Duelling War Rooms: Ignatieff's RESP thing redux

The Conservative and Liberal war rooms both signed up for a second round of the debate that kicked off below. Here they go again. What follows is in the two parties’ words, verbatim as they sent them, not my arguments:

The Conservative Reply:

The evolution of Ignatieff’s education policy scramble:

9:00 am – Michael Ignatieff announces what he and senior Liberals call “a game changer”

11:15 am – Michael Ignatieff’s war room says the Liberal platform announcement needs “tweaking” after reporters raise questions about whether CEGEP students, who pay less in tuition than Ignatieff’s proposed program, would make a profit off Ignatieff’s Liberal program.

1:29 pm – Michael Ignatieff’s war room makes another policy amendment on the fly when it becomes clear his policy would, if implemented, make many students ineligible for Canada Student Loans or Canada Student Grants. They announce that the “value of the passport is excluded for the purpose of calculating a STUDENT’S ASSETS” for grants and loans.

3:25 PM – Yet another Michael Ignatieff policy scramble as the Liberals announce the “passport would not count against FAMILY INCOME for student loan calculations.” Still no word on what guarantees they can provide that provinces and territories will make the same changes to their student loan and grant programs, or whether Ignatieff’s program will make students involuntarily ineligible for means-tested scholarship programs. Nor has Ignatieff explained how the low-income portion of his policy will be delivered through RESPs, which currently don’t require banks to obtain information on family income for the purposes of administering them.

The Ignatieff Liberals are clearly making up policy on the fly to cover his many oversights. There are several other questions that must be answered in this Ignatieff policy mess:

1) How will their latest policy “tweaks” impact the overall cost of this new program? When will Ignatieff come clean on the true cost of the program? Does he even know?

2) If they are planning to exempt these funds from the asset calculation for student loans and grants, have they consulted with provinces and territories on coordinating the treatment of provincial/territorial loans and grants? Will they repay any provinces and territories that see cost increases as a result of this new policy?

3) Banks already find RESPs to be administratively onerous. If Michael Ignatieff plans to introduce a new income-tested grant for some students administered through RESPs, can he guarantee that no banks will stop offering RESPs altogether due to the greater administrative burden of Ignatieff’s policy, which will require them to collect family income information for RESP purposes? Have the Liberals consulted to make sure that banks will continue to offer RESPs with these new, more onerous requirements?

4) How will the funds from Ignatieff’s program be separated from other funds in an RESP contributed by a student or his/her parent? If the student doesn’t go to school, who gets to keep the interest on the entire RESP amount? How does the money get repaid to government?

5) Michael Ignatieff’s plan will take away the Education and Textbook tax credits that benefit students and families. Why is Michael Ignatieff choosing to fund his new $1-billion program by raising taxes on students and their families by $700 million?


The Liberal Response:

It is clear that the Conservative know they cannot argue against the Learning Passport on the substance.

1. Fortunately, there are many in Canada who understand better than the Conservatives how our student financial assistance programs actually work. As a result, The Learning Passport has received endorsements from the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), and la Fédération des associations étudiantes du campus de l’Université de Montréal (FAÉCUM).

2. The Conservatives are desperate to attack something they didn’t have the imagination or vision to produce themselves. They should go back to making promises that wouldn’t be delivered until 2015 and later.





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