Jack Layton, a.k.a. Mr. Mustachio.
courtesy NDP party

NDP leader confers with student journalists

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Jack Layton and his federal New Democrats aim to ease the burden on university students.

The NDP have put forward a three-part plan to make post-secondary education a possibility for all Canadians, regardless of income. NDP leader Jack Layton held a students-only press

conference Fri., Feb. 2 to discuss the plan.

"We believe post-secondary education is a public good," said Layton in the conference call. "Lower tuition, less debt, more faculty and better resources create more opportunity, not only for today's students, but it creates the basis for a sound and more sustainable society and economy."

The three-pronged attack calls for secure federal funding, an increase in grants for low income students and retooling student loans to lower debt loads for graduates.

"First of all, we have to adequately increase the federal transfer for post-secondary education so that every province can either freeze or roll-back tuition," said Layton. "As well, we want to see reinvestment in areas to retain quality."

Layton also wants to ensure all students have access to universities.

"We have to move to a comprehensive federal student grant system to offset the Canada student loan," said Layton. "These grants are essential for accessibility. More and more families are coming to the conclusion that they may not be able to send their young family members on to post-secondary opportunities simply because they cannot afford it."

Few concrete details were released regarding the plan.

"As with any minority parliament, what you try to do is raise the key issues to put the pressure on and work with those in the community that are trying to press government action, that's why we're working closely with the student movement," explained Layton. "You have to make a judgment to see what has been accomplished and whether or not it's sufficient."

Layton is hoping all members of Parliament will make education a priority.

"We must enshrine the principle of accessibility and quality in a public, not-for-profit, post-secondary education system."