During his visit to the University of Manitoba, Greg Selinger, leader of the provincial NDP, sat down with Manitoban editor-in-chief Leif Larsen and news editor Sarah Petz, where we grilled him on some of the issues affecting youth in Manitoba.
LL: I just checked the Canadian Federation of Students website this morning. According to their website, there is almost $14 billion in student debt in Canada right now. [ . . . ] What would the NDP do to help students shoulder some of that debt?
GS: It’s a good question because Manitoba has one of the lowest student debt rates in the country, but we have a graduation tax rebate program [ . . . ].
That’s a huge benefit when people can recover 60 per cent of their tuition, not just tuition that they’ve paid in Manitoba, but at any institution they’ve attended anywhere in the world. If they’re bringing in useful skills and have a commitment to living in Manitoba, they can get 60 per cent of that tuition back.
LL: In order to stay in Manitoba, though, there need to be jobs for university-educated people. I noticed on your website that [the NDP] have created 16,000 jobs in the last year. Of those 16,000 jobs, are many of them jobs that require a post-secondary education?
GS: More and more. We know that, more and more, a post-secondary education generates higher revenues for those who have that post-secondary education throughout their entire lives.
We also know that we’re in a knowledge economy, and we’re in a service economy. And people are creating their own jobs. University graduates are among the most interesting job creators in this province and across the world. So yes, there are jobs.
There’s going to be more professional jobs as the boomers retire and for trades people as well, but there’s also going to be more demand for people to create jobs, whether it be web design, intellectual property or [ . . . ] in the innovation economy.
We’ve put resources in place, for example, in the innovation economy. If someone’s got a really good idea, we can them support for every step of that process, from when they first have that idea to when they get in the marketplace.
So yes, we do think there are jobs in Manitoba and we do think this is going to be an environment where people can create their own jobs if they choose to do so.
LL: Affordable housing is an issue that comes up a lot with students, and Winnipeg, as I’m sure you know, has one of the lowest vacancy rates across the country. What is being done [ . . . ] and what will be done to address that low vacancy rate?
GS: Build more housing, and you’re going to see more announcements along the campaign that we’re going to build more housing. We’ve got, for example, a brand new student residence on campus that we’ve been very supportive of. [ . . . ] It’s probably the first new student residence we’ve seen in quite a while.
There also needs to be more private rental housing in the province. [ . . . ] We’ve got a unique program in Manitoba [ . . . ] that means we can advance some of the new tax revenue that a developer will yield so that we put the money up front, so that they can develop the units, and then that money goes towards paying them back as people are in the units and renting them.
[ . . . ] We’ve done some very unique things in Manitoba, and we’re going to do more. We’d like to see more non-profit housing, more co-op housing as well, because that’s a very good source of housing [ . . . ].
SP: I wanted to ask you about the youth vote. Often the youth vote is defined as post-secondary education students, so how do you define the difference between the youth vote and the student vote, and how is the NDP working to reach out to that population?
GS: Certainly we believe that everyone should exercise their right and responsibility to vote, and we’re trying to reach out to them through things like social media. [ . . . ] For those that are working, they’ve got a long working career ahead of them, and we want them to have the opportunity to shape the future of the province, and one of the best ways to do that is to vote and get involved politically.
I know in a number of constituencies we’ve asked youth to get involved where they’ve never been encouraged to do that before. We want to create those opportunities for them to be involved in the democratic process.