Singh commits to cancel up to $20,000 in tuition in election campaign-style promise

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OTTAWA — Federal New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh renewed his pitch to young voters on Saturday, pledging that an NDP government would cancel up to $20,000 in tuition.

Singh announced he would also freeze federal student loan payments until the COVID-19 pandemic winds down and eliminate interest on student debt if elected.

The announcement, presented as a campaign-style pledge ahead of a possible election this year, comes as federal parties prepare to battle it out for the hearts and ballots of young voters.

Statistics Canada found last fall that more than 60 per cent of post-secondary students were concerned about using up their savings and taking on more debt.

The Liberals imposed a moratorium on Canada Student Loan payments between last April and September, but the freeze has long since thawed and student groups have urged Ottawa to suspend payment obligations again.

Singh said the government has been "profiting off the backs of young people" by taking in more than $4 billion in interest payments since 2015.

"Young people are making student loan payments the size of mortgage payments — spending years under crushing debt, not able to get ahead. And the COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse," he said at the party's virtual youth convention.

“An education should help young people get ahead, not leave them further behind."

Singh also repeated his commitment to work with provinces and territories toward tuition-free post-secondary education.

Under the NDP plan, student debt forgiveness would be capped at $20,000, with the amount determined based on a household's average income for five years after graduation.

Borrowers with annual incomes above $60,000 would see the amount of debt reduction available shrink linearly up to $100,000 in income, at which point no chunk of the debt would be cancelled. (For reach dollar of income above $60,000, the amount of debt forgiven would decrease by 50 cents from the $20,000 starting point.)

The announcement goes beyond Singh's 2019 election campaign promise to nix all current and future interest on federal student loans.

More than 868,000 borrowers hold Canada Student Loans amounting to $9.77 billion, according to an auditor general's report released last July.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2021.

The Canadian Press