An Act to amend the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act (Canada access grants)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Geoff Regan  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of June 13, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act to add provisions respecting the availability of Canada access grants to students with permanent disabilities and students from low-income families, and repeals similar provisions set out in the Canada Student Financial Assistance Regulations. The availability of grants for low-income students is extended from the first year of study to all years.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Nov. 21, 2007 Failed That Bill C-284 be amended by restoring the title as follows: “An Act to amend the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act (Canada access grants)”
Nov. 22, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

November 27th, 2007 / 5:40 p.m.
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National Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students

Amanda Aziz

Thanks for the question.

We certainly did support what Bill C-284 was trying to do, and that's provide more assistance for low-income Canadians and for low-income families. Of course, we understand there is some concern with regard to Quebec students also receiving funding, but I think from our perspective we are very much in support of measures that are going to increase assistance for low-income Canadians and also provide assistance that is needs-based. So that's part of what we're proposing here today in terms of the replacement of the foundation, something with a comprehensive program that's going to assist both on a needs base and on an income base.

November 27th, 2007 / 5:40 p.m.
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Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Thank you, and thank you to all the panellists.

My first question is to Amanda Aziz, and it's a question about Bill C-284, which I think your organization supports. As you know, I'm sure, this bill would extend access grants for low-income Canadians from one year to four years. On the topic of this bill, you said:

the measures in Bill C-284 in fact are long overdue and there's plenty of research out there that concludes that upfront financial assistance is the most effective aid measure to improve access to post-secondary education.

My question is simply whether you were disappointed that this bill didn't pass in the House last Wednesday.

Speaker's RulingOld Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

November 26th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform concerning the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-362, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (residency requirement), standing in the name of the hon. member for Brampton West.

On October 18, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and Minister for Democratic Reform drew attention to the fact that Bill C-362 would increase old age pension security and guaranteed income supplement benefits by lowering the threshold for residency requirement from the current 10 years to three years, thus resulting in significant new expenditures for the government.

The hon. parliamentary secretary argued that precedents clearly establish that bills which create new expenditures for benefits by modifying eligibility criteria or changing the terms of a program require a royal recommendation.

In support of this view, he cited rulings on Bills C-265, C-278, C-284 and C-269 from the previous session.

I would like to thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and Minister for Democratic Reform for having raised this issue.

The Chair has examined Bill C-362, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (residency requirement), to determine whether its provisions would require a royal recommendation and thus prevent the Chair from putting the question at third reading.

As has been pointed out, Bill C-362 amends the Old Age Security Act to reduce from 10 years to three years the residency requirement for entitlements to a monthly pension.

The parallel made by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and Minister for Democratic Reform between Bills C-362 and Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system), is a pertinent one.

Although Bill C-269 contains several elements that involve new expenditures, one particular element sought, much like the provisions of Bill C-362, to reduce the qualifying period for benefits.

As the Chair pointed out on November 6, 2006, in a ruling on Bill C-269, “...all of these elements [contained in the bill] would indeed require expenditures from the EI Account which are not currently authorized”.

It went on to say, “Such increased spending is not covered by the terms of any existing appropriation”.

By reducing from 10 years to three years the residency requirement for entitlements to a monthly pension under the old age security act, Bill C-362 would reduce the requirements currently authorized for payment of benefits. In doing so, the bill would authorize an inevitable increase in the amount of expenditure of public funds and therefore requires a royal recommendation.

Consequently, I will decline to put the question on third reading of this bill in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received; however, the debate is currently on the motion for second reading, and this motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the second reading debate.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Laval.

Canada Student Financial Assistance ActPrivate Members' Business

November 21st, 2007 / 6:10 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion lost.

The vote just taken has left Bill C-284 empty of all content. As far as I know, the House is now in a situation that is unprecedented in the circumstances and it seems to me that a brief review of the events that have led us to this point is appropriate.

On June 13, 2007, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities reported Bill C-284 back to the House but Bill C-284 had been eviscerated in committee, that is, the bill had been stripped of its title and all of its clauses.

At report stage, motions were proposed to restore Bill C-284, its original title, that is, an act to amend the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act (Canada access grants) and all its original clauses. By defeating these motions to restore Bill C-284 to its original form, the House has chosen to leave it as an empty or blank bill.

Ordinarily, following the House’s decision on report stage amendments, the question is put on the concurrence in the bill at report stage. In the present case, however, there is no content in which to concur since the House has effectively agreed with the committee’s actions in stripping bill C-284 to its present blank form.

As nothing remains of Bill C-284 except the bill number, the Chair is obliged to exercise the authority provided by Standing Order 94(1)(a) to ensure the orderly conduct of private members' business.

I therefore rule that the order for consideration at report stage of Bill C-284, An Act to amend the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act (Canada access grants), be discharged and that the bill be dropped from the order paper.

(Order discharged and bill withdrawn)

The House resumed from November 16 consideration of C-284, An Act to amend the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act (Canada access grants), as reported with amendment from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Canada Student Financial Assistance ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2007 / 1:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the benefits of Bill C-284.

My mother was a janitoress and I was the first one in our family ever to go to university. I could not have done it without a student loan. Perhaps that is why I have spent so much time listening to student leaders about their concerns.

When I see so many earnest young Canadians working to convince the government that their concerns are valid, I am frustrated by the government's refusal to respond to such a legitimate and well-documented case.

In Thunder Bay, Confederation College student union president, Jon Hendel, has forwarded the document “Sleepwalking Towards the Precipice”, which was researched in partnership with many provincial and national student alliances.

One of their main concerns is the looming $350 million cut to financial aid. The mandate of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, which distributes $350 million in student aid annually, is set to expire in 2009. The foundation was established in 1998 by the Liberal Government of Canada with the mandate of improving access to post-secondary education.

Eliminating $350 million from the Canadian financial aid system will have a disastrous impact on the accessibility and affordability of a post-secondary education. Currently, the foundation provides assistance to over 100,000 students annually, making it responsible for about 30% of all non-repayable grants awarded in Canada.

To avert disaster requires immediate action. The federal government must continue to provide a commitment equal to or greater than the foundation's original endowment in non-repayable student financial assistance. This would require the government to provide, at a minimum, a $2.5 billion base endowment to the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. The endowment must also be indexed annually, starting from 1999, to account for inflation and enrolment growth.

