Chretien and Martin More to Blame for High Student Debt than Harper


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Yesterday UBC’s Board of Governors approved a controversial motion to raise international student tuition by 10% and then a 3% increase for the next four years.

This sets up a clear conflict between the Governors and UBC’s student scoiety–the AMS–who passed a motion to organize protests until the tuition hike is shot down.

Some of today’s student protesters might be tempted to blame Stephen Harper for the corprotization of the University. On tomorrow’s episode of the Terry Project on CiTR we explore an earlier chapter of austerity politics in Canada.

Richard Wellen is the author of a fantastic paper called “The Making of a Policy Regime: Canada’s Post Secondary Student Finance System Since 1994.” He outlines how policymakers began to see targeted financial interventions as preferable to large transfers to universities.

At first the idea was to subsidize poor kids education to improve accessibility. But Wellen says that Chretien and Martin opted to put more money into the Canadian Education Savings Grant–which mainly benefited middle class families whose kids were always going to go to University.

“You know, politics reign supreme. Who’s the constituency for post secondary education? It’s the relatively well-to-do middle class. These are people who are articulate. They’re good at expressing their needs. They’re the major taxpayers in society. They want to feel like they’re getting something for their vote and for the taxes that they pay,” says Wellen.

“Politicians need to get elected. And they targeted the money where it would help them politically. So it’s a pretty simple equation there.”

Check out our recent BARtalk: a live discussion with protesters, politicians and student leaders on the state of student debt, tuition and the University.

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Sam Fenn is the Executive Producer and Host of The Terry Project on CiTR. You can follow Sam on twitter (, check out his instagram ( and read more of his writing at