Bill C-236 : Student Loans

SwoopGuy's picture

Hey gang,

   I'm writing this as a partial reminder to myself, but I also thought it would be nice to bring it up and see what others have to say.

    A couple of minutes ago I was watching cpac (federal parliament on tv).  Some fellow by the name of Khan was reading off stuff about student loans and the things the government has done with them over the years.  Most of it was old news to me (student loan is a big part of my post BA life), but there was one thing that caught my ear.  He said that if after five years a person was unable to pay off their student loan, the government would assume half of that debt up to a maximum of $10,000.  I suspect that this refers only to federal loans (not the provincial portion), but still that seems pretty cool.  Shame they don't advertise it very much.  All this is in an effort to reduce the number of students who declare bankuptcy.  The thought of Bankruptcy has crossed my mind a few times, as it only stays on your record for about eight years, and at present I'm not likely to finish with my student loan for 15 years.  Has anybody else heard anything about this bill or related student loan information? 

I'm familiar with the feeling (having my loan spread across various pieces of legislative fallout), but wouldn't you have been eligable for the halving after five years.  Appearently it's been the standard for quite a few years, they just don't tell everyone in a big loud voice.  At least not until the rest of the policy comes under fire.  That's politics for you.

Figures. The 10-year minimum was introducted *just* before I got my loan. Now that I've *just* paid it off...

Seems I went to school at the wrong time!

More news on C-236 (just to avoid confussion, this refers to a bill in 2004, not one of the same name in 1999)

Alexa McDonough sent this out to another forum at the beginning of February.

Thank-you for taking the time to express your frustration with the inadequacy of Canada’s post-secondary financial aid system, and to propose some very thoughtful solutions.

As the federal New Democratic Party’s Post-Secondary Education (PSE) Critic, I can assure you that you are not alone. I along with my NDP colleagues have consistently joined in solidarity with students like you in fighting for a more just and fair system.

Since assuming the Post-Secondary Education Critic role in the NDP caucus, I have initiated meetings with major education stakeholders, starting with key representatives of the two national student advocacy organizations, the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations here in Ottawa. In Nova Scotia, I initiated a roundtable with student leaders from all of the universities and colleges in my own province. I have met with representatives of Canadian university teachers, administrators, and support staff to find ways to bring PSE-related issues the national attention they deserve.

Student debt is one of the most serious and troubling of these issues. As your letter suggests, much of the problem is in the details. I have begun to address the many flaws of the current financial assistance system. To begin, I have introduced Bill C-236, to amend the Liberals’ bankruptcy act by reducing the current ten-year minimum before which a student may file for bankruptcy, to two years after graduation.

Currently, Bill C-236, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (student loan) is awaiting its first hour of debate in the House of Commons later this month.

I have also introduced Bill C-237, An Act to amend the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act (qualifying period for disability relief) to extend the qualifying period within which a student who becomes disabled may apply for disability relief under the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act from six months to five years.

I have heard countless other complications, such as the use of gross income instead of net income, to calculate ability to pay and eligibility for interest relief, and the absurd situation whereby PhD students are forced to repay their loan while they remain in full-time studies. I am actively exploring these issues more thoroughly in an attempt to find answers that lead to solutions in the coming months.

As you note, this federal Liberal Government’s recent Throne Speech failed to live up to its election promise to “change” eligibility for, accessibility to, and repayment of financial aid. The NDP has been consistent in advocating for a truly equal and accessible post-secondary education, most recently in our 2004 Federal Election Platform, by:

Cutting tuition 10% and freezing it by guaranteeing increased, stable, and predictable funding to the provinces

Making all Canada Student Loans interest-free over the life of the loan

Replacing the Millennium Scholarship Fund with needs-based grants, not just loans

Paul Martin promised to make post-secondary access independent of one’s parents’ income and to bring “change” to financial aid. I intend to hold his feet to the fire.

To do that, I need your help. First, persist. Keep the issue of post-secondary education in the national spotlight. Continue to raise awareness in your community, in your provincial capital, and in Ottawa. Continue to write letters to the Government and your own MP, of whatever political stripe, letters to the editor and op-ed pieces. Rally your fellow students together to collectively voice your concerns. Make sure Prime Minister Martin and Minister Volpe hear you.

One way you can make your voice heard is through the NDP’s postcard campaign that sends an urgent message to the Prime Minister: DON’T WASTE VALUABLE MONEY ON BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENCE. INVEST IN STUDENTS INSTEAD! I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to this campaign. I encourage you to download the postcard from my website at

Together, we can hold the Prime Minister to his word, and bring about real change in Canada’s post-secondary system.

Thank-you again for your letter. I welcome your advice on these and any other PSE issues of concern to you and your colleagues, and I look forward to working with you in our continued struggle for an equal and accessible education system that leaves no one behind.


Alexa McDonough, MP Halifax

NDP PSE Critic

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