Andrew Kane, the manager of financial aid at Confederation College, tells me that over $5 million has been directed to the college since the program began. This is quite a significant amount. He is deeply saddened that this program will be cancelled since it is a direct investment in the students who need it most.

I have received a diploma myself from Confederation College, as well as a master's from York and a B.A. from Lakehead University, and I am proud to have those as my alma maters.

Thunder Bay's Lakehead University student union president, Richard Longtin, confirmed in a recent meeting some amazing statistics. Since 1999, 5,832 Lakehead University students have received $17,528,482 in scholarships and bursaries. In this past academic year alone, 926 students received $2.745 million. Those obviously are a significant set of numbers.

Lakehead University's financial aid administrator wrote to me and said:

It is easy to see that the impact of this program on students at Lakehead University is immense. I have no doubt that these programs have provided the opportunity for many students to attend Lakehead University who otherwise might not have been able to afford a post-secondary education.

The College Student Alliance adds strength to the debate for inclusion. It recommends investment in more non-repayable grants targeted at unrepresented students from low income families, aboriginal communities, first generation and persons with disabilities.

The Canadian Federation of Students met with me regarding the need for a national system of needs based grants. Just yesterday, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, CASA, articulated its issues in its education policy brief entitled, Strengthening Canada's Future: Real Solutions From Canada's Students.

It is very inspiring to meet with such intelligent and motivated young leaders, especially those who so thoughtfully propose reasonable and workable solutions. Of note, they advise that the government must ensure that post-secondary funding is truly dedicated funding. The government must work with the provinces to develop objectives for post-secondary education funding as well as mechanisms to ensure funding is directed toward meeting those goals.

Additional federal transfer funding for post-secondary education must not displace existing funding. Federal transfer funding for post-secondary education should be increased to a minimum level of $4 billion in annual cash transfers and increased annually according to inflation and demographic growth.

The Vancouver based Coalition for Student Loan Fairness has prepared a comprehensive report, entitled “An Eight-Point Plan for Reform”. This reform addresses all levels of concern that constituents have discussed with me.

Point one recommends that the federal government significantly reduce or eliminate the interest rate on student loans. With interest rates of 8.75% to 11.25%, borrowers end up paying interest of over 35% over the lifetime of the loan.

Point two calls for improved access to grants, interest relief and debt reduction. This would include promotion to ensure that all borrowers who need this are aware of it.

Point three calls for the creation of a student loan ombudsman's office which would have the power to prescribe resolutions to service providers, including banks and credit reporting offices.

Points four, five and six speak to creating efficiencies with the recording and payment of student loans. Graduates would be able to expect one integrated loan and one payment with real-time access to statements.

Often, bad things happen to good people through no fault of their own. Points seven and eight address some of those remedies, including the provision of hardship relief.

How serious is student debt? Currently, Canadian students owe the federal government about $800 million in defaulted student loans. The coalition says that nearly $98 million of that amount is interest.

Under an access to information request, the group has also determined that Ottawa is spending more money collecting defaulted loans than in ensuring its interest relief and debt reduction programs are accessible to students. Clearly, changes are needed.

The goal of Bill C-284 is to break down barriers to higher education.

The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation study on Canada's tuition and education tax credits is clear proof that providing an $80 tax break on books is bad policy. The incompetence that took us billions of dollars into debt in the early 1990s and late 1980s, and that the Liberal Party dug us out of, continues. As an example, the move last year to kill thousands of jobs created under the summer career placement program has ended up being nothing short of a disaster for students.

I strongly support CASA's support of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. We know that 95% of the money goes to targeted needs. All provinces and territories belong. It operates with a very efficient 4% overhead compared to 28% for the Canada student loans program.

Let us stand up for our students and tell the government that it should be listening to our student leaders and implementing these proposals immediately.

Canada Student Financial Assistance ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2007 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin with a comment directed to my Bloc colleague. He should know that, despite his comments that this bill interferes in an area under provincial jurisdiction, his colleague on the committee was prepared to support the bill, until departmental staff made it clear that it would have negative effects. I will discuss that later on.

I would add that financial aid for students does fall under federal jurisdiction even though we agree that education is a provincial responsibility. We have to respect that.

Since this bill comes back empty, today's debate allows me to speak to the NDP's approach to students' financial assistance, which differs significantly from other national parties.

We believe that post-secondary education is a public good and that is the key to Canada's social and economic future. It is through education that we will ensure a cohesive, peaceful and high functioning civil society and it is through education that Canadians will be able to compete in a globalized knowledge economy.

However, to meet those two objectives, we need an effective system of financial assistance for students that ensures equitable access for Canadians from every province and territory.

In our society, it is vitally important for every person capable of post-secondary education to be there and to finish. Ireland is a good example of a country that has recognized the principle of equitable access for everyone. Ten years ago, it decided to abolish undergraduate fees resulting in dramatic increases in post-secondary enrolment and retention rates and a booming economy.

This idea is the precise opposite of the Liberal-Conservative approach which was best defined perhaps in the Bob Rae report that advocated keeping tuitions high and helping only the most needy with a token handout. Half a year's tuition for only the first year and for only the lowest income students would be laughable if it were not so appallingly inadequate.

For years, the NDP has argued for a national system of needs based grants to replace our inefficient and inadequate patchwork of student assistance. Such a grants system would tackle Canada's crisis of student debt for all students from low and middle income families in every year of study. This is what is missing now. It would be complemented with an adequate core funding to the provinces so that soaring student debt could be brought back to earth and everyday families could once again afford higher education for their children without the fear of overwhelming debt. It would ease the tremendous burden on Canada's broken down student loans system and enable fixes to make loans more flexible and responsive to students' needs and circumstances.

I believe that Bill C-284 could have been a tiny step in that direction. Unfortunately, it was fatally flawed, as I suggested earlier. It became clear to committee members that for technical reasons, Bill C-284 would exclude students from Quebec, thereby depriving them of $5.4 million in subsidies. That is unfortunate, because after 15 years, the Liberal Party had finally decided to give students up-front money for each year of study, not just the first year.

