House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was servants.

Topics

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
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1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
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1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to order made on Tuesday, October 5, the division stands deferred until Monday, October 18 at 3 p.m.

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

moved that Bill C-5, an act to provide financial assistance for post-secondary education savings, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker,I am delighted to be on the agenda as the first speaker to this bill. I want to begin by giving due credit and thanks to my parliamentary secretary, the member for Peterborough, as well as the Minister of State for Human Resources and Skills Development, the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, for their assistance the preparation of this proposed legislation.

In addition to being a legislator and a representative of the general public, I too am a parent, like most people in this chamber. Like all parents, I want the very best for my children. In fact some of the have already gone through school, so I am speaking more from a historical perspective than I am from an active perspective, although my children have graced my wife with grand kids. Therefore, I want to provide for them in the same way that I took the disposition for my own children.

I would like to instill in them, as I am sure every single member in the House would like to do, a confidence to tackle life's challenges and to ensure that they have every opportunity to experience the satisfaction that comes with success,.

Like everyone here, I want for my grandchildren and for everyone else's children to have them live a life that is healthy, productive, prosperous and satisfying leading up to adulthood. I obviously want that for their adult life as well. Perhaps this is idealistic but I hope everyone shares in this idealism. I would like to offer my children and their own children all the advantages that living in this great country of ours has to offer. This is true of all parents whether we are rich or poor, no matter where we live and whatever our backgrounds.

Canadian families from coast to coast are doing everything they can to ensure that their children can fulfill their Canadian dream, a dream which, increasingly, cannot be fulfilled if our children do not have access to post-secondary education.

Three out of every four new jobs require post-secondary education, whether it is trade training, a college diploma or a university degree. By comparison, people who have not completed their secondary education now have access to less than 6% of all new jobs.

To give members a sense of just how great this imbalance is, consider that between 1990 and 2003 some 1.4 million jobs were created for university graduates, while 1.2 million jobs were lost for those who had barely completed high school. Consider too that over their lifetime, university students on average earn $1 million more than those without a degree. The advantages can be seen almost immediately.

There is another imbalance that should concern all of us as parliamentarians in the House as it also has serious consequences for our country. Statistics Canada recently reported that 93% of Canadian parents hope that their children will go on to post-secondary education, yet only one-half are currently saving for their education. The majority of that one-half come from the most affluent of Canadian families.

Research indicates that 68% of parents with an income greater than $85,000 are putting money aside for their children's post-secondary education, whereas just 26% of parents with an income of under $25,000 are doing the same thing. Of course for lower income parents, we should not be surprised to find that only 8% are taking advantage of a registered education savings plan which tax shelters the compound interest on their investments. The poorest people in this country who do save are struggling to do so on their own, largely without the benefit of the Canada education savings grant.

This is an imbalance that we ought to rectify. I am pleased that the Speech from the Throne has underlined, underscored and emphasized our commitment to increase access to post-secondary education through Bill C-5, the Canada education savings act.

The bill introduces an innovative new initiative and improvements to existing programs to ensure that each and every youngster with the ability and the desire to pursue post-secondary education studies has the chance to do so, no matter what his or her family's financial circumstances are.

The innovative new initiative to which I am referring is the Canada learning bond, which will help underprivileged Canadian children by allowing them to set up an education savings plan.

The Canada learning bond begins with a one time payment of $500 for children born into families receiving the national child benefit supplement. Families with a net income of $35,000 or less qualify. The bond is available to all eligible babies born since January 1 of this year. The initial payment will be followed by successive instalments of $100 per year up to and including the year in which the child turns 15, provided the family remains entitled to the national child benefit supplement.

By the time such children turn 18, their Canada learning bond, combined with the interest earned on the bond, could be worth up to $3,000 not considering any additional supplements or savings that the family might have contributed. To receive these funds, parents need to open an RESP. If necessary we will provide an additional $25 to help cover the cost of the administration and setting up of such a fund.

The big advantage, as colleagues will soon recognize, of an RESP is that the Government of Canada also tops up the parents' contribution through the Canada education savings grant program. That is another innovation, by the way, that we introduced just a few short years ago to help families increase their savings for their children's post-secondary education.

The Canada education savings grant provides a 20% grant on parents' contributions to a current maximum of $400 per year. We want to go even further. With this legislation we propose to dramatically improve the odds for low and middle income children by giving them an even larger savings grant.

