Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for taking the time to be here tonight. We are here tonight to discuss the topic of the Canada student loans program and student debt.
On October 7 the Canadian student loans actuarial report was tabled in the House. The report showed that the Canadian government will breach the legal limit for student loans of $15 billion by January 2013. This report stated that there were many reasons for this, with the main reason being that Canadians simply are not repaying their loans at the estimated rate. Considering the current economic climate and the recent recession, this is not surprising. We also know that quality job opportunities for our graduates are few and far between.
A recent report showed that a whopping one in five Canadian graduates are employed in positions that pay at the lower end of the income scale. This means that 20% of our university graduates are earning an income of less than the national median of $37,000. This income is not very much and too many of our Canadian new graduates are living below the poverty line.
Given this and the fact that Canada has the highest proportion of poor university graduates of any OECD country, it is not surprising that people are having trouble paying back their student loans. The breach of our student loan limit is extremely worrisome.
I asked a question on this topic on October 17. Unfortunately, when I asked the question, the members opposite did not rise and talk about what they were doing to ensure that this limit was not breached. Instead, they stood and spoke about tax credits. I am not sure how tax credits are going to help in this situation. How are tax credits going to help the Canadian government from breaching its Canada student loans ceiling? How are tax credits going to help Canadians repay their student loans?
My riding has one of the lowest average household incomes in the GTA, yet many of the families that live there are spending their life savings or incurring extreme amounts of debt to send their children to school. On average, Canadian students are graduating with a debt load of over $25,000 and tuition fees are still rising at four times the rate of inflation. Getting a degree is not getting any cheaper and now these graduates do not have good jobs to look forward to, to help them pay back their student loans.
The facts are clear. Costs of post-secondary education are rising and there are low job prospects for students upon graduation. This current system is simply unsustainable. If the government is as serious as it says it is about securing Canada's economic future, it would make a real commitment to investing in education. If it were really concerned about Canada's economic recovery, it would realize that investing in education of all Canadians has a huge return on its investment. Yet, in the height of the recession, the government did nothing to ease the burden of student debt.
According to public accounts and supplementary estimates, during the fiscal years of 2008-09 and 2009-10, not a single penny was spent on wiping out Canada's student loans debt. This is unique to those years. I find it very interesting that during the years when people were having the most difficult time paying back their student debt, the government decided that it would not spend a single penny to wipe out some of that debt.
We need real action to tackle student debt. We need to make post-secondary education more accessible and more affordable to all Canadians. We need accountability in terms of post-secondary education spending.
I will ask my question again. When will the government take real action to address the looming Canada student loans crisis? When will it reduce the cost of post-secondary education, thereby making it more accessible and affordable for all Canadians?