The bill was a lot better than the Liberal promise to pay half of students' tuition fees for the first and last years of study. That would have meant $600 million for children of millionaires as well as children from low and middle income families. Fortunately, the Liberals changed course with this bill, in which they proposed giving up-front funds to students in need.

That said, Bill C-284 has the same flaws as does the current Canada access grants program. First, the bill excludes middle-income families by making those whose gross income exceeds $36,000 ineligible. Second, it is based on income, rather than on a needs assessment. Third, it excludes adult students who go back to school after more than four years out of school. Finally, it does not target the specific needs of aboriginal students or of students living in rural areas.

Yet, by providing unconditional grants for all years of study, this bill would have helped keep students in school, while also dealing with the growing student debt crisis.

Unfortunately, the delay in Liberal action after a decade of funding cuts has left us to deal with a Conservative government that sees tax cuts as the solution to all problems.

The Conservative government is like some kind of free market cyborg that reduces everything into economic terms. When those members look at a university campus, they see student widgets that need to be moulded to fit into the cogs of the economy.

The Conservatives have delayed replacing the expiring millennium foundation with a real public system of upfront federal student grants. Their most recent reports on the millennium fund reveal the flaws in the old Liberal piecemeal approach to student aid. The seemingly preordained Conservative conclusions reflect an ideological bias toward more loans to students instead of non-repayable grants.

The fundamental problem with this bias toward student loans is that it creates two classes of students in Canada: one class that can afford to pay upfront the soaring student fees and other education costs; and, a second class who are forced to borrow and therefore end up paying substantially more for their education through loan interest. To make matters worse, interest rates charged on student loans are crushingly high.

Not only do we charge low and middle income students more for their education than we do wealthy families, but the federal government actually makes $300 million a year on those student borrowers. That is a shame.

In a petition I have been collecting from across Canada to fix student aid, students and their families are calling on the minister to go beyond mere administrative fixes of the Canada student loan program. They are calling for a comprehensive change to the student aid system.

In addition to a single grant system, they want a reduction in the federal student loan interest rate, a student loan ombudsperson to ensure that students are treated with fairness and respect, and better relief programs during repayment of student loans for those in financial hardship.

A few months ago, the Liberals offered a partial fix to this problem through Bill C-284. This would have helped to catch up to the needs and realities of today's students. It was regrettable to discover from a departmental legal expert that the bill was flawed beyond repair from the outset. In its current form, the bill would strip $5.4 million in grants from Quebec students. That is unacceptable by any measure.

I will end by appealing to Canada's students who are listening today, or their families, to stand up and join our campaign for a comprehensive student aid system that includes upfront student grants. Students need and deserve a public system of upfront student grants that ensures equitable access for everyone.

I urge Canada's student leaders to be bold and to demand nothing less from the government, from the NDP and any other national party.

Canada Student Financial Assistance ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful today for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-284. The bill would alter the administration of the government access grants program. I thank the hon. member for Halifax West for proposing the bill. It gives me the opportunity to discuss what the government has done for students. Ours is a record that is worth discussing.

Let me first say that this government recognizes that access to higher education is critical to Canada's economic success and the continued social development of all Canadians. That is why the government has acted to increase funding to the provinces for post-secondary education after a decade of Liberal cuts and inaction.

In fact, it was this government that followed through on its commitment to post-secondary education with a 40% increase in the Canada social transfer, which includes more than $800 million for post-secondary education. Our commitments are followed by action and this is our record.

On the other hand, we have the actions of the previous government, a government that talked a big game about supporting students, about expanding access to post-secondary education, yet it was the previous government that cut $25 billion from the Canada social transfer. That is the sad Liberal record.

The Liberals lacked a comprehensive vision for post-secondary education. They came in with a hodgepodge of proposals on which they never followed through. Under their watch, tuitions skyrocketed, infrastructure crumbled and attendance rates stagnated. Universities were underfunded. Year after year the capacity for universities to take in new students was stretched to the breaking point. That is the Liberal record.

How do they now expect Canadians, and especially students, to believe that they are looking after their best interests. Canadians and students certainly know better.

Canadians do know that it was the present government that has already begun acting to ensure that Canada has the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world. We have done this by implementing a knowledge Canada, which is part of our “Advantage Canada” plan.

Direct support to students, parents and post-secondary institutions is just one of the ways the government will bring about a knowledge advantage. That is why the government has invested over $8.4 billion this fiscal year alone to support post-secondary education through transfers, direct spending and tax measures.

It is why we are providing $1 billion to provincial and territorial governments through the infrastructure trust fund to rebuild and to renovate campuses across the country. It is why we have committed substantial tax relief to help students and parents with the cost of text books. It is why we have exempted scholarships and bursaries from income tax. It is why we committed $35 million over two years as well to expand the Canada graduate scholarship program.

We also recognize that not all parents are able to contribute to the cost of their children's education so the government has cut the amount that parents are expected to contribute to their children's higher education because ability to pay cannot be barrier to access.

This is our record and it is one that stands and head and shoulders above the record of Liberal cuts and inaction.

Many in the House might also be aware that there is currently an extensive review of the Canada student loan program being held and that online consultations for the review have just concluded. I for one look forward to the results of the review being announced in the coming months. For the government, consultations actually mean something.

Unlike my colleagues across the way, with all respect, the government likes to seek the input of the people and groups feeling the effects of the proposed changes. For example, if the sponsor of the bill had consulted with the provinces, which are responsible for administering the program, he would have found that not a single province in the country has supported his bill. In fact, they all oppose it. They have said that they are in no position to administer such an expanded program for the foreseeable future. Therefore, why does my hon. colleague want to pass a bill that the provinces do not want and cannot implement? Is this his idea of how a new program should run?

If my hon. colleague had listened to the provinces that administer programs of their own, most notably Quebec and the territories, he would have found out that the proposals in his bill would strip millions of dollars away from them.

Unlike the previous government, this government cannot support a bill that strips millions of dollars away from post-secondary education.

I understand the problems with this bill were discussed extensively in committee. My colleagues on the human resources committee exposed the fact that instead of providing money for education, this bill would strip it away. It exposed the fact as well that not a single province has come forward in support of this bill. It discussed the fact that the provinces have said that they cannot implement the proposals in this bill, which is why this bill was brought back gutted.

