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

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

The fact the bill includes the conditions I have just listed is an indication that we are trying to help precisely those families experiencing the problems the hon. member has referred to. If there are problems, then obviously this bill is intended to find solutions for the children.

Perhaps the member over the way does not believe in the value of education. Perhaps he does not accept the fact that all adults in this day and age feel that the way to stem the exodus of young people from our small villages and communities is precisely to give their young people the possibility of further learning and to invest in society itself.

I know this is all about politics here, but it is important to recognize that the purpose of this bill is precisely to help out the very families the hon. member claims to be concerned about.

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

I am still from Halifax, Mr. Speaker, and very proud to be so.

I want to take the minister at his word when he says that the objective of the bill is to help the very families that are most disadvantaged. I also want to take him at his word when he says that the real measure of success is whether it levels the playing field for all young people in this country who need and want to access post-secondary education opportunities.

However, I have to say that the way the debate is going already is very discouraging, because there are legitimate problems with the legislation that has been presented. It would take nothing short of a flight of fantasy to believe that the stated objectives could actually be achieved with the paltry, pathetic measures that are contained here in this bill.

I want to ask the minister a question in a very direct way. I hope he will not accuse me of playing politics, as he has the other two members who have raised legitimate concerns. If the objective is to level the playing field for every young person in this country wanting to access post-secondary education, would he not agree that there are discriminatory measures built into the legislation? For example, there is the requirement that unless a child is a resident of Canada throughout the whole 18 years that these provisions would kick in, then they are not eligible for the kind of finances that will--

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Minister of Human Resources with a short answer, please.

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if I can give a short answer to such a lengthy preamble, but the legislation really does aim to help everybody.

Does the member know what people need in order to access this learning bond? They need a birth certificate; they need an identifier that says who they are here. They need to be able to go to a bank or a lending institution in order to open up an account. That is all they need.

If they do that and if they fit under that $35,000 income level, they qualify. It is as simple as that. There is no other qualification.

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to deliver my first address in this chamber. I am particularly fortunate to be able to do so on the subject of post-secondary education and the establishment of the Canada learning bond through Bill C-5.

I am pleased that this bill has the support of the Progressive Conservative Party. We feel that further education is a priority if we are to have a prosperous future for each and every Canadian, and for our society.

That is why the Conservative Party supports Bill C-5.

The Canada learning bond is an initiative that I expect will be welcomed by the residents of my constituency of York--Simcoe. I want to take this opportunity to thank them for the confidence they have expressed in me by sending me to represent them in this great chamber.

York--Simcoe was the place my grandfather chose to make his home after a remarkable life journey, one that figures greatly in my reasons for getting involved in public life.

My grandparents lived in a small country, Estonia, which asserted its nationhood and became a free and independent country for the first time out of the chaos of World War I. In that new freedom people prospered.

My grandparents prospered too and enjoyed the opportunities that came with higher education. My grandfather worked his way from a farm boy to the respected position of county agronomist. My grandmother became a lawyer, a career that few women had the courage to choose in that time, the 1920s. They made a better life and gave back to their community.

However, with World War II came successive waves of Soviet and Nazi occupation and the ultimate annexation of Estonia into the U.S.S.R. My mother and grandparents had little choice but to flee. Paradoxically the education that they possessed made them a threat to the occupying Soviets and they faced an otherwise certain fate at their hands if they did not leave. In fact many family members did face that fate in Soviet Siberian camps or otherwise at the hands of the Red Army.

My family as refugees in search of freedom ultimately chose Canada. The agronomist went to work in a paper factory in Riverdale and the lawyer went to work on the order desk at Sears. They found what they were looking for: freedom, hope and opportunity.

One of the things that often comes with a higher education is a recognition of the possibilities that exist to improve one's life and that of one's family and to build a better community, regardless of the barriers that may be faced, the hurdles that may be encountered and the setbacks that come along the way in life.

The importance of education was impressed upon my mother, who would do her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Toronto, and upon her children, who both followed their grandmother's footsteps into the career of law.

My grandfather thought that an important part of education was to see what real life was and in his opinion that happened on a farm. So, after I was born, he marshalled his resources and bought the farm in Georgina which anchors me today.

