Andrew Wilkinson on student loans ― he just doesn’t get it

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Ravi Kahlon

Last month, students across the province were ecstatic to see that our government has eliminated interest on all B.C. student loans. This step will help relieve many students of the debt they have to suffer under. However, the BC Liberals’ leader Andrew Wilkinson is opposed to this.

Our government took a step to make life slightly easier for these young British Columbians, but Andrew Wilkinson went on the radio and talked about how he felt that “students may get carried away with debt” and how he had doubts that students would ever pay their debt back. Just days prior to me tweeting out the recording of that audio clip, Wilkinson made another comment about renters, showing just how out of touch he is with the 1.5 million people who rent in this province. He seems to think renting us just a phase you go through as a young person, just “a wacky time, but it can be really enjoyable.”

Not only are his comments insensitive and out-of-touch with the very real economic problems young people face today, but his actions show how he and his BC Liberals are more than happy to take us back to a time when people were simply left behind. The problem isn’t that Andrew Wilkinson said these things. It’s that he believes them.

When Wilkinson was Minister of Advanced Education, he didn’t just sit back and do nothing as students were crippled with debt, but rather he actively worked to make life more expensive for them. Under the BC Liberal government, the cost of education tripled and young people suffered immensely. Yet, Wilkinson encouraged colleges and universities to get around the 2% annual tuition fee cap by bringing in extra mandatory fees for students.

Government loans are the most common source of debt for graduates of post-secondary education in Canada. One-in-four graduates have some sort of debt owed for government loans, and this debt can be crippling. It prevents graduates from investing in their future, and rising interest rates shackled many young people to this debt.

Even now, when British Columbians decided that they should no longer be in government, they have not changed a bit. As the opposition, they voted against our decision to create 5000 new student housing units in February. Wilkinson is opposing our actions to protect renters and make life more affordable. Instead of considering that maybe students in British Columbia could use a break, he and his BC Liberals are now arguing against the elimination of interest on B.C. student loans. One thing is clear, he just doesn’t get it, and doesn’t have the best interests of everyday British Columbians in mind.

However, we are doing things differently. Our government is breaking down barriers to bring education within the reach of students. We eliminated interests rates in B.C. student loans. We made Adult Basic Education, and English Language Learning tuition-free. We are creating 5,000 on-campus beds so students can live on campus, relieving pressure from the rental market.

While the BC Liberals want to make life more expensive for young people in British Columbia, we are going to keep working hard to lift up all British Columbians, because we get it.

One thing is for certain – students today are counting their blessings that Wilkinson is no longer the Minister of Advanced Education, and seeing his recent comments it’s a blessing that he isn’t Premier. No one can afford Andrew Wilkinson and the BC Liberals.