I want to thank the Bloc in this particular case for its help in killing a bad bill. I say again that I find it surprising to see the member for Halifax West trying to resurrect it now, knowing full well all the problems that it would create.

This government aspires to do better for its students. We want to ensure that every person who wants to obtain higher education has the ability to do so and that the cost will never be a barrier. The record of this government is working toward those goals.

I want to thank the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, the Minister of Finance and our Prime Minister for their continued hard work on these important issues.

Unfortunately, this bill just does not inspire me for better. Like so many other bills being proposed by the official opposition, this bill is fatally flawed and there are many reasons why we cannot and will not support it.

From the outset, this bill was poorly conceived and poorly drafted. The provinces were not consulted and they have said that they cannot implement the proposals contained in it.

I would like to thank the Bloc members again for finally listening to the government, which has been warning about how this bill would hurt Quebec. I thank them for listening to how millions would be ripped from the education purse of that province if this bill were to pass. I thank them for voting against this flawed bill because they would have a rough time explaining it to constituents.

I do not know how the sponsor of this bill has explained this program to his few remaining Quebec colleagues but I am sure they will have a rough time explaining this program, a program that would do nothing to improve access, rip millions from their province and hand it to their constituents.

The House resumed from October 29 consideration of Bill C-284, An Act to amend the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act (Canada access grants), as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Student Financial Assistance ActPrivate Members' Business

October 29th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

When Bill C-284 returns, there will be eight minutes left for the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Student Financial Assistance ActPrivate Members' Business

October 29th, 2007 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to speak today to Bill C-284. I look forward to the opportunity to speak about our government's record, especially when it comes to education and students. Over the past 20 short months, our government has stood up for post-secondary education and for all Canadian students. What we have done is really worth talking about.

Before I do that though, I offer my congratulations to the member for Halifax West. I know this issue has been very important for him. It is something he has been interested in over the years.

I also appreciate what the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour had to say on how our committee works. It is not without any issues. All committees struggle a little with a minority government and how we can move things forward.

From what the member for Winnipeg Centre had to say, unfortunately he has not had a chance to participate in any of our committees. I know we have talked about the anarchist handbook and all these kind of crazy things that go on. We do have a lot of things going on in committee.

We had been working on the employability study, which has been very important. We had to put that on the sideline because of a lot of private members' business and work came to the House, which I understand takes priority. When we start back with committees in the next week or so, I am hopeful we will have an opportunity to continue on with that employability study, which, once again, touches on education. It also touches on a lot of other areas, such as how we can become more productive as Canadians as we deal with this vast geography.

While I would say there has been no such thing as the anarchist handbook for committees, I suggest to my NDP member that he look at the committees for dummies book. Maybe that would be more preferable in terms of how he could figure out the way committees work. We have said that not all committees work as easy as they can because of a minority government, but our committee has been able to get some good work done.

As my colleague from Blackstrap mentioned a few moments ago, the government has brought forward a plan called “Advantage Canada” under the Minister of Finance. That is an important plan. As we move forward on the issues of education, it is important to move forward with a master plan that will address all issues and that will take Canada in the right direction.

I think it is fair to say, and we should say it for the record, that there were many years of Liberal cuts and inaction on this file. I believe an ad hoc proposal and really no cohesive vision for post-secondary education presents a challenge when we have a strategic plan that will help us get where we are heading.

The government has had a record of which to be proud. We support parents and students. The government is supporting the provinces and also post-secondary education. This is why we have provided direct support to Canadian students and to parents. It is why we have committed substantial tax relief to help students and parents with the cost of textbooks. It is why we have exempted scholarships and bursaries from income tax. It is why we have committed over $35 million over two years to expand the Canada graduate scholarship program, a program that will help an additional thousand students every year move on to graduate studies.

The government recognizes that not all families can afford to help their children with the high cost of a post-secondary education, a cost that has doubled and even tripled under previous governments. This is why we have cut the amount that parents are expected to contribute to their children's education before they are eligible for student loans.

We believe that all students who want to attend university and who have shown they will work hard, study and do well deserve the chance to go, regardless of how much money their parents make.

It is no great secret that the previous Liberal government cut more than $25 billion from the Canadian social transfer to the provinces and the territories, which pay for things such as post-secondary education. Now the Liberals claim to realize that education is important in Canada, that they know how to assist students with their education and that now they suddenly have found answers they did not have before.

I think Canadians do know better. Canadians know the Conservative government has been working to restore the funding that the previous government cut. Canadians know the government is making meaningful investments in post-secondary education by investing more than $8.4 billion this fiscal year through transfers, direct spending and tax measures. The government has invested over $800 million more per year for post-secondary education through transfers to the provinces. This represents a 40% increase in a single year.

We are also providing $1 billion to provincial and territorial governments through the infrastructure trust fund to rebuild and renovate campuses across the country. It is important to note that for many years there has been crumbling infrastructure around the country. The $1 billion will go a long way to providing what is necessary for spaces and infrastructure on college and university campuses.

Under the previous Liberal government, tuition skyrocketed, attendance stagnated and infrastructure crumbled. We are working to fix these problems. That is why the government announced a long overdue review of the student loan regime in budget 2007. The review will be completed shortly and the results will be announced in budget 2008. As my friend from Blackstrap stated earlier, it is important that the minister and the House have time to examine this review before changes are made to such an important program.

Unfortunately, the bill does not help the government achieve the goals of a stronger, more accessible post-secondary education system. That is why I will vote against it.

As all members in the House know, it is the responsibility of the provinces and territories, which want to take part in the program, to do the ground work, and I believe my Bloc colleague mentioned that, and to implement the program and deliver it to students. Yet, one of the challenges with the bill is the lack of consultation with the provinces and the ability for them to get on side to support this initiative.

During the committee process, not a single province came forward to support the bill, not that provinces would not be supportive of more money if they did not have to be accountable for how it was spent. However, they were not ready to implement the bill for several years. The provinces have been asked and, at this point in time, their responses have been that they are not in support of the bill.