Freedom, hope and opportunity are to me what my contribution in public life should be about, what all our contributions should be about. In Canada we are often complacent about the freedom that we enjoy and the opportunities which present themselves, but among many new Canadians these things are immediate and important. Education plays a crucial factor in all three.

It is not a coincidence that new authoritarian governments and occupying forces target the educated in society, for with that education often comes the ability to organize and to fight for freedom. Education is a companion of liberty. Higher education also gives us hope to understand our world better and to improve health, security and the quality of life that we enjoy.

As the economists and educators continually remind us, education brings with it opportunity for personal growth, career advancement and economic prosperity. When the citizens prosper, all the country prospers.

For the people of York--Simcoe the opportunity for all, not just those who have the resources and the means, but the opportunity for all to send their children to post-secondary education is an important objective. For too many it is a challenge that creates anxiety, that is daunting, that is a big mountain to climb.

The typical family profile in York--Simcoe is a young couple, both working hard, trying to pay their mortgage, get ahead and make a brighter future for their children. It is not easy for them. They are good citizens with solid Canadian values that we believe in as Canadians, values that we believe in as Conservatives.

Like those families, we believe that hard work should be rewarded. We believe in self-discipline and responsibility for individual actions and for our families. We believe in honesty, that a promise made should be a promise kept. We believe in property rights and the rule of law. We believe in compassion and support for those who are genuinely in need in society.

They are time tested values that have built civil society. They are the values that have underpinned the advance of humanity. They are values that are all too often ignored by this government through its policies. In that way, the government does not reflect the interests of my constituents in York—Simcoe.

For the people of York--Simcoe the opportunity for them is a frustration. It is something they are grasping at. At every turn those hardworking families are met with heavy taxes and a government that does more to intrude into their lives than to help. They do not understand a federal government that tells them they are not good Canadians if they do not want to pay higher taxes. They would dearly love to save for a child's post-secondary education, but how?

For them they face real choices. Will they give up sending the children to play hockey this year, or will they tell them they cannot have a new bike in the spring? Those are the kinds of choices and sacrifices some of them have to make in order to save for a post-secondary education.

The government could help them most by letting them keep more of their own money. That would give them greater freedom, more hope and genuine opportunity. I hope ultimately the government will do that.

We also believe that Bill C-5, by giving modest income families the means to establish registered education savings plans with an initial $500 contribution, not from the government, but from the taxpayers of Canada, we will help more Canadians achieve their dreams of a higher education. The increased matching grants from the taxpayers of Canada for contributions that those families themselves make to RESPs will also build for that brighter future.

The riding of York--Simcoe can become an even better place if more young people succeed in school and achieve post-secondary education. An educated workforce means more jobs and more prosperity.

An educated population in York--Simcoe can use those skills and ability to improve the quality of our treasured environment. We have a beautiful landscape and environment in York--Simcoe, especially Lake Simcoe. It is our playground. Many take their drinking water from that lake, but it is a lake whose health remains dangerously precarious.

An educated community will mean a richer cultural experience in a community that is already proud of its theatres, its art galleries, its historical sites ranging from the famous Red Barn Theatre to Sharon Temple, a national historic site.

A more educated York--Simcoe will be a better place to live, to work and to raise a family.

Just as York--Simcoe can benefit from encouraging families to save for post-secondary educations for their sons and daughters, so too will all of Canada. Canadians want change and the Canada learning bond represents a change for the better.

In this minority Parliament I am pleased to have been able to stand in a spirit of cooperation to welcome the government's finally taking this initiative. Our party made the Canada learning bond part of our platform in the last election. We are pleased that the government in this case is following our advice and moving forward. Let us hope that that constructive spirit can be an example of how we can work together. If we focus on areas of common ground, we can really see true and genuine benefits for all Canadians.

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, in that same spirit of cooperation, let me acknowledge that in his first intervention in the House, the hon. member opposite did himself quite proud.

I was pleased to see the conciliatory approach that he took and his attempt to look for those elements in the legislation which he and his party could support. I compliment him on that.

Obviously there are going to be some differences of opinion. He expressed some. I disagree with him wholeheartedly on the perception of our party and our government. However, because he has taken great pains to indicate that education is important, notwithstanding the area of the country from which he comes, I want to highlight for him that this government has taken that kind of address, that kind of concern much to heart.

