Investing in our Future Benefits Us All

Investing in our Future Benefits Us All

Column submitted to The Daily Gleaner

By Nate Wallace, Policy Director for the Young New Democrats of Canada

On Behalf of the New Brunswick New Democratic Party


In 2019, tuition fees at UNB Fredericton are set to skyrocket. Depending on the faculty, students might see flat rate increases by well over $1000. Premier Brian Gallant has agreed to ‘reset’ tuition fees at UNB in 2019 in the new memorandum of understanding with universities. UNB Fredericton’s VP Academic recently gave a presentation to the university Senate where over 100 students, including myself, staged a sit-in to protest. He said that this ‘reset’ will put tuition fees where they would be if there hadn’t been tuition increase caps and funding freezes put in place by the provincial government over the last two decades.

A lot has happened in the last two decades. In 1997, the Federal Corporate tax rate was 31%. In now stands at less than half that, at 15%. This led to big cutbacks in terms of transfers to the provinces, and a decline in public financing of universities and we’ve seen the drastic rise of tuition fees as a result. What this means is that we’ve seen the incremental shifting of costs once borne by the government, paid for by corporations, onto individuals. Instead of progressive taxation, we have flat and regressive user fees. Students of my generation are effectively being made to pay for years of corporate tax cuts through crippling student debt.

New Brunswick undergraduate students such as myself carry the highest average student debt in the country, at $35,200, which is 50% higher than the Canadian average of $22,300. We also pay the highest interest rates on that debt in the country. According to the Canadian Federation of Students, undergraduate tuition fees in New Brunswick have increased by approximately 20% since 2010. While the recent introduction of the Tuition Access Bursary (TAB) program & Tuition Relief for the Middle Class (TRMC) initiative does mean an increase in up-front grant assistance available for undergraduate students, the provincial government now spends $20 million less per year on student financial assistance than it did prior to the introduction of these programs. This financial assistance also does not apply to Graduate students, which we struggle to keep in the province.

Over my short lifetime of 21 years, there has been a slow transition of the University away from a public good that is financially accessible to the majority of Canadians, into elite institutions where rising tuition fees lock out the underprivileged from getting a higher education. Increasingly more complex regulation and financial assistance models as well as decreasing public funding requires revenue diversification, which has led to significant ‘administrative bloat’ at universities due to the overhead costs these bring. Rising fees lead to a decline in student enrolment, and universities now compete for an ever-smaller market as students begin to turn away from the prohibitive costs of a post-secondary education.

This leads to drastic consequences for all of us. There is a growing gap in the wage-earning potential between someone with a high school diploma and someone with a post-secondary education. New Brunswick already has the lowest household incomes in Canada. Rising tuition fees are effectively becoming a ‘tax on opportunity’ for New Brunswick families like yours and mine. They make our universities less competitive at attracting, training and retaining a skilled workforce, and this has consequences for us all. The parliamentary budget officer estimates that real GDP growth is expected to slow down to 0.4% beyond 2022 due to a shrinking workforce and slow productivity growth. This is far less than New Brunswick’s historical average real GDP growth of 1.9% a year. Increasing tuition fees will shrink our skilled workforce further, keep productivity growth stagnant, and seriously impact tax revenue and the provincial economy.

Brian Gallant’s plan to reset tuition fees after the provincial election sends my generation a message; he doesn’t really care about us. My generation, who is saddled with unsustainable debt, low wages and precarious work, deserves better. I am writing this because I believe that tuition fees aren’t just a student issue, its an issue that all voters should care about. We can stop the tuition hikes and start investing in our future. We can reverse New Brunswick’s decline by making this province the best place to study, work and raise a family. There is an alternative to the increasing corporatization of the university and a shrinking workforce. The NB NDP’s plan for post-secondary education will eliminate tuition fees at community colleges, reduce undergraduate university tuition by 25%, eliminate interest on provincial student loans and extend financial assistance to Graduate students. We can pay for it all by ensuring corporations pay their fair share, and reverse the tax cut Brian Gallant made to the top 1%. In the upcoming fall election, let’s send Brian Gallant a message back.

Post Secondary Education in New Brunswick

The New Brunswick NDP is announcing our platform on Post Secondary Education in New Brunswick.

As I travel across the province, the concern raised most often is that our youth are leaving.  Some of us have our own troubles, yes, but we worry most about our kids and our grand-kids having to leave for work and the hole that is left behind in our family, our community, our economy and our hearts.