One thing we have been doing as a government is talking to provinces, trying to work through proposals as we look at different areas in which we would like to participate, areas that we would like to help out. Probably a better way to look at how we can work with the provinces on these issues is to consult and work forward. Any proposals we would bring forward to the House would have the support of the provinces. It is especially important, as the Bloc member mentioned earlier, because it is a responsibility of the provinces to implement such programs. With good consultations, we can work forward as we have been doing.

The provinces should be consulted and they were not on this bill. We will not impose the will of the federal government on the provinces, especially in areas that are not our own jurisdiction.

During the committee review process, it also came to light that the bill would strip millions of dollars from the provinces and territories, moneys that the provinces could use to pay for universities and colleges. I think that is where our Bloc colleagues said that they could not support the bill. They realized that this would take money out of particular programs at which they were already looking. The bill could be perfect in other aspects, but we cannot support it because of this oversight.

The government has also made it clear that we will not support any initiatives that takes money out of the provincial pockets. Once again, we do not want to take money out of existing programs to pay for this, especially when that money is used for post-secondary education.

I appreciate that private members' bills cannot be expected to be perfect in every sense, but we do not want to look at taking money out provinces, such as Quebec and the territories, to pay for the program, a program of which every province has indicated to us they are not in support.

These are not the only problems with the bill, but adopting these proposals will severely limit the flexibility of the government to make timely changes to the programs when the need arises. It is important that we look at a framework, as we have with the Minister of Finance and “Advantage Canada”, that we look at it holistically and that we look at how we can move forward and be more productive as Canadians. We realize education is important. Certainly the future of Canadian students is very important. This is why we need to ensure that all the money and the tools are available to them.

The government cannot support the program, which takes money from the provinces and territories. We cannot support the program as a result of a lack of consultation with the provinces. Therefore, we will not support the bill.

I understand the motivation of our colleague who entered the bill, and I believe those were noble. However, we will have to look at another way to make this happen.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Student Financial Assistance ActPrivate Members' Business

October 29th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the bill that was brought forward by my colleague, my friend from Halifax West. I want to commend him. He has a particular interest in this. He has long been interested in post-secondary education and has been a champion of it. He now has one daughter who is going through it at great expense. He has more on the way, so he might have a particular interest.

The bill has to do with Canada's most needy. I do want to associate myself with some of the comments made by the previous speaker from the NDP about the process. However, I would be remiss if I did not indicate that the chair of our committee, who is a Conservative, has been a very fair minded chair and I think has run his meetings better than Canadians might have heard some other committees being run, so I commend him for that.

The biggest challenge we face domestically, I believe, is the issue of productivity. When we talk about productivity, we have to talk about human resources and human capital, as my colleague from Halifax West spoke of earlier. We have to talk about education.

Most Canadians would say that if we are talking about productivity in Canada, we should talk about education, but surprisingly, the government did not in the Speech from the Throne. I would like to just read the entire part of the Speech from the Throne that dealt with education. This is quite staggering. It says: “--families worry about the rising costs of higher education”. That is it. There is no answer and no further comment.

That is hardly startling information. Bill C-284 would be a very effective way to deal with that. It would be a very good start for helping Canadians who need help the most.

The Canada access grants, a Liberal initiative, provide financial assistance to low income persons and persons with disabilities who were traditionally shut out and very underrepresented in university, community college and all post-secondary institutions.

In supporting the bill, Amanda Aziz, from the Canadian Federation of Students, who is a very effective advocate for post-secondary education, said, “The research is clear: low-income students are under-represented in Canada’s universities”.

One would hardly think we could argue with that. All the evidence indicates that low income persons, persons with disabilities and aboriginal Canadians are those who do not get to take part in the richness of Canada because they do not have the opportunity to access education.

Canada access grants is a great program. The problem is that it only extends to one year. Of course, this piece of legislation would have extended those grants to all four years. Persistence, that being the ability of students once they are in university to stay in university, is a big issue for low income Canadians. The bill would have helped that immeasurably.

It is not that new. In 2005, in the economic update of the previous Liberal government, it was in a piece of legislation that came before the House: $550 million over five years to provide grants for post-secondary education to an additional 55,000 students from low income families. It went further, back in November 2005: $2.2 billion over five years to help make post-secondary education more affordable for low income and middle income Canadians.

There was $210 million to encourage graduate studies, $150 million specifically for Canadians to study abroad, $1 billion for a post-secondary education innovation fund, $3.5 billion for increasing workplace and employer led training, and $65 million over five years to improve labour market information available to Canadians.

This is not the first time we have had the opportunity to actually do something for Canadians who need it the most. The response of the government was to refuse a royal recommendation to the bill and to not want to do anything about it. That is a shame.

Instead, what we see from the government is tax changes, tinkering with the tax system. I would like to quote the Canadian Federation of Students again who say:

The net benefit for a student enrolled full-time for eight months is expected to be a mere $80, less than the cost of one textbook per academic year.

That is not much. George Soule, the national chairperson in 2006 of CFS, said, “Tinkering around the edges of the tax system is not going to increase access to college and university”.

That is really what we need to do in Canada. We have to find a way so that the entire nation can benefit economically, but from a social justice point of view in order to provide an opportunity for Canadians so they can maximize their human resources potential. Surely that is an admirable goal that we would all support.

If the government is not going to allow Bill C-284, in its original form, to be adopted, let me at least make a couple of recommendations tied in with that which would make sense.

Number one, the Coalition for Student Loan Fairness had an active summer. Julian Benedict was heard quite often talking about the problems. There was an article today in the Globe and Mail that talked about the allegedly heavy-handed tactics of the Canada student loan program harassing students.

The Coalition for Student Loan Fairness put out eight recommendations this summer. I think some of those recommendations are entirely reasonable. I would certainly associate myself with many of them. I think many Liberals would support a large number of these recommendations.

Student debt has unquestionably risen in the last 15 to 20 years. It is out of control for many Canadians. Even though the federal government introduced programs like the millennium scholarship, Canada access grants, learning bonds and a whole host of other initiatives for students, student debt has risen.

