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Evidence of meeting #80 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chair.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Luc Leduc  Senior Counsel and Group Head, Legal Services, Department of Human Resources and Social Development
Rosaline Frith  Director General, Canada Student Loans Program, Department of Human Resources and Social Development

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Ruby Dhalla

Good afternoon to everyone.

My apologies for the delay in starting. We needed to have a quorum and get all of the paperwork in order, which is now done.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, November 22, the committee will now be resuming its study on Bill C-284. We have to go through a number of amendments clause by clause. Hopefully we can get through them expeditiously. If anyone has any questions, please let me know.

We will be starting with clause 1.

Mr. Lessard.

(On clause 1)

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

With your permission, Madam Chair, I humbly suggest that we would like first to deal with our amendment that allows provinces that so desire to opt out, but with the right to compensation. I have two amendments in this regard.

This is the reason for my request: last time, we made it clear that we could not support Bill C-284 as drafted unless we introduced an amendment that would allow us to amend sections 14.1 and 14.3 in order to overcome the obstacle in section 14.7.

With your permission, Madam Chair, we could begin with my amendments. That would allow us to vote for the amendments that follow.

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Ruby Dhalla

Mr. Lessard would like to start with an amendment that is later. The amendments are placed in the order they appear in the particular bill, so you would require unanimous consent for that. Is there unanimous consent?

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Which amendment does he want to go to?

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

I think he wants to go to amendment BQ-3.

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Ruby Dhalla

Mr. Lessard would like to start.... It should say page 10, which is amendment BQ-3, on your top right-hand corner.

Is that correct, Mr. Lessard?

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Yes.

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Ruby Dhalla

For us, as a committee, to be able to start with amendment BQ-3, we require unanimous consent; otherwise, we will proceed in the order they've been placed in your package.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

It would be nice if we could do everything in order, but if that's the way we have to do it, I guess we could proceed and start with amendment BQ-3, if you want. Go ahead. I think you have our consent.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Ruby Dhalla

So there's unanimous consent?

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Ruby Dhalla

Mr. Lessard, we shall start with page 10, amendment BQ-3.

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Chair, I remind the committee that Bill C-284 does not deal with section 14.7 which grants provinces and Quebec, of course, the right to opt out and receive compensation. Given that Bill C-284 deals with the regulations that allow...

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

I have a point of order.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Ruby Dhalla

I'm sorry, Mr. Lessard, but there seem to be some technical difficulties. A number of the members are having very faint voices, in terms of translation. Can we arrange for the volume to be increased?

Mr. Lessard, sorry about that. Could you please continue?

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Chair, let us remember that, if I am not mistaken, Bill C-284 does not deal with section 14.7 where the regulations are referred to. These are the regulations that give the provinces, and therefore Quebec, the right to opt out of this program with compensation.

In effect, when this provision about the regulations is included in Bill C-284, the provision allowing opting-out with compensation can no longer be found.

From the discussion we had at our meeting, I did not get the impression that the members of this committee intended to remove the provision; they wanted to keep it. We therefore had a procedural problem that prevented us from looking at section 14.7 as such, because the bill did not deal with it.

In order to correct this, we therefore began with the clauses already in Bill C-284. This is why our amendment proposes that Bill C-284, in clause 1, be amended by adding after line 24 on page 3 the following:

14.4 Where a government of a province has, at least 12 months before the beginning of a loan year, notified the Minister in writing that it does not wish, or no longer wishes, to participate in the plan established by sections 14.1 to 14.3, the Minister shall pay to the province, not later than six months after the end of the loan year, and each following loan year in which it does not participate in the plan, the amount that the Minister would have paid to students in the province for the loan year if the province had participated in the plan.

In that way, Madam Chair, we correct the omission that we noticed the last time.

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Ruby Dhalla

We will now start debate on the amendment for BQ-3.

Does anyone wish to speak?

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

I would actually like to just get some clarification from the officials on exactly what this means, as far as implications go.

3:35 p.m.

Luc Leduc Senior Counsel and Group Head, Legal Services, Department of Human Resources and Social Development

I'll give what we understand the provision to do and I'll let Ms. Frith talk about the impacts.

I am going to answer in English.

This amendment creates a separate opting-out formula with a separate compensation package for the provinces. It does not amend or purport to amend section 14, whether it's 14(7) or the other provision. It creates a completely new and separate provision.

My understanding of the provision, its effect--and then Ms. Frith will discuss the operation--is that any province, whether they have a similar type of grant or whether they haven't got a program like that, can simply opt out of the program. The way this provision is drafted, they do not have to have a similar type of program. All they have to indicate is that they no longer want to participate, so that they can opt out. Automatically, the federal government has to let them opt out.

Then there's a formula, and the formula is not that clear about how it would function. I can go into more details and Ms. Frith can go into more detail. That's my understanding.

3:40 p.m.

Rosaline Frith Director General, