Since its February 2016 implementation, the Phoenix payroll system has caused endless grief to the more than 100,000 public servants who have been underpaid, overpaid, or simply not paid at all. Post-secondary students are now feeling the burden of the Phoenix implementation as well, with (at least) 80 of them reporting that they were not able to pay their tuition following work placements with the federal government.


Greg Owens, a fourth-year neuroscience and mental health student who was overpaid for his time at Health Canada six months ago, says: “I don’t have big saving accounts. I don’t have an RESP. My line of credit only goes so far… The unfortunate reality is I’m definitely not in a place that I can just write cheques to pay them back.”


Many of Canada’s largest universities (such as Carleton University, the University of Ottawa, and the University of British Columbia) are making exceptions for students affected by the Phoenix payroll system by providing options such as tuition deferrals and emergency funding.  However, the students may ultimately face additional problems in the future— if their T4s are inaccurate, they will not be able to receive certain loans and/or grants.

Owens warns students to save up their money if they intend on doing a work placement with the federal government, while Bilan Arte, chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students, laments the fact that “students are still having to deal with the consequences of a mistake that the federal government has made”.


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