My Question on Removing the Interest From Student Debt

Ms. Peggy Sattler: My question is to the Premier. In the weeks since the Ontario NDP launched our new website, endstudentdebt.ca, stories have come flooding in. For example, Holly Parkinson not only worked during university, she also moved back home to save money. She has now graduated, but at 25 years old she expects to have to live with her parents for years. She writes that if interest was removed from her student loan, she would be able to pay off her debt and start saving for her future.

Speaker, student loan debt, compounded by interest on student loans, is keeping young people like Holly from moving forward with their lives after they graduate. Will the Premier act now to remove interest from student loans?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Thank you for the question. As everyone here recognizes, making sure that all students have access to post-secondary education is a very, very high priority for us. That’s why we’re moving forward with changes to OSAP that are progressive, that are generous. It will be simpler to use, Speaker. The benefits are enormous. For those at the lowest end of the income scale, tuition will be free. Grants will exceed the price of tuition.

It’s a fundamental principle for us that everyone should have access to post-secondary education based on their potential, not on their pocketbook. We’re making real, meaningful changes, Speaker, and I will address the issue of interest on debt in the supplementary.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Ms. Peggy Sattler: Speaker, the submissions made to our website tell a bleak story. Many students are working multiple jobs while in school, only to graduate with huge debts and few opportunities for full-time employment.

Saminder Parwana was the first in his family to graduate from post-secondary but had to juggle three jobs in order to pay for his education. Now in his 30s and unable to find anything other than minimum-wage work, he has $30,000 of debt and no real chance of paying it off.

Speaker, how can this Premier justify making a profit off the backs of struggling graduates by charging interest on student loans?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: We actually have taken the recommendation of the third party. We’ve looked at that recommendation and we have calculated that, on average, students with student debt will have relief of $6.11 a month if we were to move forward with the NDP proposal. We are making a much more profound change, Speaker. Our changes to OSAP will do far more than the changes that they are recommending. Their benefit: $6.11 a month on average, Speaker. We are offering free tuition for 150,000 students—far, far, far greater savings than they’re recommending.