Round #3 of the 2015 Cariboo – Prince George discussion with our local candidates! As before, replies are presented in the order in which they were received.
Question 1 – What are your thoughts about the accessibility, relevance and effectiveness of Canada’s system of post-secondary education, and what specific changes would your party implement within the next two years?
Tracy Calogheros – Life-long learning is a hallmark of a healthy and contemporary society. As Canada reclaims its place as a world leader in cutting edge technologies, creative thought, research, and innovation, our population will continue to embrace extended training of all kinds.
The cost of tuition at the university level, not considering books, accommodations or food is high. Since 1990/91 to projected levels for 2016/17, that price tag has more than tripled in some Provinces, with BC somewhere in the middle of the pack. Keeping in mind that responsibility for universities is primarily a Provincial matter, funding for Universities has shifted from almost 80% government supported to somewhere around 50% today. That difference is made up by donations, earned revenues and tuitions. Having both sat on the Board of Governors for The Emily Carr University, and assisted my son and daughter to pay their tuitions, I have struggled with this challenge on both sides of the equation.
With significant investments in youth employment, cuts to personal taxes for middle class earners and support for pre-apprenticeship training and co-op programs a Liberal government is striving to help students continue to achieve while not amassing a daunting personal debt in the process. I believe that rekindling a true partnership between the Provinces and the Federal Government while establishing meaningful consultation with institutions and Canadians will move us collectively towards a solution to this problem. This is a key step in our trek to reclaim our international role as a leader in innovation. An educated population is vital to keeping pace with a global market heavily invested in intellectual property and post-secondary education is essential to that goal. We need to find a way to make that an attainable goal for any Canadian who chooses to pursue it.
Todd Doherty – Our Conservative government has supported education by providing more financial support to students pursuing post-secondary education, especially in vocational and trades training, while making education as a whole more accessible.
Since 2006, some of the programs we’ve supported students with include:
- Establishing the Canada Student Grants Program, which provides funding to students and does not need to be paid back
- Reforming the Canada Student Loans program to remove in-study income and personal vehicles from the loan calculation, and to reduce the expected parental contribution
- Creating a new Canada Apprenticeship Loan to extend federal student loans to apprentices
- Eliminating taxation on scholarship income and to help with the cost of textbooks
- Providing tax credits and grants for students pursuing vocational training and apprenticeships
- Cutting taxes to help youth and parents save for their education
I support an enhancement of the Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) by doubling the federal grant for low and middle income families. RESPs allow a child’s savings to grow tax free, with contributions being made from after-tax income. It makes it possible for children to receive extra funding through government incentives, such as the Canada Learning Bond and the Canada Education Savings Grant. I want to enhance RESP’s by:
- Doubling the enhanced grant from 20 cents on every dollar to 40 cents on every dollar for the first $500 dollars for children from low-income families; and,
- Doubling the enhanced grant from 10 cents on every dollar to 20 cents for the first $500 dollars contributed for children from middle-income families.
Sheldon Clare – As a college instructor, I have seen first-hand what the rising cost of tuition, living, and textbooks has done to our university and college-aged student population. Classes at both of our major post-secondary institutions have shrunk in recent years, bolstered partially by the recruiting of foreign students – clearly our education is in demand because it has value. However, many domestic students cannot afford post-secondary education because of the associated costs. Our education is relevant in training the critical thinkers needed to improve our society, and to fill the demands of an increasingly challenging workplace.
This situation will not be fixed overnight. But there are three concrete ways to work on this.
First, we must stop charging interest on student loans. Many jobs today require years of post-secondary training, and it is foolish to make it harder to get this vital education at the same time we are worried about growing our tax base. Young people need to know that the sticker price on their education is the real price.
Second, we need to ensure less money is consumed by administrative costs. Even if we were to double grant money tomorrow, a good percentage of that would be eaten up by administration. This cannot continue. Students are often at the leading edge of technological know-how, and many of them can acquire their grants and fill out paperwork without excessive help.
