Federal Election 2019: Open Letter to Federal Party Leaders on Post-Secondary Education Priorities

October 4, 2019 - 9 minutes read

UMSU, through it’s leading role in the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities (UCRU) — a coalition of student unions from Canada’s largest public research institutions — has partnered with 46 other student unions across the country, representing over 900,000 students, in calling on federal parties to heed post-secondary student concerns.

The following open letter was sent to party leaders at the beginning of the campaign period. 


Dear Federal Party Leaders,

Together, our organizations represent 900,000 post-secondary students across Canada. Our students are closely watching party platforms, as are the families who support them, and we are getting ready to mobilize millions of voters to go to the polls as students head back to school in September. These votes must be informed by concrete plans from each federal party to address student concerns.

This federal election, eligible voters aged 18 to 38 will be the single largest voting bloc in Canada – more than 37% of the electorate. On post-secondary campuses alone, there are over 2.5 million voters, with many voting for the very first time. In this upcoming federal election, young Canadians will have the voting power to determine what happens next and we are more politically engaged than ever before. This comes at a time when we collectively face the dangerous realities of climate change. We face the urgency to act on the calls to action from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report and countless other inquiries that call on Canada to support Indigenous communities. We feel the burden of unaffordable living conditions and the rising costs of education. 

As students coming together from all across Canada, we are preparing Get Out the Vote campaigns on each of our campuses to bring young voters to the polls in record numbers. In the last federal election, in which many successful Get Out the Vote campaigns took place, there was an 18% increase in voter turnout among people aged 18 to 24. These voters are critical to listen to. The next four years will be decided in the next two months and before students and their families go to the polls, it is essential that their federal party leaders tell students what their vision is for education and supporting students and their families in Canada. 

We call on your leadership to address affordability, sustainable and high-quality jobs, and to support Indigenous students. You can take action by making commitments within your party’s platform this federal election to: 

Eliminate interest on federal student loans and increase federal grants for post-secondary students. Eliminating interest on federal student loans will immediately make post-secondary education more accessible for low- to middle-income students. Furthermore, all parties should commit to reallocating a large portion of the $1.5 billion saved by eliminated tuition tax credits to finance up-front grants administered by the Canada Student Loans Program. Low- to middle-income students, having less resources to inform their tax filings, are the least likely to utilize this credit immediately and, simultaneously, they take on more debt. Reallocating tax credits will ensure students with the greatest need receive this benefit at the start of their degree or diploma when costs are the highest and can be unknown or sudden. 

Create sustainable, high-quality jobs and work-integrated learning opportunities for students. All parties should commit to investing in the creation of meaningful opportunities for students to get ahead in the workforce. This includes undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and increasing funding for the Undergraduate Student Research Awards, work-integrated learning opportunities, and high-quality job opportunities for new graduates. This will provide students with opportunities to prepare for success in the workforce and help Canada bridge the labour gap. Furthermore, when international students participate in these opportunities, they should be able to use these hours to apply for permanent residency, increasing the talent available in Canada’s economy. 

Support Indigenous Students and the calls of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). A 22% university attainment gap remains between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people in Canada. As established in the TRC and under Articles 14(2) and 21(1) of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), education is a powerful tool for reconciliation and to improve the economic and social conditions of Indigenous people. Of eligible Indigenous learners, only 21% are funded by the Post Secondary Student Support Program, widening the gap in university attainment. We call on party leaders to commit to fulfilling these duties and ending the backlog of Indigenous students waiting for funding to enter their post-secondary education.

We are student leaders. Our job is to listen to students and take action to ensure that young people, learners of all ages, and the families that support them, are able to thrive as they pursue a high-quality Canadian education. Every year, we hear about the challenges students face when starting their degrees and diplomas, such as increasing tuition or how difficult it is to start a family when they’re still paying off student loans ten years after graduation. We clearly hear their needs and urge the parties to make higher education more accessible, create opportunities to give educated and skilled graduates jobs that will fill Canada’s labour gap, and use education as a tool for reconciliation to support Indigenous communities.

When students head to the polls in October, we will be voting with these commitments, based on important student priorities, in mind. We call on you to remember the 2.5 million students, their families, and Canadian citizens who are passionate about an affordable and accessible post-secondary education system and are counting on you as their next government.


Algonquin College Students’ Association

British Columbia Institute of Technology Student Association

British Columbia Federation of Students, representing:

  • Okanagan College Students’ Union
  • Selkirk College Students’ Union
  • College of New Caledonia Students’ Union
  • Thompson Rivers University Students’ Union
  • Douglas Students’ Union
  • Emily Carr Students’ Union
  • University of British Columbia Students’ Union
  • Vancouver Island University Students’ Union
  • Coast Mountain College Students’ Union
  • North Island Students’ Union
  • Students’ Union of Vancouver Community College
  • Camosun College Student Society
  • Northern British Columbia Graduate Student Society

Brock University Students’ Union

Capilano University Students’ Union

Carleton University Students’ Association

Centennial College of Applied Arts & Technology Student Association Inc.

Conestoga College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning Students Inc.

Student Union of Confederation College of Applied Arts & Technology Inc.

Durham College of Applied Arts & Technology Students Inc.

Fanshawe College of Applied Arts & Technology Students’ Union

University of Guelph Central Student Association

Kwantlen University Student Association

Laurentian University Students’ General Association

University of Manitoba Students’ Union

Students’ Society of McGill University

McMaster University Students’ Association

Mohawk College Students’ Association

Nipissing University Student Union

Ontario Institute of Technology Student Union

University of Ottawa Students’ Union

Alma Mater Society of Queens University

University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union

Sault College of Applied Arts & Technology Students’ Union

Sir Sandford Fleming College of Applied Arts & Technology’s Student Administrative Council

St. Clair College Student Representative Council

Student Association of St. Lawrence College of Applied Arts & Technology 

University of Toronto Students’ Union

Trent University Central Student Association

Alma Mater Society of the University of British Columbia

University of British Columbia Students’ Union Okanagan

Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association 

Western University Students’ Council

Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union

University of Windsor Students’ Alliance