EPC policy goes to Ottawa
By Sara Marett
An element of the Education Party of Canada's policy may soon be before the House of Commons as a private member's bill is currently being written by Member of Parliament Joe Fontana to make the interest on student loans tax deductible.
"This comes as a direct result of the initiatives of the EPC," said party leader Michael Rubinoff. He said he brought forth the concept from the party's platform at an all-candidates meeting during the summer's federal election campaign. "Joe Fontana took great interest in the idea at that time," Rubinoff said.
The Education Party of Canada was formed in April by Western's University Students' Council with the hope of bringing educational issues to the attention of the federal government by running a candidate in the federal election.
Fontana is currently working on the first draft of the bill that will go to the legislative branch in two weeks, said Fontana's special assistant Krista Pawley. "The branch does the wording of the bill and then certifies it," she said. The bill then comes back to Fontana where he will present it to the House of Commons for its first reading. "This process usually takes about six months," Pawley said.
She said Fontana chose to write the bill because he views student loans like any other investment, so therefore they should similarly be subject to tax deduction.
This is exactly how the issue was handled by the EPC, said Sam Castiglione, USC VP-student issues. "We consider education to be an investment in someone's future interest on any other investment loan is deductible," he said.
The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations is also involved in the writing of the bill as director Hoops Harrison has been supplying Fontana's office with information on student loans.
Libby Davies, MP for the New Democratic Party in Vancouver East, said the issue of student debt load is of major importance and it is because of the Liberal policy that student debt amounts are expected to reach $25,000 by 1998 up significantly from approximately $13,000 when the Liberals took office.
"This type of bill may be helpful, but the real issue is to reduce the debt load, not just muck around with repayment systems," she said.
"The Progressive Conservative party has discussed this initiative before and believes it should be looked into," said researcher for the PC party Adam Cave. "This could be a step in the right direction as far as fixing the current [repayment] system," he said.
USC President Ryan Parks added the EPC, as well as CASA, will be lobbying the government to implement the bill once it is presented to the House of Commons. A town hall meeting in CentreSpot is scheduled for Nov. 20 to discuss the initiatives of the EPC and their operating budget will be published in a Gazette ad previous to the event, Parks added.