Third, earmark public funding through tax breaks or other incentives to support purchase of textbooks and materials. Many students select courses, or seriously consider dropping them because of the textbook cost. This situation is outrageous. We need encourage funding options for open source learning – digital textbooks and lab manuals. Students need to have access to the materials needed for their studies without going broke.
Adam De Kroon – Unfortunately post-secondary education has only become more expensive and challenging for Canadian students. In the last fifteen years tuition fees have become one of the largest expenses for university and college students, increasing, on average, over five times the rate of inflation. During the same period government funding of universities has decreased. The CHP would make student loans from the federal government interest-free and non-repayable for 10 years after graduation, allowing students more time to establish their careers before facing the challenge of repaying student loans. The CHP would also give students greater control of the educational system by redirecting government funding directly to students in the form of tuition vouchers. The students could then choose which school (including private schools) they want to attend and direct that voucher money to. The vouchers could cover the full cost of tuition or maybe only part of it, depending how expensive the student’s chosen school is. This would result in a more competitive system where the best schools would receive more students and funding, and it would reduce overall cost for students because the schools would be competing to a degree.
Question 2 – If you are elected, how will you address the issue of Physician Assisted Suicide? If asked by a patient to assist in his/her suicide, and the doctor chooses not to, will it be mandatory for the doctor to refer the patient to another doctor who will provide that service?
Tracy Calogheros – It is never easy to talk about death but it is an inevitable conclusion to these lives we lead. It is a subject that inspires intense emotions and heated debate. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously in February (interpreting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) that persons should have the right to autonomy over their own deaths in some circumstances. This ruling has been suspended for 12 months to allow for new laws to be drafted. Justin Trudeau introduced a motion in the House that “…a special committee be appointed to consider the ruling of the Supreme Court; that the committee consult with experts and with Canadians, and make recommendations for a legislative framework that will respect the Constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the priorities of Canadians.”
This will not be an easy conversation, it will make people uncomfortable, but it is an important conversation for us to have as a society. I will support the broad consultation with Canadians that Mr. Trudeau has suggested.
In my opinion, this is a deeply personal issue. Should a physician choose not to assist a patient with his/her death it would seem a suitable compromise to refer this patient to the BC Medical Association for their assistance. I anticipate that this matter would form part of the discussion of the special committee that Mr. Trudeau has sought with his aforementioned motion.
Todd Doherty – It was the Supreme Court of Canada that forced the Government to rewrite the law. An expert non-partisan panel has been created to consult with Canadians on the issue, and to provide advice to the Government.
Sheldon Clare – Physician Assisted Suicide, or euthanasia, is a strongly held issue of conviction for many people. I believe decisions regarding end of life in terminal cases are best left to the discretion of a patient and his or her doctor. No amount of legislation, either for or against, will ever satisfy the complex ethical and moral issues that affect such a decision. In my opinion, people faced with terminal conditions have the right to depart their life with dignity, rather than face unnecessary torment and pain, and in that regard, this issue must be left to patients and doctors to determine. Patients already have the right to seek alternative opinions regarding their care, and legislating such matters to make referrals mandatory seems excessive and unnecessary.
Adam De Kroon – I oppose the legality of Physician Assisted Suicide. Even the World Health Organization has recommended that governments not consider assisted suicide and euthanasia until they have demonstrated the availability and practice of palliative care for their citizens. I agree with medical professionals who believe there is more in the way of medical care we can provide before recommending suicide. In 2010 our Parliament voted strongly against a motion to legalize euthanasia. The vote was 230 against and 57 in favor. In February of this year the Supreme Court of Canada struck down our ban on assisted suicide and gave Parliament one year to come up with a law that would be constitutional. A CHP government would invoke the “notwithstanding clause”; this would send a message to the Supreme Court that their decision was wrong and would give Parliament time to write better legislation. As an elected official I would work towards forming better legislation on assisted suicide and euthanasia. I support “conscience legislation” that would give doctors a right to refuse recommending assisted suicide to patients and the right to not assist suicide. Conscience legislation I support would also include the right of a doctor to not refer the patient to a doctor who would provide assisted suicide, because that could violate a doctors conscience if he/she believes it makes them an accessory to the suicide.