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NDP promises tuition reduction when economy recovers

The B.C. New Democratic Party would go beyond its tuition-freeze platform commitment to actually reduce fees as soon as the budget is balanced.

“As the economy turns around I’m going to invest further in reducing tuition,” NDP leader Carole James told a group of students and supporters at Vancouver Community College this afternoon.

She later told reporters this was unlikely to happen over the term of the next government, unless the economic situation turns around sooner than expected.

When asked about this apparent new commitment to fee reduction, James said it was not a policy change.

“I’ve always said that freezing tuition is just a start. We recognize that you can’t resolve everything overnight and my commitment has always been to reduce tuition.”

James would not say how far the NDP would go to decrease postsecondary fees.

“I’m not going to name a number because we have to take a look at the economy and we have to take a look at the resources that are coming in,” she told reporters.

The Canadian Federation of Students–British Columbia gave the NDP postsecondary commitments a mixed review when the platform was first released.

The group praised the freeze but expressed disappointment in its failure to roll-back hikes over the past eight years.

The new announcement for fee reduction is greatly welcomed, said CFS-BC chairperson Shamus Reid, but the organization was hoping for an immediate reduction and measurable tuition-cut commitments.

“This is a step forward but the need is certainly more urgent than that,” he said.

The group has in the past called for an immediate ten-per-cent reduction, followed by further decreases.

James also confirmed to reporters today that postsecondary institutions would receive payments at the rate of inflation to make up for the freeze, a departure from NDP policy in the 1990s.

“Different than past New Democrat governments, I’ve said you need to freeze tuition but the rate of inflation has to go to universities and colleges so they don’t have to pass the cost on. We don’t want to download those costs,” she said.

At the rally today, James said the NDP's commitment to freeze tuition and raise the minimum wage to $10 will benefit not only students, but all British Columbians.

“Every student deserves an affordable, quality education and that’s my priority. That’s the way we’re going to ensure that we have a successful economy,” she said.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

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