Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Get out the vote!

Today I vote for Ed Broadbent - Canadian social democratic icon and NDP Candidate for Ottawa Centre.

I'm pretty sure the NDP will not win the election - they never have - but they've accomplished great things in the past and if there is not a majority government they will again have the chance to influence politics in important ways. Of course they want to strengthen social welfare, public healthcare, and support diversity, equality and peacekeeping rather than war, but I vote NDP primarily because I support their position on education and student loans.

I believe that an educated population is a crucial aspect of responsible global citizenship, and I support innovative and creative ways of funding people's lifelong learning and helping them repay any debt. In other words, I believe that personal interest and ability - not finances - should decide whether someone gets a post-secondary education.

In the decade I have attended university, tuition fees have risen by five times the national inflation rate, which means that education is increasingly harder to afford, student debt is rising and it's not getting any easier to pay back student loans. The National Student Loan Centre actually recommends that you repay your loan faster by taking out a personal loan, paying off your student loan in one lump sum, and then paying off the personal loan.

Between my MA and PhD, my student loan payments were set at $962 a month (including interest) for ten years. Seriously, that's what my BA and MA cost me - attending public universities in one of the world's wealthiest nations - with no opportunity to reduce that amount no matter how well I do or what I contribute to my country. On the up-side, my academic performance was good enough that my doctorate has been completely supported by federal, provincial and university scholarships. Without that funding, I would never have been able to go back to school (and there is nothing I would rather be doing) but six months after my PhD is done those $962 payments resume.

Now imagine what kind of job you need to make that sort of monthly payment. Imagine knowing that a mortgage - or even a car loan - is out of the question before that debt is paid. I know that no one can take my education away from me, but imagine the lifelong costs for something your government told you was a right and not a privilege. Imagine wondering if you will have to leave the country you love because you cannot afford to live there.

Today I vote NDP because they believe that what I do is valuable and that my education has an important role in Canada's future. After all, that doesn't seem too much to ask of my government.

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