Now that we are in a time of surplus, a time of great wealth, we should be looking to assist students. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Canadian students are coming out of university with huge debts and facing an inability to deal with that debt and, at the same time, are trying to start their career, maybe buy their first home, get married, or even buy a car, When they already owe $25,00 to $40,000, a small mortgage without a home, it is hard to even think about investing in other things. I think the government should take a realistic look at student loans.

The other thing is the Millennium Scholarship Foundation. The problem with the millennium scholarship is the same problem that we had with Canada access grants. It is the problem we had with the Canada student summer jobs program. The problem is that it works, but it is a Liberal initiative that works.

We saw what the Conservatives did with the summer student job program. They tore it apart and then tried to put it back together piecemeal, on the fly. People were still left out. There were less students hired this summer than the year before. At a time of increasing surpluses, we do less for students. The Millennium Scholarship Foundation is an opportunity for this government to reinvest in students.

This year a group of seven student associations, some of which had not always been fans of the Millennium Scholarship Foundation, did a study on this and released a paper called “Sleepwalking towards the precipice: the looming $350 million hole in Canada's financial aid system”. On page 1 of the paper, it states:

Eliminating $350 million from the Canadian financial aid system will have a disastrous impact on the accessibility and affordability of a post-secondary education in Canada.

That is the $350 million that goes to students. Some people have always said the millennium scholarship is not a needs-based program and part of it is in fact merit-based. However, on page 3 of this report, it states:

The Millennium Bursary program is the Foundation’s main grant program. 84.8 per cent of the Foundation’s grant funding goes towards the Millennium Bursaries, which helps to ensure that high-need students are able to access and continue their post-secondary studies.

High-need students receive 85% of the funding. “It's a foundation”, some people say, “That's not accountable”. On page 5 of the report, it states:

The Foundation is fiscally efficient and has lower administrative costs than government departments, ensuring that students receive the maximum benefit from federal funds.

By the way, the millennium foundation, which is based in Montreal, works with all the provinces and territories of Canada.

The Millennium Scholarship Foundation is the ideal way for the government, along with Canada access grants, to invest in the Canadians who most need assistance.

We are not a country that can afford to take that many chances. We have been a great nation. We have educated our people very well. We are now facing huge challenges. China, India and Brazil, all the emerging nations of the world, are investing in post-secondary education. Canada has done well in the OECD rankings, but we are getting warnings from it that we are not doing as well as some of the European nations in investing in our students.

The most important thing we can do to improve productivity in Canada is invest in Canadians. The most important way to invest in Canadians is to invest in equality of opportunity for all Canadians. The way to invest in equality of opportunity for all Canadians is the bill that my colleague, the member for Halifax West, brought in and to reinvest in programs like the Millennium Scholarship Foundation, so that not only economically for the nation but socially for every Canadian education becomes the priority that it should be and is not under this government

Motions in AmendmentCanada Student Financial Assistance ActPrivate Members' Business

October 29th, 2007 / 11:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to enter into the debate on Bill C-284 on behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus and on behalf of the critic for post-secondary education, the member for Victoria, who was unable to be with us today due to surgery, but I am proud to represent her views. I will begin by recognizing and paying tribute to the admirable work she has done on behalf of post-secondary education on a regular basis since she came to Ottawa to represent the riding of Victoria, B.C.

I also would like to recognize the efforts of the member for Halifax West and his stubborn determination to see this issue through, in spite of some very adversarial treatment, I am told, at the committee stage.

Mr. Speaker, I think you would agree with me that the way this bill was dealt with at committee was not in keeping with what we would consider honourable parliamentary practice. It was reported back to the House with all clauses deleted. Can you imagine?

The job of committees is to add to, complement and improve bills that are put in their charges. As members know, when a bill leaves the House it is in the hands of the committee to do with as it will. The dominant members of that committee, the Conservatives and the Bloc in this case, eliminated every clause of the bill. How is that improving the bill? How is that a sincere and genuine attempt to add to this important issue?

If I were the member for Halifax West, I would be some peeved if my efforts had been dealt with in such a cavalier fashion. It is not the way we are supposed to do business around here.

What we are faced with today is a motion by the member for Halifax West and, I believe, the member for Mississauga South who are trying to reintroduce the same clauses that were deleted, one by one, in a very cavalier and heavy-handed fashion at the committee.

If one were in favour of the original bill, as was my colleague from Victoria and the NDP caucus, we support this effort on the part of our Liberal Party colleagues to reintroduce those same clauses in this very worthwhile initiative to provide access grants to more post-secondary education students, to not only reinstate the policy that was put in place in August 2005, which gave tuition to students from low income families in the amount of $3,000 in their first year of post-secondary education, but actually to augment that and to give that same level of grants to students from low income families for every year of their first university degree, if I understand the bill correctly.

Even though I know my colleague from Victoria was careful to point out that this would not fill the gap in post-secondary funding, it is the first idea that we have seen to take any meaningful steps toward improving legitimate access and bringing down the overwhelming, crippling debt load that too many post-secondary students are carrying today.

Naturally, we would support this bill as one step, hopefully, in a multi-faceted approach to expanding access to post-secondary education. Again, it confuses me as to why the Conservatives would treat us in such a way.

Let me expand again on some of the difficulties that I have with the process here. If the Conservatives had the votes to defeat the bill in the House at some stage, why would they take this back door approach to undermine and to scuttle this bill at committee by deleting every clause? I would put it to the House that the only reason they would take that avenue of recourse is that they are ashamed and embarrassed to stand in the House of Commons and vote against such a worthwhile and fair initiative to help students.

In the days and months preceding an inevitable federal election, the Conservatives do not want to be standing in their places, sitting on a multi-billion dollar surplus, I might add, and, in such a miserly way, deny the students of the poorest of poor families the ability to achieve post-secondary education. That is the only reason.

The Conservatives must have looked it up in the anarchist handbook that they use at committees on how to sabotage and undermine the activities of committees. They must have looked at page 32 of that anarchist handbook and decided that if all else failed, they would buy off the Bloc, delete every clause, clause by clause, and then report back to the House with a blank piece of paper. That is a pretty dirty trick. I believe it undermines the integrity of the House and the integrity of committee work generally.

I heard a wise man say once that education is the greatest social equalizer that we have. Post-secondary education in this country is the only reliable means to go from poverty to middle class and beyond in a single generation.

