Good words from the Liberal Party on how the priorities of the Conservatives are hurting students. Ottawa West-Nepean has thousands of post-secondary students living in the riding, from the in-riding Algonquin College to students attending Carleton, the University of Ottawa, St. Paul's, in addition to the thousands of soon to be post-secondary students attending high schools in the riding. The MP for Ottawa West-Nepean needs to be a champion for youth and students, not backroom political interests like John Baird.

Rather than shifting the $121 million left over from the Millennium Scholarship Foundation to help students struggling with enormous debt and rising tuition costs, the Harper government has hawked the money away while they struggle to pay for their skewed priorities, Liberal MPs said today.

“They are stealing this huge sum of money from students who desperately need it to help pay for their tax cuts for wealthy corporations and their untendered fighter jets,” said Liberal Human Resources Critic Mike Savage.

“Once again, we see a government completely out of touch with the needs of Canadian families, just as they were when they secretly cut Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) pension payments from low-income seniors.”

Reports today claim that the $121 million recovered by the Treasury Board when the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation closed its doors last July has gone unaccounted for in government coffers. Created in 1998, the fund was a 10-year program designed to lower financial and social barriers to post-secondary education and to encourage student achievement.

“Students are drowning in debt and tuition keeps rising. This money could have been used to help nearly 40,000 more students attend post-secondary education, but instead we have a government who thinks spending billions of dollars on mega-prisons and untendered fighter jets is what Canadians want,” said Mr. Savage.

According to Statistics Canada, average undergraduate tuition this year rose to $5,138 – a nearly $1,000 increase in just the last five years – with graduate tuition rising at a 6% faster pace than undergraduate tuition. As well, one in three student borrowers do not receive enough aid through the student loan system to offset their education costs – and this is happening at the same time as student unemployment is nearly double the general unemployment rate.

“The Conservatives have consistently cut funding to essential learning programs at a time when investing in higher learning is critical,” Liberal Industry, Science and Technology Critic Marc Garneau said. “Stephen Harper’s ideology constantly gets in the way of real progress for the future, where education today is needed if we are to create the jobs of tomorrow.

“Liberals understand that the more educated our population is, the better Canada’s economy will be.”

The Liberal Party’s pan-Canadian learning strategy is a plan to create jobs and a highly skilled workforce by helping more students attend post-secondary school, no matter their financial situation. It also includes investments in early childhood education, improvements in Aboriginal education, workforce literacy, 100% high-speed internet connectivity for distance learning, language training for New Canadians, and access to skills training.