modest $1.4 billion surplus), but he reached this number thanks to a little bit of creative bookkeeping.

The Conservatives raided the contingency fund, which is set aside to keep funds away for a rainy day, such as a major natural disaster.  The government’s determination to balance the books was done despite many economists saying the difference between a small surplus and a small deficit was negligible. Even the late Jim Flaherty, whose presence can still be felt in Ottawa beyond the grave, refused to raid the fund in the past.

This decision was met with condemnation from the opposition.  Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair rightly noted that the contingency fund was something that was set aside for an emergency, “not something you tap into because you’re short a couple billion dollars.”

A key portion of the budget was the decision to raise the amount of contributions to tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) to $10,000 from $5,500. This is great news for someone who has a spare $10,000 kicking around somewhere, but for those in a lower income bracket, it doesn’t mean much.

Despite this, the budget did have some good news for students. A small bright light is the government’s decision to reduce the length of a program a student has to be in to qualify for federal government grants to 34 weeks from the current 60.  This is welcome and will especially help those in the skilled trades and apprentices – people that are critical to keeping our economy afloat.

But the Canadian Federation of Students pointed out that students are going deeper and deeper into debt and the changes made will only benefit a small segment of the population – and would also lead to increased debt loads held by students, with debt being a major factor in holding us back.

So, the government has offered its economic platform to the public – which will be a key document for them in the upcoming election, due in October.  A little help was offered for students, but more could be done.

We urge every student to go out and vote and make their own judgments on each party’s platform.  Traditionally, participation by students and young people is pitifully low in elections – which means that the government pays scant attention to their needs because there are no votes.

The only way to stop this is to get out and vote this October.  Your vote does matter.

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