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Liberal leadership hopeful wants bipartisan solutions

Vancouver Langara MLA, Michael Lee, says collaboration between parties needed to solve issues like student dept

Michael Lee speaks with students this fall. Submitted photo

Reported by Perrin Grauer

Michael Lee, Vancouver-Langara MLA and B.C. Liberals leadership hopeful, said that collaboration among parties will be crucial to tackle the many issues British Columbia faces, including student debt.

In an interview with The Voice, Lee was careful not to entirely dismiss the proposed $1,000 completion grant and elimination of interest on student loans by Premier John Horgan, though Lee himself has not yet proposed a plan. He also wants to rid Victoria of partisan squabbling to get better policy results for British Columbians.

“The NDP are certainly trying to address an important area,” Lee said of the current government’s approach to reduce student debt which averages $35,000 per person, according to the B.C. Federation of Students.

“Any government needs to balance competing priorities for those funds,” and that he would be looking at various solutions without going into specifics.

Student debt just part of the problem

Simka Marshall, B.C. Federation of Students chairperson, gave more options, including an up-front needs-based grant program and more funding for institutions.

“We have expectations on what type of requirements we need to get people into the jobs market,” Marshall said.

“But school is something that is just not accessible or affordable, especially when you take into account the cost of living not just in the Lower Mainland, but all around the province.”

Dr. Stephen Phillips, politics instructor at Langara, said that any proposal aimed solely at alleviating debt “doesn’t really address the difficulties students face as they’re attempting to complete their studies.”

Electoral reform could aid collaboration

Lee also wants to rid Victoria of partisan squabbling to get better policy results for British Columbians.

Phillips also noted that Lee’s message of collaboration aligns with his own understanding of proportional representation – an electoral reform that Lee opposes.

“Minority and coalition governments [would] become the norm and so cooperation among parties will become a necessity,” Phillips said. “Now it’s very much the exception to the rule.”

Speaking from Kelowna, where he was campaigning, Lee said he believes, “that we can have a more considered discussion…rather than the kind of finger pointing between political parties that really narrow the scope of discussion.”

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