Sean Brady, Contributor Ω
Liberal leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau wants the federal government to play a stronger role in post-secondary education, but his platform is without specifics.
Trudeau, the apparent front-runner in the Liberal leadership contest, spoke to a group of approximately 600 in the Campus Activity Centre’s Grand Hall on Monday, Jan. 21.
As the current MP for the Papineau, Que. electoral district, he was one of just 34 Liberal MPs elected in the 2011 federal election, down from 103 seats in 2008.
Trudeau did not cite any specific plans on improving post-secondary education in Canada, but he was still willing to express his concerns.
“I’m not so worried right now or preoccupied with mechanisms,” he said. “What I’m worried about is making sure we can all agree on the goals, the values and the direction we need to go in.”
Many of Trudeau’s remarks were loaded with caveats. While he stressed the federal government needed to be more concerned about student debt loads, he added: “But we also have to make sure we are not removing money from a system that is already strained.”
“A post-secondary education commitment – and perhaps an act – needs to happen,” he said during his speech. During the question and answer period, he repeated the federal government needed to play a larger role in post-secondary education, but added: “as a Québec MP, I’m extremely sensitive to provincial areas of jurisdiction.” He stressed that any changes would be done in co-operation with provincial governments.
Trudeau spoke about matching demands for post-secondary education in the job sector with post-secondary accessibility, saying that if we know how many jobs require post-secondary education, at least as many Canadians should have access to it as well.
Trudeau’s plans for increasing access to education remain vague, but his targets include Aboriginal peoples and those with low income, saying that “If a $3,000 tuition and a $2,000 tuition is the difference between being able to go to school or not, that’s where our focus needs to be.”
Another focus of his speech was youth involvement in politics. Using the halls of TRU as an example, Trudeau pointed to hallway poster boards with ads for exchange programs, calls for activism, single-issue campus clubs and community initiatives.
“So for me, if young people aren’t involved in politics nearly enough, that’s not the fault of young people, it’s the fault of politicians,” he said.
The 2011 federal election saw a 61.1 per cent voter turnout among those eligible to vote, but for those between the ages of 18 and 24, just 38.8 per cent voted, according to Elections Canada.
Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, also a Liberal, last led Canada as prime minister in 1979.
The Liberal Party of Canada will host its next leadership debate in Winnipeg on Feb. 2.