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Budget 2019 proposes relief for students, boosts to mental health support

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government tabled their final budget on Tuesday March 19, with a grab bag of changes to everything from mental health to housing affordability. The budget comes ahead of the 2019 election and addresses many hot-button issues both on and off campus, including student loan costs and repairs to civil infrastructure.  

Here are some of the highlights students can expect out of the next year if the budget is passed.

Cheaper student loans

Budget 2019 proposes to slash interest rates on all student loans by roughly a third, estimated to save an average Canadian student $2,000 over their repayment period. The budget also suggests a six-month interest-free period for all federal student loans, giving more time for students to find a job before beginning repayment. Students with disabilities would also see an increase in money available for assistive technologies.

Mental health support

Students suffering from mental illness would have several new options under the 2019 budget. The proposed student assistance would give students taking a temporary leave from school an interest-free grace period of up to 18 months, and would be applied to medical, personal, and mental health leave.

The budget also commits $25 million to a national suicide prevention strategy and hotline that would coordinate the country’s various mental health hotlines, and allocates added funding for LGBTQ+, racialized, and Indigenous-specific programs.

Boosts to research

If the budget is implemented, researchers will see a boost to federal grants for a wide range of fundamental research projects. The budget also reclassifies the employment status of research assistants to let them benefit from the government’s parental leave policies.

Additional money is allocated to labs researching fields prioritized by the government including ecology, internationalization, and telecommunications.

More student jobs    

The federal government plans to create an additional 40,000 cooperative education positions within the government, NGOs, and private research firms.

The budget also proposes new incentives and tax breaks to mid-sized businesses looking to hire students and recent grads. The government will also aim to “link classroom learning with the workplace,” but details of this program are scarce.

Cheaper housing

The budget offers a slew of tax incentives and subsidies to companies that provide affordable housing. It also detailed the government’s wide-ranging National Housing Strategy — a $40-billion, 10 year program that aims to increase housing supply and cut homeless rates in half.

New tax-incentives would also provide a boost to first-time home buyers, reducing the financial impact of their first down payment.

Steps toward pharmacare

The government is pushing for the first step toward a national pharmacare system with the proposed establishment of the Canadian Drug Agency. The agency would coordinate Canada’s patchwork of drug coverage policies and work with provincial governments to reduce drug costs. However, full national pharmacare is still under study as one of many options to improve access to essential medication.