This bill specifically targets lowest income families. If I understand the point made by my colleague from Halifax West, to be eligible for this, total family income must be lower than $36,000, which is a very low threshold. A family whose total family income is well below the national average of $36,000 needs assistance if their children are going to get into post-secondary institutions. If students have to rely totally on loans, and this is one thing I find fault with the previous Liberal government, the burden of tuition has gone up such a degree that they will be carrying a debt the size of a small mortgage by the time they graduate.

Every year that the Liberals were in power, the average student debt rose by $1,000 per year. In other words, if the average debt was $15,000 at the start of the Liberal tenure, by the end of it a student was carrying $28,000 in debt. At the same time, transfers to the provinces for post-secondary education through the CHST were slashed in 1995 from $20 billion a year down to $11 billion a year, leaving the burden once again on the provinces and then on students.

I am proud to say that in my own home province of Manitoba, since the NDP formed government in 1999, there has been a tuition freeze every year. This is the ninth or tenth year in row that tuition has been frozen. Manitoba now has the second lowest tuition in the country, and access has never been greater.

Nobody can deny that there is a direct correlation to tuition fees and the degree of participation in post-secondary education. If one needs any graphic empirical evidence, they can look at the great socialist province of Manitoba where everyone virtually can achieve post-secondary education, or money at least will not be a barrier.

While I am critical of the Liberals' approach to post-secondary education in the time they had the opportunity to make it more accessible, I cannot help but recognize and applaud the efforts of the member for Halifax West to do something for Canadian students who are staggering under this crippling debt load.

I find it very regrettable that the debate today is on the motion from my colleague from Halifax West to reintroduce the clauses that were eliminated and deleted from his bill at committee stage. A legitimate amendment at committee stage adds to, compliments, or changes the character of a clause. It does not simply delete everything from the title on down. That is dirty pool by anybody's standards and shows again how vulnerable the Conservatives and the Bloc would be if they had to stand up in the House and vote against such a laudable notion as accessible post-secondary education in the days and weeks leading up to a federal election, especially when they are sitting on a record budget surplus, the likes of which we have never seen before.

If those members cannot find a couple of shekels to help post-secondary education and to help students access post-secondary education, then they can explain that to the general public during the next federal election.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Student Financial Assistance ActPrivate Members' Business

October 29th, 2007 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today as part of the debate on Bill C-284, which proposes to amend the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act.

Education is the cornerstone of the development of societies throughout the world, and the Quebec nation is no exception. The evidence of this is that a number of years ago, Quebec implemented a very successful education policy.

I would like to remind this House that just 40 years ago, Quebec had the lowest enrolment rate in North America. In 1960, only 63% of students entering elementary school finished grade 7. Just 13% of francophones finished grade 11, and only 3% went on to university. During my childhood in Waterville, despite the creation of the Université de Sherbrooke in 1954 and the presence of Bishop's University in a neighbouring city, it was rare to come across a university graduate. Now, my younger colleagues and my daughters have had the opportunity to go to CEGEP or university, and it is common practice in many places.

This fall in Sherbrooke, nearly 22,000 students were enrolled at our two universities, not to mention another 8,000 students at our post-secondary training centres. To achieve this level of education in our region and everywhere in Quebec, Jean Lesage's government and those that followed made a radical policy shift to improve access to education. Thanks to its three-pronged approach—increasing funding for post-secondary studies, maintaining low tuition rates and instituting an effective loans and bursaries program—Quebec's government made extraordinary progress in a short period of time. Today, enrolment rates in Quebec are on par with Canada's in some fields and higher in others.

For example, recent statistics show that 69% of young people in Quebec who have completed high school also have a post-secondary diploma or a university degree, compared to 63% in Ontario, 61% in the Atlantic provinces and 54% in western Canada. Despite such impressive efforts, Quebec is still trying to do even better. The only things missing now are the financial and governmental tools currently under Ottawa's control. These include control over income taxes, research funding programs, training programs and access to international forums. Someday, these tools will be in the hands of a sovereign Quebec, but in the context of today's debate, the main problem is that the federal government keeps trying to encroach on jurisdictions where it does not belong without giving full, unconditional compensation to Quebec and the other provinces that want it.

While Quebec is still trying to outdo itself, the federal government, be it Conservative or Liberal, prefers to create its own specific programs, ignoring the unique features of Quebec's education system. Today's motion by the Liberal Party to increase federal student financial assistance is yet another example of this centralizing vision. In fact, this is a typically Liberal debate, just like the debates we became accustomed to during the 13 years the Liberals were in power.

The solution is simple, though. The federal government should stay away from education and, by extension, from investments in access to post-secondary education, especially if it wants to limit the federal spending power. As I said earlier, Quebec has made great strides in education in the past 40 years, and our loan and bursary system is now recognized the world over. As in many other areas, Quebec is leading the pack in student financial assistance. During the debate in committee, the Bloc Québécois proposed amendments that would have recognized the difference between Quebec's loan and bursary system and the system Canada wants to introduce.

We proposed that Quebec be allowed to opt out of the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act with full compensation and no strings attached, but the committee chair ruled that these amendments were out of order. This is the same chair who, along with his government, has talked about open federalism, respect for Quebec's jurisdictions and limiting the federal spending power. I question his sincerity.

We in the Bloc Québécois recognize that most of the provinces have not developed the sort of services and programs Quebec offers. That is why we proposed to include a clause in the bill that would have recognized Quebec's efforts and allowed it to opt out unconditionally and with full compensation.

Because our amendments were rejected, Quebec will not be compensated for the excellent initiatives it has put in place. We are getting used to that. Previously, the issue was child care centres, and now, it is the loan and bursary system. It is easy to conclude that the Conservative and Liberal governments are using every means possible to try to standardize all the programs and services for Canadians, despite obvious interference in areas of jurisdiction that do not concern them.

The other reality is that the Quebec nation is distinct and has made its own choices. If the other provinces would like to follow the example of certain programs and services developed by Quebec, they are entitled to do so. It comes under their areas of jurisdiction. We would even encourage them do so, for it is true: we have very effective programs.

