House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was appointments.

Topics

Student Loans
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, four years ago the government introduced a debt reduction repayment program to assist individuals who had attended post-secondary institutions and incurred unmanageable debt levels.

Intended to benefit 12,000 such borrowers every year, it has been a monumental failure, even by HRDC standards, with fewer than 1,000 Canadians actually helped.

Would the minister please inform us when she will scrap this disastrous plan and replace it with one that will actually work for Canadians overwhelmed by student debtload?

Student Loans
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the government continues to be preoccupied with the question of access to post-secondary education. As I have said before, it is the provinces that set tuition fees.

However the government has not been slow in responding to the needs of Canadian students. I remind the hon. member that every year 350,000 Canadians receive Canada student loans to the value of $1.6 billion. In 2001-02, 90,000 bursaries worth $285 million were issued through the millennium scholarship fund. Our Canada study grants, particularly for those Canadians with disabilities, have been improved as of the last budget, and there is more.

Student Loans
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister says that her government is preoccupied by student debt but I can tell her that her government has done absolutely nothing to relieve that student debt.

Not only are students getting a raw deal in debt reduction, but graduate students are facing tuition fee increases almost three times higher than the general average. To make matters worse, money that is given in the form of scholarships is being taken away in taxes. They lose again. It is not good enough to slough this off as a provincial responsibility. This is a federal responsibility.

What will the minister do to ensure financial accessibility--

Student Loans
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Human Resources Development.

Student Loans
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I will continue with my list in response to this second question.

I would remind the hon. member that through the registered education savings program and the Canadian education savings grants program, we have paid $1.2 billion in grants to date to approximately 1.6 million children so that they have income to help them when they continue on with their post-secondary education.

In addition, we have had an increase in interest relief, an extended repayment period and a debt reduction program for borrowers. In addition to that, we continue to work with the provinces to look at the whole student loan process and will--

Student Loans
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Kings--Hants.

Financial Institutions
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, this summer the finance minister encouraged the Bank of Montreal and Scotiabank to discuss a potential merger. Two weeks ago the Prime Minister stopped these merger talks by telling the banks that he would be opposed to any merger prior to his retirement in 2004. One week later the finance minister asked the House of Commons finance committee to change the rules for bank mergers. This request led to bank shares gaining 3% in one day of trading.

When the Minister of Finance made that request, was he aware of the Prime Minister's ban on bank mergers?

Financial Institutions
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Vaughan—King—Aurora
Ontario

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, I do not comment on speculation about alleged discussions.

The hon. member is a very active member of the finance committee and he knows quite well that the banks, if they decide to propose a merger, would have to go through the Competition Bureau and OSFI, as well as hearings for the public interest assessment with the Senate banking committee and the finance committee.

Financial Institutions
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, we have a finance minister saying one thing, a Prime Minister saying something else and now we have the junior finance minister having a third opinion.

The Liberals are playing politics with the Canadian banking system. The finance minister said yes to the bank merger this summer. The Prime Minister said no to bank mergers this fall.

Why did the Prime Minister contradict his Minister of Finance on this important public policy issue? Who is speaking on behalf of the government, the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister?

Financial Institutions
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the member asked me a question about authority. The Minister of Finance has all the authority under the Bank Act.

Student Loans Program
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, that was certainly enlightening.

Here is another example of how poorly the government safeguards our social insurance number. Brenda Pederson's 17 year old disabled son recently received a threatening letter that said that because he had defaulted on his student loan the government would seize all his future tax refunds, credits and benefits. However it was all a government screw up. Brenda's son had never applied for a student loan. The government had input the wrong social insurance number.

Harassed Canadians want to know why there are no safeguards in place when applying for benefits to ensure that their name is matched up to their social insurance number?

Student Loans Program
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, let me thank the hon. member for drawing this particular and specific case to my attention. I will be glad to work with him to make sure that we have it fully rectified.

Student Loans Program
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister misses the point. We are not just talking about a specific case. We are talking about the lack of safeguards in the department.

Mrs. Pederson calls the whole situation quite terrifying. The Auditor General thinks it is terrifying. We know that administration is not this minister's strong point but this is a pretty basic issue.

When billions of dollars and the public's peace of mind is at stake, why has the minister failed to put in place the most basic safeguards to ensure that government screw ups do not turn into harassment of people like Brenda Pederson and her son?

Student Loans Program
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

From that diatribe, Mr. Speaker, I would assume that the hon. member would be supportive of the changes that we have recently put in place to increase the integrity of the social insurance number.

We will be accepting only original documents. We will be marking those 900 series cards with an expiry date. We are also ensuring that increased training is provided to my staff because it is important to make sure that reference document is secure.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

October 29th, 2002 / 2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to a question I asked him yesterday, the Minister of National Defence acknowledged that he would seek increased funding for the armed forces, but that he had yet to specify what for exactly.

Does the Minister of National Defence understand that, if he hopes to have any success in his undertaking, he is first going to have to tell us to what this increased funding is for?