For youth to stay here, we must make  sure that youth see a bright future in this province. This means we must put a stop to precarious work where youth and too many others have to work two or three jobs to put a roof over their heads and food on the table.  Why work for $11 an hour here, when they can move elsewhere and find full time employment?  We must cultivate stable employment right here in New Brunswick. That is why we are pushing for a fifteen dollar minimum wage.

And  we must insure our youth are well educated and  well connected to the rest of the world.   We must build a province where youth feel welcome and are given the conditions to thrive.

Instead, today higher education  is becoming more and more difficult for students in obtain New Brunswick.  Under Liberal and Conservative governments, tuition fees in universities have risen by 20% since 2010 to the point where New Brunswick students now have the highest average debt load in the Country and they pay the highest interest rates on that debt.  While the Gallant government may tout  education spending with the introduction of Tuition Access Bursary,  the province is actually spending $20 million dollars less today on student financial assistance than it was before 2010.

Our universities are no longer competitive with  schools across Canada.

If we are going to invest in our future and keep our youth here, we must do more. It is time to start taking bold steps towards universality in Post-Secondary Education. It’s time to start making post secondary education a public  right.

The NDP will make access to higher education more affordable for all New Brunswick students. These measures will be available to all students across Canada who choose to study in New Brunswick universities or community colleges.   Youth are welcome here!

We know from experience that many students who come to New Brunswick from across Canada and the world  often decide to stay in our province,  find employment , create businesses and  raise families.

Our plan will prevent the Gallant government planned 2019 tuition ‘reset’ that has  cause tuition fees to skyrocket at the University of New Brunswick.

In our first year in government the New Brunswick NDP will implement the following measures:

  • Eliminate tuition fees at all NBCC/CCNB  community colleges;
  • Reduce undergraduate tuition for all New Brunswick publicly funded universities by 25%;
  • Eliminate interest charges on all existing and future student loans for New Brunswick residents;
  • Increase up-front financial assistance for Graduate Students by expanding eligibility under the Tuition-Access Bursary (TAB) and allow graduate students to access tuition relief for the middle class under the Tuition Relief for Middle Classs program (TRMC);
  • Introduce a Graduate Student Scholarship Program;
  • Invest in dedicated mental health services on campus;
  • Ensure on campus  harassment and  sexual assault prevention policies exist in all colleges and universities with capacity for  investigation, education and enforcement;
  • Ensure fair funding for St Thomas University.

It is time for New Brunswickers to say to our youth, we want you here !


Jennifer McKenzie,

Leader, NB-NDP

Plan To Eliminate Community College Tuition Fees, Reduce University Tuition



FREDERICTON— The NBNDP announced their platform for Post-Secondary Education today. Jennifer McKenzie, Leader of the NBNDP, made the announcement at the Saint Thomas University Campus in Fredericton. The platform focuses on reducing barriers for students to access education in the province, so that they can graduate and focus on building their futures in New Brunswick.

“We must build a province where youth feel welcome and are given the conditions to thrive. Instead, today higher education is becoming more and more difficult for students to obtain in New Brunswick. Under Liberal and Conservative governments, tuition fees in universities have risen by 20% to the point where New Brunswick students now have the highest average debt load in the Country and they pay the highest interest rates on that debt.”

Jennifer’s bold plan features free tuition for community college students in New Brunswick as well as reducing undergraduate tuition for all New Brunswick publicly funded universities by 25%.

“Our plan will prevent Gallant’s intended 2019 tuition ‘reset’ that will cause tuition fees to skyrocket at the University of New Brunswick” the NDP leader said. “No more biting around the edges, it is time to start taking the bold steps towards universality in Post-Secondary Education. It’s time to start making education accessible to all”.

The NDP will make access to higher education more affordable for all New Brunswick students. These measures will be available to all students across Canada who choose to study in New Brunswick universities or community colleges. “Students should be encouraged to study in New Brunswick. Our graduates go on to find employment, create businesses, and raise families right here. It’s time to invest in our future.”

To reduce barriers to education in New Brunswick a NBNDP government would:
• Eliminate Community College tuition fees
• Reduce undergraduate university tuition fees by 25%
• Eliminate interest on provincial student loans
• Introduce up-front financial assistance for graduate students
• Invest in dedicated mental-health services on campus

The NBNDP plan will offer support to more students than the current Liberal plan under Premier Gallant, including improving assistance to graduating students. A key tenet of this platform is the mental health support systems that the NBNDP would put in place, as part of a holistic approach to ensuring student success. It’s time for investments in youth, education, and the future of New Brunswick.

