Volume 93, Issue 64

Tuesday, January 25, 2000


Editorial Board 1999-2000

It's your own default

Editorial cartoon

It's your own default

It looks like it's time to pay the piper in Alberta and if you don't, the piper isn't going to steal your children with the sweet, mysterious melody of his fife. Instead, he's going to seize your income tax return.

A recent announcement made by the Alberta government's Department of Treasury has stated they will begin to seize the tax returns of students who have defaulted on their student loans.

This new action will be retroactive to 1980 and will effect those who defaulted up until 1993. Individuals who have defaulted on their loans during this time must forfeit their return to the crown.

With this initiative, the Alberta government is hoping to retrieve some of the $21 million which the students of the province have accumulated in outstanding debt.

One would tend to think that if you take out a loan, be it for a car, or an education, one would have to pay that money back.

Defaulting is cheating the agreement. Worse, it's cheating the government who has the power to raise taxes, on account of those who cheat the system. The crown should therefore be able to collect their money when the agreement specifies – no sooner, no later. It's only fair.

Those who default also make it tougher for other students to get funding. With less money being returned to the government, it's only a matter of time before they decide to stop funding the pools as much.

The government may have deep pockets, but they have a finite depth with issues such as health care stretching them even further. This is just an example of people taking advantage of the system. But now the system is biting back.

The Alberta government's decision makes perfect sense. It's as plain as day – why would the government return money to student "X," when student "X" owes the government $40,000? Of course, no government decision goes without some sort of public outrage and carrying on about a "violation of rights."

However, when taking a look at the document listing their rights, defaulters will notice it lacks a right to property and to paraphrase the Charter, the government can limit an individual's rights within the reasonable level of a just and democratic society.

Even if people attempt to cry "violation of rights," the government isn't technically stealing anyone's money. In this case, the defaulter would have already paid it and the government just isn't giving it back. Instead, they're reallocating it to monies which are owed to them. It's the best method to dealing with this problem.

Hopefully, some of the these student loans will be repaid, despite the bitter grumblings of those who do not dutifully pay them. If this system of repayment proves effective for the province of Alberta, then hopefully we'll see it in Ontario, too.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000