At the risk of repeating myself, in Quebec, we are always striving to outdo ourselves. We believe that, in order to broaden the Quebec loans and bursaries system even further, the easiest and most effective solution, apart from sovereignty, does not involve further interference on the part of the federal government. The easiest solution remains, for now, a substantial increase in transfers to Quebec and the provinces in the areas of education and social services.

Because of the fiscal imbalance, which was created by Ottawa, the federal government now thinks it has to help students financially, so they can access post-secondary education. However, by restoring transfers to the provinces for education, the federal government would never again have to introduce an initiative such as the one before us here today.

Despite the increased transfers in budget 2007, there is still a $3.5 billion shortfall in education for the provinces for 2008-09, and more than $834 million for Quebec alone. Unfortunately, it seems that Ottawa is ignoring our proposed solution of significantly increasing transfers, even though it has achieved consensus, not only in Quebec, but also amongst the provincial governments.

For the Bloc Québécois, when it comes to social services and education, we believe that Quebec and the provinces must determine their priorities themselves. In short, under the circumstances, the Bloc Québécois will not support the motion tabled here today by the Liberal Party.

Motions in AmendmentCanada Student Financial Assistance ActPrivate Members' Business

October 29th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-284, An Act to amend the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act (Canada access grants), as put forward by my hon. colleague from Halifax West.

I believe, as all members in the House do, that if our star is to shine brighter in the 21st century than it did in the 20th, support for our students is paramount.

The Minister of Finance has begun implementing a five point plan called Advantage Canada that will ensure that the prosperity and potential of Canada and all Canadians is met.

One of the five key points is a knowledge advantage. A knowledge advantage seeks to create the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world. Success moving forward requires nothing less. A direct support for students, to students, parents and post-secondary institutions is just one of the ways this government will bring about a knowledge advantage, which is why this government has invested over $8.4 billion this fiscal year to support post-secondary education through transfers, direct spending and tax measures. Starting next year this government will invest $800 million more per year in our post-secondary education system. That is a 40% increase in one single year.

We are also providing $1 billion to provincial and territorial governments through the infrastructure trust fund to rebuild and renovate campuses across the country. After years of Liberal cuts to post-secondary education which resulted in tuition and student debt loads rising to historic levels, these funds are necessary but they alone are not the answer.

This is why this government has acted to provide direct support to students. We are committing substantial tax relief to help students and parents with the cost of text books. It is why we have exempted scholarships and bursaries from income tax. And it is why we committed $35 million over two years to expand the Canada graduate scholarships program.

We also recognize that not all parents are able to contribute to the cost of their children's education. Therefore, this government has cut the amount that parents are expected to contribute to the children's higher education, because ability to pay cannot be a barrier to access. This is our record and it is one that I would put up against the Liberal record of cuts and inaction any day.

Our work did not stop there. This government recognized that the Canada student loans program was in need of a review. We need to see if it is meeting the needs of Canadians, which is why in budget 2007 we announced a long overdue review. As many in the House are aware, the review is currently ongoing. Online consultations with Canadians have just concluded. The result of the review will be announced in budget 2008. It is important that the results of the review be examined by the minister and by the House before drastic changes are made to such a valuable program.

Under the previous government's watch, tuitions skyrocketed, attendance stagnated and infrastructure crumbled. The Liberal record is one of cuts. The Liberal record is one of inaction on the post-secondary file. This government can and must do better. Unfortunately, the bill does not aspire for better. Like so many other bills being proposed by the official opposition, this bill is fatally flawed and there are many reasons why we cannot and will not support it.

From the outset the bill was poorly conceived and drafted. The provinces and the territories, the vast majority of which are responsible for the implementation of this program, have openly admitted that they are years away from being able to implement the proposals put forward in the bill. The provinces have been asked if they support the bill and they answered with a resounding no.

This government received a mandate from Canadians 20 months ago. Canadians spoke and said that the days of the federal government imposing its will on the provinces was over, that a new age of open federalism and cooperation with the provinces had begun.

The mandate has been reaffirmed with the passing of the Speech from the Throne and I would like to thank my Liberal colleagues for providing the Prime Minister and this government with that mandate. We will work with the provinces; we will not work against them.

As it stands now, the province of Quebec and the two territories that administer similar programs of their own have the right to opt out of this program and receive transfers of alternative payments so long as they can prove to the minister that their programs are substantially similar and that the money will go directly to post-secondary education.

The proposals that have been put forward in this bill effectively remove millions from the education purse of the provinces and the territories. A little due diligence on behalf of my hon. colleague from Halifax West and by his Liberal colleagues would have brought this to light. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

We will not support the Liberal record of taking money out of post-secondary education even if the members of the Liberal Party do. Those types of changes just do not make sense to me or to Canadian students.

These issues were examined in detail at committee stage of this bill. My colleagues on the human resources committee exposed the fact that instead of providing money for education, this bill stripped it away. We exposed the fact that not a single province has come forward in support of this bill. We discussed the fact that even if we wanted to implement the proposals outlined in this bill, the provinces that actually do all the work have said that they do not want it and that they are years away from being able to do it. It was for these reasons this bill was all but defeated at committee stage.

I thought that consensus had been reached. I thought we came to the conclusion that this bill was bad for the country and that it was bad for students. Even members of the Liberal Party openly admitted that they wished this bill would simply disappear. Therefore, everyone can imagine my surprise on Friday when I saw on the notice paper that my Liberal colleagues had moved a motion to reinstate this bill, flaws and all. Given the track record of the previous Liberal government, a record of $25 billion in cuts to, among other things, post-secondary education, perhaps my surprise was misguided, but regardless, I cannot support the passage of this bill.

In closing, I would like to again say that this bill is seriously flawed. It seems that enshrining Canada access grants in legislation would slow the program down and make it less responsive to changing circumstances as it would be harder to make changes such as increases to reflect the cost of living.

The alternative payments formula is based on Canada student loans, the net cost for loans and payments to individuals as per grants set out in regulation. By enshrining the grants in legislation, the grants would no longer be included in the calculation of alternative programs.

This bill is fatally flawed. The member who introduced this bill has obviously not done his homework. If he had, he would have understood that this bill simply cannot be supported by any good governing party no matter what its stripe. However, I thank the member for trying.