House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghanistan.

Topics

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, here is what Canada has done. The Government of Canada is the second largest supporter, after France, of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and francophone institutions and contributes approximately $35 million annually.

In addition, the Government of Canada has already committed $57 million for planning the 12th summit of la Francophonie, which will take place in Quebec City in October 2008.

We have a proud record of supporting la Francophonie—a record the Bloc will never be able to lay claim to.

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak tonight to a question that I asked of the minister shortly before the budget came down. It had to do with students and the important need that Canada has to educate young Canadians.

I asked specifically about student grants and I talked about loans. My question had two parts. One part had to do with the Millennium Scholarship Foundation. I had guessed in my question that the government might be trying to get rid of the Millennium Scholarship Foundation. I asked the minister if his government was going to get rid of the Millennium Scholarship Foundation or rebrand it some way in Tory blue. One did not have to be Kreskin to know that the government was going to get rid of a program that worked, a program that the Liberal Party had brought in.

What the government did with the program is no improvement at all. I think it is much worse. What is even worse is the justification. The budget indicates that the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation is also a significant intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. Every province and territory in Canada loved the Millennium Scholarship Foundation and advocated for its renewal but the government killed it and, I suspect, we will have another Canada summer jobs fiasco like we had last year.

However, I want to talk about student loans because every time a question has been asked about student loans in the last little while we have heard that there is a great review going on in the Canada student loans system and we should wait because we will love it. The minister and his department would not have had to go very far to get some great ideas. It could have done a lot of stuff.

The student organizations in Canada, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and the Coalition for Student Loan Fairness, which is headed by spokesperson, Julian Benedict, who I had a chance to visit with recently in British Columbia, came out with eight points and I just want to talk about a couple of the really important points that were in their plan, which was made quite public.

The most significant thing that could be done with student loans to make it a better system for Canada and the one that they highlighted as their number one need would be to reduce or eliminate the interest rates on student loans. A number of countries are doing interesting things with student loan rates. Some countries do not charge rates on student loans. Some charge cost of borrowing.

The Canadian student loan program charges between 8.75% and up on student loans. It does not make any sense. In the economic update of 2005, brought in by the member for Wascana, then the minister of finance, pledged a complete overhaul of the student loan system. One of the things we would have done, I am quite sure, is to have looked at that and asked if it made sense, because I do not think it does. Why would we not reduce it to the cost of government borrowing, which could be just over half of the rate we are charging? Why would we want to squeeze money out of Canadian students or have a disincentive for kids to go to university?

How about their recommendation on a student loan ombudsman so that students could actually navigate the system better? Again, in the budget some $123 million were provided but it was very vague as to what it would do. It would have been a very simple positive step for Canadian students and former students who are debilitated by this debt, who get out of university with a mortgage but no house. If we had given some signal to them that there would be an ombudsman or commissioner of student loan fairness, that would have been particularly helpful to them.

Enforcing collection derivatives and increasing the interest relief period. Here is another one, not necessarily from the coalition but that all parliamentarians have heard. Medical students should not have to repay their loans with interest while they are still residents and not making a full family income.

These are not new ideas. These are things that could have been enacted. This student loan review was not sufficient. It did not get the job done. I think it could have been a lot better for Canadian students and they are disappointed.

7:30 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. He is on committee with me. I commend him on his leadership and the seriousness and consciousness that he exhibits at committee.

However, I do have to say he is unreasonable when it comes to acknowledging the highly principled work that we do for students and post-secondary education. For example, he has been quoted as saying he does not know whether students should laugh or cry over government policies on post-secondary education.

On February 26 the Canadian Federation of Students had this to say about the budget:

By implementing a national system of grants, the government has responded to a long standing call by students and their families...

Or how about this:

The new system ensures that the money will go directly into the pockets of students who need it most.

The government is committed to creating the best educated, most skilled, most flexible workforce in the world. We are following through on that commitment by making significant investments in the post-secondary education system.

The government believes that education is the great enabler. It is allowing young people to gain the knowledge and skills for a job in today's economy and allows Canadians to move out of poverty and into the world of opportunity.

This is why budget 2008 made significant investments in post-secondary education and in students by creating a new Canada student grant program that will support Canadian students with a $350 million investment in 2009-10, rising to $430 million by 2012-13.

I would like to remind my hon. colleague that he was an MP in the previous government, a government that cut $25 billion from the provinces. The Liberals' only bragging right is a failed millennium scholarship program which did not help the students most in need. The actions of this government are a breath of fresh air for parents and students after the failed record of the previous government.

These grants will provide predictable, stable and transparent funding to students, helping them make better plans. It will be available to students on an equal basis. It will apply to college and university students. Most important, the grant will be targeted to those students who are most in need of the support.

If they qualify for a federal student loan, students from lower income families will be eligible for $250 per month for every year of their undergraduate study or college program, up to four years. Students from middle income families will be eligible for $100 per month.

I would also like to take a minute to point out that the actions this government has taken will support more than 100,000 more students than the poor, failed Liberal approach to student support.

The member talked about an ombudsman. We do not need an ombudsman. Our student program will be so much better. It will be streamlined. It will be efficient. It will be effective. An ombudsman was only needed when the Liberals were running the student loan program.

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy working with the parliamentary secretary on committee.

There is nothing more critical for this country than to maximize its human resource potential, and the Conservative government is not taking that seriously.

It killed the millennium scholarship foundation. The foundation was supported by every province and territory. It ignores the needs of the most vulnerable. Its vaunted review of the student loan program ignored the major suggestions of students and advocates.

Let me be specific. To whom were the Conservatives listening? Let me be more specific. Did they talk to the Canadian Federation of Students? Did they talk to CASA? Did they ever meet with the Coalition for Student Loan Fairness? If not, why not?

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, actually, I quoted from the Canadian Federation of Students which stated on February 26:

By implementing a national system of grants, the government has responded to a long standing call by students and their families...

The new system ensures that the money will go directly into the pockets of students who need it most.

This government is committed to ensuring that Canada has the best educated, most skilled, most flexible workforce in the world. That is why we committed in budget 2008 to an investment of $3.2 billion in post-secondary education through the Canada social transfer. I want to point out to my hon. friend that this is a 40% increase over the Liberal funding levels. The increase stands in stark contrast to the $25 billion that the previous Liberal government cut from the provinces in the 1990s.

The new Canada student grant program will provide more money for more students for more years of study than the failed Liberal approach.

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:39 p.m.)