Harper should fund RESP bill by halting BCE sale

VANCOUVER – The Green Party says the Harper government should cease threats to trigger an election over the Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) private member’s bill, passed by Parliament last week. The bill would allow parents to claim income tax deductions based on contributions to RESPs and estimates put the cost in the area of $900 million or less per year.

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper should stop attempting to subvert the will of Parliament by declaring this bill a confidence motion,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “He could easily fund this tax cut by halting the attempted takeover of Bell parent company BCE by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. If Teachers’ takeover bid is successful, federal government coffers will be robbed of anywhere from $800 million to $1 billion in lost tax revenue. This money could be put to better use providing parents with a tax break on education savings.”

Because the $32 billion in borrowing required by the takeover bid would place the company deeply in debt, BCE earnings would be sheltered and therefore non-taxable. Furthermore, the government would collect no tax on interest paid to foreign banks according to new rules in the 2007 budget.

Ms. May also pointed out that Teachers’ bid to become BCE’s majority shareholder violates the terms of the Pension Benefits Standards regulations, which clearly state that a pension plan may not own more than 30 percent of a company. Teachers’ is exploiting a loophole in Ontario pension law to break the 30 percent ownership limitation rule.

“Mr. Harper is choosing to fund corporate takeovers which create no value for society while denying savings for our children’s future education. Student debt in Canada is now estimated at over $10 billion dollars and the government has a responsibility to help students emerge from this crippling debt load. It is in the public interest for Mr. Harper to stop the BCE takeover and use the tax savings to help parents keep their children out of debt. Isn’t this what Ontario teachers would want?”