Duelling war rooms: the Ignatieff RESP plank

The Conservatives' response, and the Liberals' rebuttal

So Michael Ignatieff introduced his “learning passport” scheme this morning at Sheridan College. Very soon after, the Conservative campaign released its critique of Ignatieff’s idea. I sent their press release to the Liberal campaign. Won’t you join me as I watch them argue?

The Policy

$1,000 a year ($1,500 for low-income recipients) from the feds into tax-free savings accounts in the four years before a recipient leaves high school. To be used as payment toward college or university tuition.

The Conservative Response

Verbatim from their war room:

How many students will become ineligible for Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants because of Michael Ignatieff’s announcement?

• Did Michael Ignatieff calculate how many students would immediately become ineligible for Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants if today’s announcement is implemented?

• Why did Michael Ignatieff not include details about how this would affect Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants eligibility in his party’s news release or background documents this morning?

• Are the Ignatieff Liberals proposing to change the Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants eligibility rules to ensure no students are adversely affected by today’s announcement? If so, why did they not outline these changes in today’s announcement and what are the costs of those changes?


Today’s announcement could push some students out of eligibility for the Canada Student Loan and Canada Student Grants Programs. Many families are saving for their children’s education with an RESP, and many students work hard in part-time or summer jobs. For Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants, students are eligible if they have $1 of “need”.

If Michael Ignatieff proposes that the federal government give each student a $1,000 grant through their RESP for 4 years, will these hard-working students no longer be eligible for our low/middle income student grants or Canada Student Loans?

Canada Student Grants for middle-income students is $100 per month, up to $1,200 per year. Will students who work at summer jobs no longer be eligible because today’s announcement will move them above the eligibility threshold? Michael Ignatieff proposes to have the federal government give them $1,000 per year, but they would lose $1,200 per year from Canada Student Grants.

For low-income students, if they found themselves in the situation above, the harm is even greater. The Low-Income Grant is $250 per month, up to $3,000 per year. Michael Ignatieff’s proposed $1,500 grant for low-income students means they could lose the $3,000 grant.

Giving with one hand, taking with the other. Either the Ignatieff Liberals are hiding the cost of today’s announcement, or there is a massive policy blunder in the centrepiece of their campaign.

The Liberal Response:

Verbatim from their war room:

The Conservatives don’t seem to understand how the grant program they created in 2008 works.

For students with loans, the Learning Passport will allow all or part of that loan to be replaced by our new GRANT – which means same amount of money without having to pay it back.

Students would not lose a single dollar of Canada Student Grants as the Learning Passport would not count against family income for student loans.

Our plan will help students and their families now, not in 5 years.

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