Skip to content

NDP unveils plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt

The plan to help students manage their debt comes amid growing signs of a federal election
Jagmeet Singh Port Moody 2019
Jagmeet Singh visits Port Moody in the lead up to the 2019 federal election. Singh recently paid a virtual visit to the Tri-Cities in a sign the next election cycle could be heating up - FILE PHOTO

The federal NDP unveiled plans Saturday to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt, while putting a moratorium on student loan payments until the pandemic is over. 

Instead of getting a six-month grace period following graduation, under the NDP plan, graduating students would be given five years to start making payments, at which point debt up to $20,000 would be forgiven based on household income.

Other measures include permanently cancelling interest on student debt and advancing a plan to eventually achieve free tuition at Canadian post-secondary schools. 

“Young people are making student loan payments the size of mortgage payments — spending years under crushing debt not able to get ahead. And the COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in a press release Saturday announcing the plan. 

In response, the BC Federation of Students — which advocates for affordable and accessible education, and represents more than 170,000 students across B.C. —  called the plan “ambitious.” But by focusing on debt forgiveness without helping low- and middle-income families access debt-free education to start with, the group said that the plan “misses the mark.”

“Students have been disproportionally impacted economically by this pandemic,” said BCFS chairperson Tanysha Klassen. “Debt forgiveness would go a long way to help those struggling now, but we need a solution to address the up-front barriers to education for future generations of students.”

The BCFS said the most efficient way to help students avoid a debt crisis would be to bolster student funding through up-front schemes like the Canada Student Grant Program, which could be awarded through a “needs-based approach” while maintaining access to education.


The plan to help students manage their debt comes amid growing signs of a federal election.

Earlier this month, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke in an online meeting about how small businesses in the Tri-Cities are being affected during the pandemic; the online event also featured Coquitlam Coun. Bonita Zarrillo, who ran for the party in the last federal election, and Anna Teglasi, who runs a travel agency in the Tri-Cities.

Singh’s virtual appearance came just after Liberal MP Harjit Sajjan, the minister of national defence, delivered a keynote speech to the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce about government procurement.

Coquitlam resident Will Davis recently told the Tri-City News he’s seeking the Liberal nomination in the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam — a riding that’s being contested by Kyle Demes for the Liberals as well.

Incumbent MPs around B.C. have also issued a number of press releases lately to rally support in the community and toe the party line: earlier this month, NDP MP Peter Julian called on the federal government to pay for firefighter training to handle potential fires related to the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project. 

Meanwhile, the Tri-Cities’ two MPs have already secured their spots for the next election: Both Liberal MP Ron McKinnon (Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam) and Conservative MP Nelly Shin (Port Moody-Coquitlam) were acclaimed last year.

—With files from Janis Cleugh