Since we started the Canada education savings grant and the RESP program in 1997-98, it has gone from a point where the Government of Canada was contributing some $2 billion a year to one now where there is a $13 billion uptake. The member is right. The Canadian public sees the value of education. Whether it is in a post-secondary environment that includes community college, university, labour sponsored training programs or apprenticeship skills programs, these are all ways in which we move forward, we become more productive and in fact, we become much more competitive.

I do not have a question. I just wanted to compliment the member on his first recognition of the realities of the House and his willingness to see that there are positive elements even here.

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister very much for that tribute. I know that the legislation is not perfect. There are things that could be improved. There is no doubt that the amounts we are talking about are quite modest but we also have to be fiscally responsible. The one aspect of it that I find most heartening is it creates an opportunity for people who have never saved before to take that first step. When we create aspirations, we create hope.

I remember when I was about four years old and my family walked me through the campus of the University of Toronto and told me that one day I would go there. That registered with me. I remembered that. There is someone who has worked with me loyally for years who is the first person in her family ever to go on to post-secondary education, first to community college and then to university. To see that growth and fulfilment in a personal way is a great thing.

Whether people come from backgrounds like mine, where it has gone back generations, or whether they are the first generation, seeing people improve their lives is one of the positive things that we can all rally around.

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the comments by the member for York--Simcoe. I congratulate him on his first debate in the House. He certainly has recognized the importance of post-secondary education, but I found the comments distressing from two points of view.

First, there was very little acknowledgement of the depth and severity of the tuition crisis and debt load crisis suffered by today's students. Second, once again he seemed to propose that tax cuts are always the solution to every problem. The comment was made that the amounts are modest but after all, we have to be concerned about whether we can afford it. I would ask the member to respond to two things in that connection.

First , we have just received confirmation that the government's surplus this year is not the $1.9 billion previously predicted but rather it is $9.1 billion. That is quite a big mistake. Is there not a significant sum of money there that could be available to deal with today's student debt crisis and the very severe barriers?

Second, I want to ask the member to respond to the research finding that the tax cuts to the top 10% of Canadians brought in by the government over the last decade would actually have been sufficient to pay for 25 years of tuition free post-secondary education in Canada.

Could I have the member's comments on those two factual pieces of information?

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am loath to get into a discussion on tax cuts at this time, but the member has invited me to do so.

I can certainly say that for the people in the constituency of York--Simcoe, and I think for all Canadians, the best way the government can help them is by letting them keep their money to pay for things like post-secondary education rather than collecting it, skimming off a whole bunch to process it along the way and then giving them back a small fraction of it to pay for post-secondary education. Philosophically that is ideal. Philosophically we think self-reliance is ideal. I believe most individuals think that is good. However, we recognize that there are those who are genuinely in need. As a compassionate society we need to help those people.

What is wonderful about the proposal before us is that it combines the best of those values, the value of self-reliance and the value of lending a hand to those who are genuinely in need. Those tax cuts and the tax cuts that have been undertaken by Conservative governments across the country had a lot to do with the economic prosperity that has been generating those record revenues for the government.

The fact is when people have more money in their pockets, there is more money to spend, which creates jobs and all around there is more revenue for government. The facts are indisputable. When the NDP was in government in Ontario, it increased taxes repeatedly and every time, the revenues to the government went down. When the Conservatives were in government, they decreased taxes and the government revenues went up massively.

The result was huge investment in post-secondary education in Ontario in terms of the accommodation of the double cohort and in terms of the construction of new buildings on university campuses all across Ontario. That was all the fruits of the policy of giving people more money. All of society became wealthier, including the government as a result.

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, before my election to the chamber I spent four years as a sales manager for one of the largest players in the RESP industry. Canadians have invested nearly $13 billion into registered savings plans to help finance the cost of post-secondary education for their children. From speaking with people interested in RESPs, I know what fuels this investment. It is driven by the skyrocketing price for post-secondary education.

Universities in British Columbia have posted the biggest tuition fee hikes in the country in each of the last three years, including a 15.6% increase this fall. High tuition fees can be traced straight back to the government which cut $25 billion in social transfers to the provinces, money that should have gone into health care and education.

The private sector has stepped in to fill the void for the visionless government. That has not only reduced the money available for education, but has also failed to standardize education in Canada and recognize foreign academic credentials. This is shameful and the public knows where the blame lies: with the Liberal government.

