Taxing student relief
By Dave Yasvinski
Students with loans will be happy to know Joe Fontana, Member of Parliament for London North Centre and Liberal caucus leader, will speak to the House of Commons today on their behalf.
Fontana will be advocating Bill C-316, a bill based on an initiative raised last year by the Education Party of Canada, the party which Western's University Students' Council formed for the 1997 federal election where a candidate was run. The intention behind the bill is to extend interest relief to all student loans, not just Canada and Ontario student loans.
Fontana first presented the bill to the House last February and achieved some measure of success, as the May federal budget incorporated interest relief for Canada and Ontario loans, said Krista Pawley, legislative assistant for Joe Fontana. However, this does not help students who do not qualify for government loans.
"A lot of students go to banks and get private loans and do not qualify under the budget," Pawley said.
As the budget stands now, students qualify for a tax credit on 17 per cent of the interest they pay on their loans, Pawley explained. "We're happy with what happened in the budget, but now we're building on this."
Pawley said because the bill was not deemed voteable, after it is spoken on today it will fall off the order paper. Now is the time for students to let themselves be heard, she added. "We have to work hard to make sure the public hears about it and takes an active role. If you think it's important, you have to write [the government]."
Hoops Harrison, national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said while they were surprised to see interest relief incorporated into the budget, the intent of the bill did not match the legislation.
"To a great extent, Western, along with other schools of Canada, put this on the agenda at the last minute. Because of that I do not think what happened in the budget reflects the bill," he said.
Bill C-316 would extend interest relief to private loans, make interest payments fully tax deductible and allow parties related to students, such as parents, claim unused portions, Harrison said.
"Mr. Fontana very much wanted to see the true intention of the bill come through. It isn't exactly what we asked for, so let's keep pushing."
Michael Rubinoff, who lead the EPC in the last federal election, said the idea was one of the EPC's policies which Fontana approached them about last year. He added he is pleased to see Fontana pushing this bill because it is good for students.
"I think it's absolutely fantastic one of the most important investments anyone can make is in their education. We need these incentives to encourage private loans," he said.
It is even more encouraging to see this bill rise out of an EPC initiative, Rubinoff said. "Here is a direct financial result. Here is a tangible return on that investment it was well worth it."
Ian Armour, president of the University Students' Council, said it was a shock to see interest relief incorporated into the budget. "I don't know if we can necessarily take credit for it but I'd like to think the EPC had something to do with it."
He added it would be fantastic if the budget could be expanded to cover non-governmental loans as well. "If this is something they need support on, I think we could easily mount a campaign at Western."