February 6, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 71  

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Conservatives debate grad-specific tax cut

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

Leadership candidates for the new Conservative Party of Canada are trying to court the youth vote with fiscal and economic policies aimed at lessening the burden on graduates’ wallets.

Former Ontario health minister Tony Clement is promoting his “Jump Start 250” program, which would exempt young taxpayers from being taxed on the first $250,000 they earn, said Gord Haugh, a spokesperson for the Clement campaign.

“This is a way for people to stay at home, to stay in Canada,” Haugh said, adding young professionals often face immediate costs like buying a house.

Though he acknowledged the potentially high price tag of the program, Haugh stressed the importance of keeping qualified professionals — such as healthcare workers and professors — in the Canadian economy to minimize the detrimental effects of the so-called “brain drain” to the United States.

“The policy is really about giving people an incentive to live, work and raise a family in Canada,” said Rohit Gupta, policy chair for Clement’s campaign, adding only youth 18 and older would qualify, and not other groups such as landed immigrants.

A spokesperson for the Belinda Stronach campaign said Clement’s program is a “good addition to the debate,” but it failed to address the main concerns of graduates. “The real issue is creating jobs for our young people when they graduate,” said Stacey Gray.

Another Stronach proposal would allow students to deduct the amount they pay in tuition from their income tax, confirmed Rob Savage, a media relations officer for the campaign. “It’s important that we are supporting our young people,” Savage said.

“The Canadian Taxpayers Federation does not support specific tax breaks,” said the organization’s research director Bruce Winchester. “We favour broadly-based tax reduction measures that favour all Canadians.”

The campaign team of the third leadership contender, Stephen Harper, did not return calls for comment.



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