New Brunswick Liberal leader reveals details of education platform

SAINT JOHN, N.B. - New Brunswick's Liberal leader promised Monday to expand trades in the classroom and make it easier for students to obtain loans as he unveiled several measures he said would improve education.

Brian Gallant said while some schools offer programs for the trades, he wants that available to all students in the province. He said he would also make the early detection of learning disabilities a priority and develop incentives to attract more literacy mentors if he wins the Sept. 22 election.

Gallant also said the Liberals would remove parental contributions from student loan calculations to improve access to post-secondary education and training. The parental contribution component was removed by the previous Liberal government but reintroduced by the current Progressive Conservatives.

"You are limiting people who need support, who need loans, need grants from accessing it because you have judged that their parents make took much money," Gallant in an interview after a speech to a business audience in Saint John.

Jody Carr, the minister of post-secondary education, training and labour, said he agrees with Gallant on the need for accessible education. He said the government is looking at the level of parental contribution but would not be willing to remove it completely.

"We have to look at our financial reality in the province, so we're balancing the costs of funding our accessible and affordable options and also looking at how much resources we have to do that," he said.

Carr said he believes parents have a responsibility to contribute to their children's education and that the most important thing the government can do to help is to assist students find jobs so they are able to repay their loans.

Gallant also said he would develop education contracts that would allow businesses to provide financial support for students who agree to work for a company for a set number of years. He said it is already a practice that is used by the military and some professional associations.

Carr said he'd be willing to look at the suggestion, but says the government's "one-job pledge" is already successful. That program provides a wage incentive to employers when they hire a recent post-secondary graduate in a job related to his or her field of study.

— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.