Mr. Speaker, for the folks at home who may be watching this debate I will read once again the motion that we are debating. The motion was brought forward by one of my NDP colleagues and it reads: “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should reverse the privatization of Canada Student Loans, reject proposals for income contingent loan repayment, and should instead implement a federal student grant program and establish accessibility as a new national standard for post secondary education”.
Let us address this motion section by section.
First, the motion is calling for us to reverse the privatization of Canada student loans.
In my assessment the government moved toward privatizing Canada student loans because it had a bad track record on defaults.
In the period 1990-91, 25.78% of student loans had default problems. In the 1991-92 fiscal year 27.23% of student loans had default problems. In fiscal year 1992-93, 28.84% had default problems. Notice that each year the figure is going up. In 1993-94, 29.79% of student loans had default problems. In fiscal year 1994-95, 31.1% of student loans had default problems. According to our numbers 1995 is the last year for which these figures are available. The amount of student loans with default problems crept up each year during the period 1990 to 1995.
There is a combination of problems. There is some form of remission, or there is some form of granting, or there is some form of actual bankruptcy, or there is some form of late payment. There are probably other scenarios that wind up in a default complication.
We are not talking pennies. They are pretty substantial sums of money. Last year it was estimated that student loans in Canada would cost about $643 million. That was the estimate, but the government exceeded that. As a result more people qualified and it wound up costing taxpayers $743 million. That is just for one year.
As of last year there were outstanding loan guarantees of up to $3.5 billion. We are talking about some pretty substantial assets. If we are dealing with close to $4 billion in outstanding assets on student loans we cannot treat this lightly. If the government did not do a good job from 1990 to 1995 in terms of the stats we have seen, maybe privatizing student loans is a worthwhile option to explore.
The government has loaned this money and it has turned the loans over to the private institutions, the banks, because it was not doing a good job. Thirty per cent of the loans were going into default with the government looking after them, so the government finally got them out of its back pocket and gave them to the banks to see if they could do a better job. In order for the banks to pick up this responsibility they wanted a 5% premium.
The government gave out $743 million in loans last year. It was projected that the premium would be $16 million. However, because the government went way over budget with the loans, the premium rose to $29.4 million. Last year the Government of Canada paid the banks in Canada roughly $30 million to look after Canada student loans. That is based on approximately $700 million that was given out in student loans.
The government is looking to loan this money out, but by paying the premium to the banks it is hoping to have the banks pick up the problems of chasing people who default on their loans.
That is one of the problems associated with post-secondary education in this country.
Another problem underpins everything. It is one thing to have a loan, but if the borrower cannot find a job when they graduate they have a real problem.
I remember a party either in the 1993 or the 1997 election. If I remember correctly it campaigned on jobs, jobs, jobs.
Let me think now. It was the Liberals. That is who it was. They campaigned on jobs, jobs, jobs. But those students who got those loans, loans, loans came out of the universities and post-secondary institutions and they could not find those jobs, jobs, jobs. They had debt, debt, debt. As a result we have all sorts of massive default, default, default. There is a serious problem on our hands.
We could go ahead and as the NDP says allow the government to take over the student loans programs again but that would not solve the problem. The real underpinning problem is that there is a lack of jobs for students when they come out of post-secondary institutions. That is the real problem. There has not been a delivery on the jobs front. That is why they are having problems.
If students after their post-secondary education step into jobs, they do not have problems repaying their student loans. As a matter of fact, students in this country only pay a little over 10%, and one of the figures in a Diane Francis article is about 11% of their education. The government covers close to 80% of their education costs and there is the private sector funding which is arranged through alumni associations.
When everything is taken in, students are not paying that much. They are paying around 15% at tops 20%, or a sixth of the cost of their education. If they are able to get a subsidy of five-sixths for their education, as long as they are able to find a job, repaying the student loan is not a problem. The problem is that there are no jobs for them.
The Liberals say they are going to promise jobs and it does not happen. The NDP says we should have the government look after student loans. Unfortunately the government has an abysmal record on student loans. Students are therefore left between a rock and a hard place. And there comes the Reform Party.
In the second aspect of Motion No. 132, the NDP wants to reject proposals for income contingent loan repayment. Let me give a thumbnail sketch for the folks at home and all those Liberals across the way because I know they are paying attention. Education is a big priority for all of them.
An income contingent loan would allow students when they come out of an educational institution and if they get a job right away, the ability to link their salary to their ability to repay their student loan. If students find work when they graduate, they repay the student loan. On the other hand if they cannot find work, or they find only part time work, then they link the amount of money they are making to the loan repayment. As a result they may not be making full repayment, but they are making a partial repayment. This is better than what we have right now.
Right now it is a simple on and off switch. If a student graduates and is able to pay, they pay the full shot whether or not it makes sense according to their budget. If they come out and cannot afford the full amount but can afford a partial amount of the student loan, rather than being able to pay that partial amount, it automatically defaults because of the on and off switch mechanism with regard to student loans. They do not pay any of it. That is not fair to the taxpayer and it is not fair to the students.
As a result, income contingent student loans would allow students who have the ability to pay, to pay. Those who do not have the ability to pay would be able to push repayment on to a later period of time when they finally find work.
One of the ways to make sure the loan is repaid is to take the income out of an income tax refund if they have one. I have encountered examples of students who are not fairly reporting their income to the financial institution holding the loan, or in some way are trying to skirt the process. If it is linked to their social insurance number, we get rid of the default problems and make sure that the loans are being repaid. Therefore with income contingent student loans we take care of both problems.
If a student cannot find a job promised to them by the Liberals, then they are not having to make full repayments. If defaults are a problem, and the NDP is not going to be able to explain that the government cannot do a decent job of collecting on student loans that are legitimately owed by students to the government or to the banks if they may be privatized, then a system is set up where it is linked to social insurance numbers and these things can actually be traced. There is less of a problem for students who are honestly repaying their student loans and we can actually get repayment from those who are defaulting sometimes in spurious circumstances. That addresses two of the big problems.
I would like to address the lack of spending priorities. You will have to help me out again, Mr. Speaker. There was a party which campaigned in 1993 and in 1997. It said it was the party of health care and it said it was the party of education. Its members said that those two things were fairly sacred social institutions and we would have to almost torture them for them to in any way impact the funding for programs in health care and education.
I remember who it was. It was the Liberals. They said they were not going to cut health care and education but they actually did. It was massive amounts of money. In education alone it was $1.5 billion. They cut huge amounts of money out of education.
What about the money we spend on foreign aid? Are students not more important? What about subsidies to profitable corporations, the CBC? I could go on, Mr. Speaker, you know I could.
In any event income contingent student loans are the way to go.