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Education passports, family reunification, and white elephant stealth fighter jets

It was quite an active day yesterday on the election front! Not only did we get an announcement on a new Liberal education policy, we got a bonus policy on family reunification, as well as a US official telling us what the Harper government won’t – that these F-35 Stealth Fighters are going to cost a whole bundle more then what was originally advertised.

First, the Liberal announcements – they were as substantial as I hope they would be – and then some. The student aid first:

The Liberal leader’s proposed “learning passport” would provide tax-free grants of $4,000 — or $1,000 a year for four years — for students across Canada to attend college or university. Students from low-income families would qualify for as much as $6,500 over four years, or up to $1,500 a year. The money would be provided through existing registered education savings plans, or RESPs, but families would not be required to make contributions. The funds would be held until the student decides to go to school.

Bottom line – this is money now, not some vague promise of a Conservative tax credit maybe in 5 years. This is the Liberals showing they’re willing to invest money into education – not money wasted on mega-prisons we don’t need, or multi-billion dollar corporations that don’t need further tax cuts, or on over-expensive fighter jets (more on that in a bit). More on the Liberal plan here.

The second announcement in the afternoon that was a little less heralded was reversing the Conservative reduction of family reunification for immigrants to Canada.The Conservatives have gone to great lengths – through their front man Minister Jason Kenney – to try to convince new arrivals to Canada, and Canada’s multicultural community to vote for the CPC in greater numbers. In reality though, they have slashed immigration reunification programs, resettlement programs, and language programs. The Liberals have pledged to reverse those cuts. This policy is obviously aimed at countering a very cynical Conservative attempt to portray themselves as the party of values for new Canadians in certain “ethnic” communities (but not “too ethnic”), by showing what they have actually done in power is cutting those valuable programs, and that the Liberals will restore them (Update: see a disturbing article here on what Jason Kenney really accomplished – if it can be called that).

So, in a way, the first two Liberal announcements are related to “family” issues – helping families afford to send their kids to post-secondary education, and helping new arrivals families be reunified and be together.

Now we come to the Stealth F-35 fighter jet – not very family oriented, and also not very on budget, according to a US costing estimate:

New fighter jets Canada plans to buy will be more than $100 million each — at least $25 million more per plane than government estimates — according to a top U.S. budget watchdog. Conservative government officials have said 65 new joint strike fighters being built to replace Canada’s F-18 jets will cost about $75 million each, about $9 billion with training and an additional $200-$300 million a year in maintenance.

But Mike Sullivan, director of acquisition management at the US General Accountability Office, said he doesn’t know where that estimate comes from. “That’s not a number that I am familiar with at all,” he said in an interview Tuesday with CBC’s Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, cautioning he hasn’t seen the methodology behind the numbers.

Sullivan said the estimated cost of the F-35A model that Canada is buying is “in the low 100 millions.”
“Probably somewhere between $110-115 million,” he said.

As Steve V says, the Conservative government’s figures are bunk, and he’s right – it’s definitely time for them to come clean on these costs, and to explain again why they didn’t hold an open competition for new fighter jets, rather then sole-source these to the vendor, essentially allowing them to charge whatever they wanted for these jets, rather then put the bid through a competitive process.

5 comments to Education passports, family reunification, and white elephant stealth fighter jets

  • ridenrain

    Offering to all students reguardless of means is wasteful and shows that it’s just another empty election promise.

  • Mark McLaughlin

    I’m a conservative supporter but at first glance the ‘passport’ thing sounded good until you find out that they are taking away the tax deduction on tuition and books. When I went through school (~10 years ago) it saved me a couple thou for 4 years plus carryover the next year.

    Seems like a wash. I guess Iggy hopes that everyone remembers the give and forgets about the take.

    • Redrum

      Except it’s only the Con war room claiming that, and they’re about as credible as Fox News.

  • Roll Tide

    Actually, I like the learning passport plan.
    It fits with the conservative narrative of individual choice, not government choice. The consumer has the power.
    Much like the American school voucher system that teacher unions hate so much, or Harper’s 100 per month per kid under 5.

  • ck

    While I love the idea of post-secondary education aid for under privileged students as this is often their only ticket to break the cycle of poverty in their respective families and entourages, funds are limited and should they or the NDP be throwing out a bunch of goodies at this time? Shouldn’t they stick to precious few campaign promises and remain on message? It’s how Rob Ford won.

    Let’s say they propose cancelling the remaining scheduled corporate tax cuts, this only goes so far. I would much rather have them concentrating those limited funds on health care and that family home care program. The population is getting older and sicker. Stevie Spiteful would Americanize health care, make no mistake about that.

    That transfer agreement with the provinces expires in 2014 and I’m concerned, as I’m sure many others are concerned (or they should be; free market health care means more than half the population won’t be able to access it due to age and pre-existing conditions, as we’ve seen in the US).

    Iggy gave a great speech in Toronto a few days ago concerning health care and the universality of it; the choice between jets/jails or health care. He should stick with that.

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