Todd Colin Vaughan/Lacombe Express Editor

OPINION: Canadians should consider student debt,tuition relief

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren recently proposed cancelling $640 billion in student debt

With Canadians going to ballot box 312 times (rough estimate) in in 2019, it is truly shocking that not many candidates are running on providing relief for current and former students having to navigate through provincial and federal student loans.

Recently, United States Senator and Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren unveiled her plans to cancel $640 billion worth of student debt to the pleasure — or extreme displeasure of Americans.

The cancellation would eliminate the student debt of over 42 million Americans and Warren has also proposed that public institutions would be tuition free — the cost of which would, apparently, all be covered by a new 2 per cent tax on the ultra-wealthy ($50 million or more).

The move is obviously bold thinking and has arguments on both sides, including people who have already paid off student debt and don’t want to see others get the write-off.

Obviously that is a short-term and legitimate concern, but in the long-term — the benefits are more than clear.

In the U.S., like Canada, millions of Americans are struggling to pay down debt they accumulated to ostensibly better themselves through education. Having to pay off this debt means educated and skilled people, who could be contributing to the commercial economy, are instead eating margarine on crackers at home to pay off thousands of dollars in debt.

Essentially, industries like retail, real estate and other business suffer because students and former students with marketable training and skills are unable to exercise purchasing power.

What a cancellation would do, however it is perceived in the short term, will free up the purchasing power of millions of Americans leading to an expanded economy.

For Alberta — a province that prognosticators on the left and the right have both said needs to economically diversify — the idea of student debt cancellation and free tuition could lead to an influx of the educated skills needed to create a more stable economy.

Oil and gas is and will be a part of the D.N.A of this province and the incoming UCP government solely ran on getting the industry going again, but even if the price of oil goes above $100 again — it will eventually drop due to the cyclical nature of the industry.

This means that layoffs, like they were after the last recession, will continue to be part of Alberta and this means that retraining should be accessible and affordable.

A potential investment by all Albertans, and hopefully Canadians, to clearing the student burden of tuition and student loans could lead to a new, diversified economy that acts as a backstop against the inevitable next oil recession.

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