With the House of Commons now adjourned for the summer, and possibly not returning in the fall in the event the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls an election, this means my annual summer listening tour can now begin.
Every year since I was first elected as a Member of Parliament, I have made a point of meeting with citizens in every region of my riding to hear thoughts, concerns, and ideas.
This has always been a very useful and helpful exercise as it guides the work that I do in Ottawa once the fall session gets underway.
One example of this is over this past year, with many students unable to secure jobs over the summer months due to the pandemic, it has increased student debt levels and that has also increased the anxiety many students with significant debt and interest payments.
So far this summer, while my listening tour has only just begun, I am also hearing from many small business owners who have never encountered more difficulty in hiring for vacant jobs.
In short, many report they are unable to fill vacant positions.
A big part of this can be attributed to the federal government, who has not yet implemented a plan to transition workers back into the work force as various Provinces ease pandemic restrictions.
It is my view this government would rather prioritize an election, and claim they need a majority, before any effort will be made to change current pandemic related benefit programs that are acting as a barrier to fill vacant job postings.
The purpose of my report this week is not to criticize these challenges but rather to propose a solution that may help students struggling with debt, as well as employers struggling to fill “help wanted” positions.
Before the House of Commons adjourned, I tabled my latest Private Members Bill -- Bill C-317.
My new bill proposes to amend the Income Tax Act.
Currently, if an employer wants to help an employee pay off their student loans, either with a bonus or as part of their salary, that assistance is taxed as regular income.
My bill would allow employers and employees to enter into voluntary arrangements where payments made by an employer to an employee, pursuant to a student loan assistance program, would be a non-taxable benefit.
This would help young people to pay down debt faster and start saving for the future.
For willing employers, this would help them attract talented workers and encourage employee retention as training costs are considerable.
From a governmental perspective, it would also help ensure that student loans are repaid faster.
I believe that when you say to someone that the challenge young people face is materially different than previous generations, many would agree with that.
Young people often share with me that graduating with thousands of dollars in student loans is a massive barrier to them planning for the future and is also a significant source of stress and anxiety.
I have proposed Bill C-317 as a means to help with the challenge’s students and employers face.
My question this week –
Do you support Bill C-317?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.