The 2019 Canadian federal election was held on Monday, October 21st, 2019. The election resulted in Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party forming a minority government in spite of the fact that Andrew Scheer’s Conservative party won the popular vote. Trudeau is back in the Prime Minister’s Office; however, things will be different with a minority parliament. Jagmeet Singh’s NDP is expected to hold the balance of power; that means Trudeau will be counting on the support of Singh and his party to keep the Liberals in power. Despite recent climate strikes and peaking environmental concern, Elizabeth May’s Green party did not do as well as expected. However, the Bloc Quebecois had a strong night, their leader Yves-François Blanchet was elected as an MP for the first time and they may potentially have a role in balancing power. Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada did not win a single seat.

The federal government’s annual budget announced several investments impacting post-secondary students across Canada, including Indigenous students, graduate students and students with permanent disabilities. The most significant initiatives include lower student loan interest rates and a six-month interest free grace period. The budget will make the six-month grace period after leaving school interest-free for student loan borrowers to help them successfully transition to the labor market. This change effectively reverses the provincial government’s recent decision to eliminate the interest-free grace period after graduation, and should help ease the financial pressures on students.

Furthermore, there will be increased student loan access for vulnerable borrowers. The budget invests a total of $111 million over five years to make the Canada Student Loans Program more accessible to students with vulnerable life or financial situations. It will also expand eligibility for the Severe Permanent Disability Benefit so that more students with disabilities qualify for loans. For other students with financial struggles, the budget plans to increase the eligibility for loan rehabilitation for borrowers who default on their student loans, so they can access supports such as the Repayment Assistance Plan. Another implementation will be interest-free and payment-free leave in six-month stackable periods up to eighteen months for borrowers taking temporary leave from their studies for medical or parental reasons, including mental health leave. Also, the budget will be expanding paid parental leave and increasing scholarships for graduate students. In addition, there will be increased Indigenous students’ access to post-secondary education. As well as more work-integrated learning opportunities and support for developing international education initiatives. The government wants to develop international work-study opportunities for Canadian post-secondary students and to promote Canadian educational institutions to foreign students.

Students will mainly be affected by the federal government’s annual budget changes. These changes promote financial aid for post-secondary students, and are aimed to help students have more access to post-secondary education and opportunity for financial assistance, as well as recognition of the need for a transitional period after graduation, which allows for students to obtain work before paying back loans. Overall, students will be positively impacted by budget changes.

(Originally published December 11, 2019)

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