I would like to ask the hon. member why the government slashed funding to post-secondary education.

Canada Education Savings Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly the crisis was provoked by the Prime Minister himself when he was finance minister. With the efforts of balancing the budget back in 1995, it was done largely on the backs of the provinces. It is quite clear that was the case and that crisis continues today.

In fact, we had the vision last month of the Prime Minister claiming to be a hero for finally reversing some of the damage that was done. While it was only some of the damage, as the hon. member has pointed out, it continues to be the case that provinces are working to recover from that.

Certainly there will be upcoming discussions that hopefully will give the government an opportunity to advance that exercise. That crisis is an example of how the government has continually operated. It creates the crisis, causes the problem and then comes up with legislation, such as the bill before us, Bill C-5, which would never have been necessary if provinces were not faced with those cuts to post-secondary education.

The problem is being addressed now and I think that is a positive thing for Canadians.

Wood Tree Co-operative
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I ask the House to join with me in congratulating the Wood Tree Co-operative in my riding of Davenport.

Wood Tree Co-operative is a non-profit acquisition rehab co-op whose members have worked for the past 30 years to provide housing for low to moderate income persons.

The co-op is comprised of a variety of homes ranging from semi-detached houses to five-plexes. The Wood Tree Co-operative recently celebrated the opening of its latest project at 39 Norman Avenue in my riding of Davenport.

It replaced an existing building with a five-plex facility in which private contractors were hired to do the wiring, plumbing and heating. The Wood Tree staff then completed the interior themselves. The co-operative received $94,000 in funding from the Government of Canada supporting communities and partnership initiative, which is administered by the City of Toronto.

This once again demonstrates the government's commitment to low and moderate income persons in need of affordable housing as well as the government's commitment to working in cooperation with cities and local governments.

I want to congratulate the Wood Tree Co-operative and send many thanks to the staff.

County of Wellington
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, this year marks the 150th anniversary of the County of Wellington. I am proud to say that I live in and was raised in Wellington county.

The County of Wellington predates Confederation and includes great communities steeped in history and tradition, communities like Fergus and Elora, Erin and Hillsburgh, Rockwood and Morriston, Arthur and Mount Forest, Alma and Belwood, Drayton and Palmerston, and communities like Harriston and Clifford.

I want to congratulate warden Lynda White, chief administrative officer Scott Wilson, clerk Donna Waugh, and all the staff of the county for the very successful 150th anniversary celebrations that were held at the Wellington County Museum and Archives, a national historic site.

As we embark on this the 38th Parliament since Confederation, I hope all members will join me in congratulating the county of Wellington on 150 years of tradition and community.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Kadis Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my constituents for the privilege of representing them in Ottawa.

Now I turn the attention of the House to the recent issues surrounding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency responsible for Palestinian refugee camps.

In the midst of controversy last week, UNRWA's head, Peter Hansen, told CBC television:

Oh, I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don't see that as a crime.

Canada is a significant donor to UNRWA, however we have also banned Hamas' terrorist entity.

I am happy to see that government is concerned about the implications of these statements. I hope we use this week's UNRWA donor conference to call for an independent observer to continually investigate longstanding allegations about the use of UNRWA camps by terrorists.

As Mr. Hansen's comments illustrate, internal monitoring by UNRWA is insufficient to assure Canadians that their dollars are not being indirectly spent to support a terrorist group.

Social and Community Organizations in Beauport
Statements By Members

October 14th, 2004 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Simard Beauport, QC

Mr. Speaker, allow me first to thank the people of Beauport—Limoilou who showed their trust in me on June 28.

Today in this House I want to draw attention to the fact that on Saturday, October 16, the Regroupement des organismes sociocommunautaires de Beauport will mark its 15th anniversary. This umbrella group comprises 76 agencies that contribute to community life in Beauport. They are all volunteer organizations that work in culture, spiritual life, housing and assistance for the less fortunate, young people and families.

This group's unique feature is that it financially supports its members with funding from the proceeds of bingo nights at the Centre communautaires des chutes, for example. Since its founding, the group has paid out more than $500,000 to its members.

Congratulations to the members and volunteers of the Regroupement des organismes sociocommunautaires de Beauport. Happy 15th anniversary and may there be many more.