PC Party pledges more help for cash-strapped students

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Brian Pallister returned to his alma mater today with a promise to more than double the current amount of money available for post-secondary students.

Standing in front of historic Clark Hall at Brandon University, the Progressive Conservative leader said barriers that students face have grown under the NDP government, largely through extra taxation that prevent families from saving money for their children’s education.

“These schools are where we unlock the potential with our young people … to find all the things they can do for others in their lives and so they can support themselves,” he said while surrounded by Tory candidates from Brandon and Westman.

“We have to make it more likely that young people from all over our province, from every region, are able to reach out and find their potential.”

The PC Party pledges it will increase funding for scholarships and bursaries and partner with private-sector donors to more than double the current amount of money available for students.

Pallister said in a release a new Progressive Conservative government will raise total funding available to over $20 million by increasing the Manitoba Scholarship and Bursary Initiative fund to $6.75 million, with a one-third matching component from government to allow for more private donors.

It will also work with post-secondary advisory councils and industry to promote scholarship and bursary programs with strong labour market outcomes and employability potential.

In a media scrum, I asked Pallister why, out of the myriad of potential funding schemes, the Tories came up with this plan.

“Great question,” Pallister said (of course it was). “We met with each of our post-secondary institutions in the province … and the suggestion is there is money (in the private sector) waiting to be donated to assist young people in getting to a post-secondary institution. There has been a matching program, but it hasn’t increased under the NDP in 17 years.”

Now I’m not covering all of the announcements being made by the three main parties. But I do take notice when a party leader comes to Brandon.

However, I have to know who’s in town and what they’re up to. When this website started around the same time the writ was dropped, I reached out to the three main parties — along with dozens of other companies, groups, and organizations — to be added to their media mailing lists.

The Tories and Liberals did so immediately. Despite repeated requests to the party’s HQ — and a direct appeal to Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell — I am still not receiving any Dipper diatribes.

So in an attempt to be fair and balanced, I will reprint a post-secondary funding announcement from March 21 that I sourced from their website that mentions the Scholarship and Bursary Initiative.

The NDP says it will will address the scholarship issue by doubling the $4.5-million Manitoba Scholarship and Bursary Initiative to $9 million. Since universities can match this fund with private donations, doubling the fund can leverage up to $18 million for students.

Now as I’ve said before, election promises sometimes aren’t really worth the paper they’re printed on. And each party will find different ways to make it sound as if they are the champions of whatever sector is being addressed in the announcement du jour.

So, one conclusion I can draw from all this, is the NDP is looking to address an issue the Tories claim they haven’t touched while they’ve been in office since 1999. And both promises are kinda close on the surface.

But again, it really comes down to who are you going to believe will deliver. It’s all about trust, people.

After the media event today, I walked and talked a bit with Pallister on the way back to his campaign SUV (no more motorcoaches these days for the leaders’ tours).

He said when he attended BU, he relied on financial aid to get him through.

It all comes down to who you can trust to deliver.