The new federal budget for 2019 promises financial relief for young adults, a critical contingent of Trudeau’s election victory in 2015. Its emphasis on support for post-secondary students and housing support in cities where young adults are being increasingly priced out are the main highlights for the generation.
Funds, Scholarships, Research, Work Placement
Contrasting with the Ontario government’s OSAP changes where interest would be levied on the Canada portion of the loan after the six-month grace period, the budget says, “…student loans will not accumulate any interest during the six-month non-repayment period after a student loan borrower leaves school.” In addition, the floating interest rate would be changed to a prime rate, meaning a more stable interest rate. The budget report states that the average student would save approximately $2,000 over the lifetime of their loan.
The Canada Student Loans Program is also set to be revamped. The proposal to spend $15 million over five years will increase the cap on the Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Permanent Disabilities from $8,000 to $20,000 per year.
For student researchers, a bevy of aid is also stated in the budget. Parental coverage for researchers was proposed to receive $37.4 million over five years to federal granting councils — doubling parental leave from six months to 12 months. The report says, “It will also help parents better balance work obligations with family responsibilities, such as child care.”
Graduate students are expected to receive $114 million over five years through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. This is expected to create “500 more master’s level scholarship awards annually and 167 more three-year doctoral scholarship awards annually through the Canada Graduate Scholarship program.”
Indigenous students are expected to receive $327.5 million over five years for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program. Indspire, a fund for Indigenous students, will receive $362 million over 10 years and $40 million per year ongoing.
The Student Work Placement Program is being expanded past the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields to include the arts, humanities and social sciences. It proposes $631.2 million over five years to create 20,000 work placements.
Steven Liss, vice-president of research and innovation at Ryerson, hailed the changes to maternity leave for researchers, saying it was a change in the right direction for a more equitable university. “We have to provide an equitable university. Any move on this level to ensure we can mobilize the resources to support people is a good one,” he said in an interview with the Ryersonian.
Liss expanded on the distribution of the funds and scholarships, saying they “are not gifts, but opportunities to compete” with other universities. He mentioned that Ryerson was listed in the budget as a university leading in cyber security, which would play a significant role in AI, research, public policy, and in protecting the democracy of Canada.
Overall, Liss was pleased with the budget and specifically noted the support of young people through scholarships, and programs for training and skills. He further added the budget would help in attracting and retaining talent, but also support Ryerson in the movement of knowledge locally and globally, which he called “brain circulation,” in contrast to brain drain.
“Of course my primary interest is ensuring that the government is providing adequate resources for Canada’s competitiveness, and that researchers have the funds for them,” he said, “to ensure that we are creating opportunities for new scholars, not just senior scholars. We are looking to the future.”
With housing affordability as the lead concern among millennials according to a 2018 survey from Abacus Data, the budget attempts to remedy it. The budget introduces the First-Time Home Buyers Incentive. It would allow the homebuyer to lower borrowing costs by sharing the cost with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation with no monthly repayments. A 10 per cent shared equity mortgage for new homes or a 5 per cent shared equity mortgage for an existing home is also in place.
The Incentive would be available for first-time homebuyers making less than $120,000 in household income. The Home Buyer’s Plan that allowed first-time homebuyers to withdraw up to $25,000 from their RRSP has been adjusted to $35,000.
Citing a lack of construction leading to a rental market that does not meet demand in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver, $10 billion over nine years has been committed to create 42,500 units across Canada, as well as new research and panels to investigate the housing crisis.
Though the budget promises relief, it has not convinced experts like Royal Bank of Canada economist Robert Hogue, who said in a report released before the budget there is no issue with home ownership in Canada. Economist David Macdonald of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a progressive think tank, says the budget “will likely further drive up house prices.”