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Rob Batherson on the affordability of university

Two sets of footwear are needed for campaigning. A nice pair and a comfortable pair. After changing into the comfortable pair, Rob Batherson, candidate for the Halifax-Citadel PC Party sits down to talk student issues.

“Affordability is the big issue, we’ve gone in the last 10 years, from having undergraduate tuition at the national level, to now, going back to Nova Scotia students paying among the highest levels of tuition in the country,” says Batherson.

According to Batherson the problem with affordability started after the O’Neill report. The NDP government cut university funding but also capped the amount tuition could be raised. It was a cost saving and student protection policy. Cut the money and universities would need more, cap tuition so it can’t come from the students. When the Liberals came into power they gave a small increase to funding grants and removed the tuition caps.

His plan to make university more affordable up front is to tie provincial funding to tuition. Tuition has to be at or below the national average. If tuition is too high, funding is reduced.

The national average is $6,373, which is a lot, but it gives a target to aim for that’s lower than Nova Scotia’s current average of $7,218.

“To the former NDP government’s credit, the graduate retention rebate program was set up when they were in office. The Liberals did away with it. We see bringing that back in some form,” says Batherson.

Funding for university is a complicated problem. While a provincial government can influence tuition cost by increasing or decreasing funding, universities maintain a level of autonomy. Different universities have different specialties, what works for a university like Dalhousie, won’t necessarily work for NSCAD. A government would have to do a one size fits all solution, or spend a lot of time and money on individual plans.

“There’s a well-established convention of academic freedom. So you have to be very, very careful when you have governments, maybe with the best of intent, imposing their will,” says Batherson.

There are also issues affecting students in their greater university experience. Students who go to school in Halifax also live and work here. A student downtown can easily walk or bus to a hospital. There’s no direct bus Bayer’s Lake. The plan to open a health care clinic in Bayers Lake would be very inconvenient for any student who can’t afford a car or doesn’t know anyone with a car.

“Where are our MLA’s to stand up to that?” asks Batherson. “Why can’t we have MLAs who advance good ideas, regardless of the source?”

According to him the Liberals have made good progress on issues like immigration and the NDP on health care. Those ideas and policies should be advanced even if they didn’t come from the PC party.
“Regardless of if you can vote or not, or if you vote for me or not. If I’m the MLA after May 30, I view my role as representative of all the residents – voters or not – in this constituency on all Nova Scotia government issues,” said Batherson.  

Early voting locations are open:

Wednesday, May 24th: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday, May 25th: 9 a.m. to  8 p.m.
Friday, May 26th: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, May 27th: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To find out your electoral district and if Rob Batherson is a candidate you can vote for, look up your civic address on Elections Nova Scotia’s website here.


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