Once the bill is adopted, as I am sure colleagues on both sides of the House will be eager to do, the current Canada education savings grant rate of 20% will double to 40% on the first $500 of savings made by families earning up to $35,000. Let me give an idea of just what kind of difference that can make. If a low income family contributes just $10 per month to a child's RESP from birth, there would be some $7,000 available by the time the child is ready to go to university.

We also want to make sure that children in families with modest incomes have a greater chance to take advantage of a post-secondary education. The Canada education savings grant contribution for them will increase to 30% on the first $500 of savings set aside by families earning a qualifying net income greater than $35,000 but not exceeding $70,000.

These higher rates will affect the contributions made by all eligible families as of January 1, 2005. According to our projections, the Canada learning bond could benefit some 120,000 newborns and the enhanced Canada education savings grant could benefit up to 4.5 million children from low and middle income families each year.

For thousands of young Canadians, these figures mean increased opportunities for learning, improving and developing their potential. Over time, these investments will generate huge dividends for our economy and our society as a whole, when these young people become workers, taxpayers, parents and leaders in their communities and in our country.

Such initiatives have never been as critical as they are now, at a time when the whole world is giving priority to learning and to knowledge. An educated population is a cornerstone of Canada's competitiveness internationally, and it is also critical to maintaining our high standard of living.

I have presented many facts and figures thus far, but as impressive as colleagues will find them, we need to look beyond the numbers. Aside from the tremendous monetary value of these investments, there are other equally important benefits. Studies demonstrate that children with savings for post-secondary education have a more positive attitude toward their schooling. They have better marks and they go further in school. It seems that if the expectation is there that they will go on to college or university, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Other research has shown that youth with savings are 50% more likely to go on to study at a post-secondary level than youth who do not. The flip side of that story is that not having money set aside for post-secondary studies presents both a practical and a psychological barrier to many. That is an assumption on the part of some that a person who is poor today will inevitably be poor tomorrow. Their assumption does not recognize that learning is the key to rising above poverty.

In our society education is the great equalizer. Knowledge is blind to race, gender, disability and income status. It creates a level playing field for all who are able to take advantage of learning opportunities.

I might say with some humility that I know this first-hand. I have worked in classrooms, in corridors in Canada's schools. I am not only a politician and a parent, but I am a former educator and I do not want to cast aspersions on members of that profession by trying to tie myself to them.

I have seen first-hand what financially disadvantaged kids can accomplish when given the chance. I have witnessed their successes time and time again. When they get that extra bit of encouragement and support, they succeed like no other. I can say that what might sound like pocket change to some can mean a world of difference to families and children doing without.

By supporting this legislation, the House of Commons will give a vote of confidence to Canadian children. We are sending them a very clear message. We have confidence in them and they believe that they can fulfill all of their dreams. We are doing our share to help them achieve that goal.

These initiatives are just the latest expression of that commitment. My colleagues are well aware of that. The Government of Canada provides a wide range of financial incentives and support measures to ensure that Canadian children get a good start in life, and to make post-secondary education accessible for all Canadians.

Since the first budget, in 1997-98, about one quarter of all new federal spending has been on education and innovation. This means more than $36 billion.

The Canada learning bond and enhanced Canada education savings grant programs contained in the Canada education savings act are critically important steps in this continuum of progress. These strategically targeted initiatives will help increase access to post-secondary education for children of every culture who might not otherwise have that opportunity. They will help to make sure that children currently living in disadvantaged situations have a reason to hope for a better future.

More to the point, they will help to ensure that they have a better future. Post-secondary education will get Canadian children on the right track, but we know it is a long term investment, so let us turn for a moment to the present. What is the Government of Canada doing today to help adult Canadians such as these children's parents in their own efforts to attain the Canadian dream? The answer is, “Many things”.

Complementing our investments in the Canada learning bond and the enhanced Canada education savings grant is a continuum of programs and services to help all Canadians acquire the skills to find meaningful and productive work: literacy and essential skills programs, a national apprenticeship strategy, and speedy and effective recognition of professional credentials earned in other countries. These are the essential contributions we need to make to support a labour market in which Canadians can find and keep meaningful jobs.

I will speak to these priorities in greater detail in the very near future. Suffice it to say that making post-secondary education more accessible and more affordable is just one element of the workplace skills strategy that will enable Canadians to seize more opportunities to obtain and keep meaningful work.

The 21st century will belong to the best and the brightest and to those countries that take early action to respond to this new reality. Just as parents want to do the right thing for their children, so must we as legislators do the right thing for our country. I urge all members in the House to adopt this very necessary and very worthy legislation so that we can make an important down payment on our collective future.

