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Free tuition? Yes we can afford it


Newfoundland and Labrador students, many facing mountains of debt, are pushing government for free tuition at Canada’s universities and colleges. This would benefit not just students and their families, but the Canadian economy.

Businesses benefit from a better-educated work force. Graduates have more disposable income when not burdened by student debt.

So why is the idea so quickly dismissed as unworkable because governments can’t afford it? It would cost about $10 billion to offer free post-secondary tuition. Many countries already do. That may sound like a lot, until you look at some of the ways this could be funded.

• Every year the federal and provincial governments lose at least $8 billion in tax revenues from wealthy corporations and individuals by failing to deal with this country’s growing use of tax havens.

• Every year the federal government forgoes at least $9 billion because of cuts to the corporate tax rate made by previous governments that have done nothing to boost investment or create jobs.

• Every year federal and provincial governments give an unfair subsidy of about $1 billion to multinational e-commerce companies like Google, Facebook, Uber and Netflix by exempting them from paying any HST/GST or corporate income taxes on profits made in Canada.

• Every year the federal government loses $16 billion in potential revenue due to unfair and ineffective tax loopholes such as the Stock Options Deduction or the Business Entertainment Tax Deduction.

A good tax system should invest in things that matter — to all of us. Investing in our future workforce is doable and provides social and economic returns.

Dennis Howlett, executive director, Canadians for Tax Fairness, Ottawa

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