For more information, please contact:
Andrea Bass, Executive Director
(506) 458-5828

Why does Universality matter?

Twenty years ago, my children went to an inner city elementary school that served some the the lowest income communities in Ottawa.  While sitting with an old friend under a tree in Fundy National Park, I was convinced to become co-chair of the parent council.  Not long afterwards, we were caught up in a province-wide school closure campaign that created a massive protest that eventually brought down the provincial government.  I learned about the importance of universal social programs first hand.

For social programs to be of high quality and to endure, they must be universally accessible by rich and poor alike.  That is why the Gallant government’s approach to providing “free” childcare and “free” post-secondary tuition to some and not to others is doomed to fail, if not now, the next time the austerity knives are sharpened.  Hence we will be doomed to continue the revolving door of building and tearing down, building and tearing down.

Universal programs are free, or at least affordable, to all people of all income levels. Healthcare and public education are two examples in Canada; universal low cost childcare in Quebec is another.  These programs are of high quality because we all feel a sense of ownership and there is widespread concern when standards slip or when schools or hospitals are threatened with closure.  All people who use universal programs advocate for improvements based on the latest advances in medicine or education and hold our public institutions to account.

In my case, I ran for the school board and used my engineering management and marketing experience to bring forward reforms to the public education system that gave us some of the highest quality, most accessible, and financially sound programs around, all within a budget that was not far off that of New Brunswick’s Ministry of Education.  We received international attention for many of our reforms and education experts from Finland, Norway and Britain came to find out what we were up to.

Non-universal programs by contrast do not have the same degree of pressure to perform.  Families who do not receive subsidies may choose to attend separate non-publicly run programs. Eventually these become of perceived higher quality, like private schools or private health clinics.  This undermines the public systems, hires away qualified staff, and can eventually lead to the demise of well-intended programs.

A second flaw in Gallant’s childcare program design is lack of accessibility, both through physical location and capped enrolment.  If a family lives too far or does not have a car or access to public transit, they may as well not have free access to childcare.  Public programs should be placed where they are easily accessible to people on limited income.  When programs have limited enrolment, only people who are well-connected and well-rooted in the community have the means and opportunity to know where and when to apply and how to get through the long waiting lists.

Well-designed universal and accessible programs have the important added benefit of integrating people from widely varying backgrounds both to attend the programs and to unite in common cause.  As someone deeply concerned about influencing societal trends towards tolerance and understanding and away from mistrust and blame, this is one of the most important aspects of universal social programs to me.

As the NDP platform is released, we will keep in mind the fundamental principles of universality and accessibility for our day cares, post-secondary education and other social programs so that as many New Brunswick families as possible can benefit from the highest quality most affordable social programs possible.


Jennifer McKenzie,
Leader, NB-NDP

NB-NDP EI “Black Hole” Response

Jennifer McKenzie, Leader of the NBNDP today welcomed the announcement by the Liberal government that it will provide temporary and partial relief to the thousands of New Brunswickers caught by the so called “black hole” in Employment Insurance benefits.


In responding to the announced  income assistance from now until the start of seasonal work in June, McKenzie says, “This is just a temporary fix.  What we really need is for the federal government to return the EI program to its intended purpose as they promised in the last federal election. The Trudeau government has been too slow to reform an EI program that was gutted by the Harper Conservatives.  In particular Ms McKenzie said, “The  announcement today will not do anything for pregnant women from  Restigouche County down to Albert County and across New Brunswick who work in seasonal and other industries and  can’t  get enough weeks work to qualify for maternity leave benefits.”


The announcement is just temporary and does not provide a permanent fix as was proposed by the federal NDP in the last election.  Once the two years of funding has run dry, it is unlikely that the Liberals will fix the underlying problems in EI Fund as they rely on the surplus in the Fund for other programs.  It will not become a priority for them until the next time their political survival depends upon it.  They are simply throwing New Brunswick workers a proverbial bone.


“Today’s announcement is in no small part because of the brave work of the Comittee for Action on Employment Insurance and they must be commended for the work they have done to insure the provincial and federal government  responded to the needs of these workers.”

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