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, at the end of the minister's speech he did mention something that is of great concern to me, to my constituents, and to the province of British Columbia, where the Speaker is from.

British Columbia for a long time has been incredibly dependent upon new immigrants coming to British Columbia, bringing capital, labour and expertise. Perhaps above all other provinces in Canada, British Columbia is a province that is heavily dependent upon new immigrants and what they bring to Canada, to our economy and to our communities.

For over a decade this government has been in power, and for over a decade, in throne speech after throne speech, the government has been talking about recognizing the credentials of landed immigrants so that they can be integrated into our economy and fully achieve everything that they came to Canada hoping to achieve. Yet year after year, in throne speech after throne speech, this government has failed, has absolutely failed, to help new immigrants integrate into our economy and into our society in a way that is in their best interests and in all of Canada's best interests.

The minister mentioned again at the end of his speech that he hopes this is something the government is going to look into in the next little while. We have heard that promise before.

On behalf of new immigrants, on behalf of a large number of my constituents who are credentialed in other jurisdictions but cannot perform their practices, or engineers who cannot perform in their fields of expertise because this government has failed to do anything at all for new immigrants, here is what I want to know from the minister. Why is this government considering talking about doing something in the next little while and why has it so absolutely failed new immigrants in this country over the last 10 years?

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would have preferred to receive a disposition that was a little more favourable, but I will take the compliment whichever way it comes. I am glad the hon. member recognizes the importance of the immigrant contribution to his province and to Canada as a whole. He will also recognize that part of the wealth creation he is witnessing in his home province is generated by those people whom he has identified as serving in or realizing work below their level.

I want to highlight for members in the House the difficulties that all jurisdictions have in terms of engaging many of these people whose talents we have invited to this country. We have certificate granting organizations. We have professional associations. The member referred to the associations of professional engineers. We have provincial jurisdictions. We have, not least of all, employee and employers' associations, all of which bear some of the responsibility.

I issue a challenge to them today. They have this responsibility to ensure that they take the talent resident in their communities and bring it to the fore so that it can be productive in the way it was intended to be, the way we wanted it to be when we collectively made a decision to bring them to this country.

Are we doing considerations? Of course we are always doing considerations. We are always considering a better way to do something. It would be imprudent for us to do anything else. However, and this is where the member is absolutely wrong, we have already put aside $40 million, topped up by an additional $12 million in the last budget, to coordinate, under my department's guidance, five other departments together with the provincial governments who are willing to be a part of this. They appear to be wholeheartedly in favour. We are to coordinate with the professional organizations, employers' groups, provinces, universities, and in fact even our newer Canadian citizens who have found themselves in this situation. We will implement a series of projects specifically in the health services provision area and, as the member suggests, in the engineering field.

I think he will look forward to announcements of active measures in the course of these next few weeks.

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, the bill introduced in the House of Commons today by the minister deals with education savings and post-secondary education.

I would like to bring him back to reality, regional reality. Regions like the North Shore, and the riding of Manicouagan, are hard hit by the exodus of young people. They are leaving the regions to pursue a post-secondary education and do not necessarily come back, because there is no work for them. There is no work because, in many cases, their jobs are often seasonal jobs.

This is the same minister who told us today that the federal government, the Liberal Party, just came up with a bill to promote post-secondary education.

First, to contribute to an education savings plan, parents must have money to invest their share. Then, the federal government might put some money in. A seasonal worker who gets two or three months of work per year in a region, often at minimum wage—I am thinking of single parent families in particular—cannot afford to contribute to an education savings plan. They make barely enough to pay rent and put bread on the table every day.

This minister who just made this announcement is the same one who slashed access to EI for seasonal workers by tightening up the eligibility rules, cutting back the number of weeks of insurable employment and widening the black hole for individuals who are very often forced onto welfare.

How can we reconcile the minister's bill today, which is all about post-secondary education and tomorrow's youth who will be taking over, with the fact that parents are getting poorer and poorer because this government has created poverty, particularly in the regions?

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc members have a talent, of course, for managing to find the one black cloud in an otherwise sunny sky.

We were discussing education and the possibility of a totally new system in which the community, parents and children will look to the future and further their education and acquire new expertise and experience so that they can bring about a change in their living conditions. By giving them hope for the future, we will give them the hope of being able to contribute in a far more effective way to keeping their communities alive.

If there is poverty today, it is not this government that is responsible.

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Then who is? The government is completely responsible; it cut employment insurance.