Gimme a break
Joe Fontana, Member of Parliament for London North Centre, will walk into the House of Commons today and speak on behalf of a bill which should be of interest to all students.
Bill C-316 originated from a campaign idea used by the Education Party of Canada a year ago and is based around the idea students should be given tax credits on the interest payments they make on their student loans.
The rational behind the bill is to make student loans more like business loans which operate under this system. Because student loans represent an investment, albeit in one's future instead of one's business, interest relief should apply to them as well.
After the first reading of the bill last February, the provincial government partially incorporated this idea into their budget, but they did not go far enough. Under the budget students can claim 17 per cent of the interest payments they make on their loans and only on government loans.
This is a step in the right direction, but not a big enough step. Students who do not qualify for a government loan and are forced to take a loan or a line of credit from a bank are left out in the cold. The bill also advocates the 17 per cent figure should be closer to, if not right on, 100 per cent. With tuition levels constantly on the rise and financial aid lagging behind this does not seem to be an unreasonable request.
However, because the bill was not deemed to be voteable, due to a random process which fails to consider the bill's content when determining voteability, after today the bill will not be presented before the House again.
Two things must now happen in order for the true essence of this bill to be incorporated into the budget. First and foremost, students must make themselves be heard. Last February, public support for the bill helped convince the government to partially incorporate it into the budget. Similar support now might have a similar effect and carry the ideas behind the bill into the body of the budget.
Secondly, the government of Ontario needs to make more of a commitment to students and go the extra mile with this bill. A debt load is still a debt load regardless if the source is the government or a private institution. The government recognized the importance of interest relief to students in the budget but did not do enough to help alleviate it.
With the grim financial situation students province-wide are facing, a bill like this is needed. It won't solve all the problems students face but it will show them the government is still listening.