Federal NDP Passes Resolution In Support of Tuition-Free Post-Secondary Education

Free tuition will be added to the NDP policy booklet as a result of the resolution

Jagmeet Singh addresses the audience during the 2018 Federal NDP Convention in Ottawa, Ontario. (flickr/United Steelworkers)

At its federal convention in Ottawa from Feb. 16-18, the New Democratic Party voted in favor of a resolution to accept free post-secondary education as part of the party’s policy book.

The resolution means that offering Canadian students tuition-free post-secondary education is one step closer to becoming an official part the federal NDP’s platform.

The idea of tuition-free post-secondary education has always been popular amongst student organizations and activists. Going into the NDP convention, the resolution had the endorsement of 30 riding associations and organizations. One of the voices pushing for the resolution at the conference was John Hutton, a student at Concordia University and NDP member who drafted the proposal.

“There’s a real mismatch here where education is not just something that is nice to have. It’s something that we need to get anywhere economically in life,” says Hutton. “It’s putting a huge burden on people to actually pursue that.”

He points out that the average Canadian student finishes school with about $26,000 of debt and that students in this country collectively owe the government about $28 billion.

Hutton says he was inspired by the 2012 student protests in Quebec, where 300,000 students marched against a Quebec government proposal to raise tuition in the province. The grassroots campaign for free tuition at the 2018 convention began when Hutton drafted the resolution and sent it out to contacts via Facebook. The resolution spread online and caught the attention of various local riding associations. By the time the NDP convention began, Hutton says his resolution had spread all across the country.

At the convention, associations from across the country propose resolutions for ideas on how the party should move forward. As there is only so much time for discussion, only motions with sufficient support make it to the floor to be voted on. Hutton and other advocates for free tuition needed to make the case that theirs was an issue that deserved to be prioritized. In the end, not only did the idea make it to the floor, but the motion also passed almost unanimously.

“As I’ve been saying over and over again in my arguments, free tuition is an idea whose time has come, and I think the results of this convention really reflected that,” says Hutton.

The acceptance of the motion does not necessarily mean that free tuition will be a part of the NDP’s official platform in the next federal election, but it does make clear that the idea is well supported among party membership. This makes a significant case to its leadership that free tuition is wanted.

“This is a victory for students and I’m hoping that a lot of young New Democrat activists across the country in campus clubs and youth clubs will take this resolution as something that is popular and take it to the community,” says Hutton. “One conversation at a time, building support for the idea.”

Hutton explains that his focus moving forward will be to follow up with the party to make sure that this resolution isn’t forgotten. He says that he wants to make sure that the party circulates material in support of free tuition and creates petitions. He also wants party leaders to speak in support of the idea. Personally, Hutton will be writing op-eds in support of tuition-free post-secondary education and says that he hopes other activists will be pushing towards the same goal.

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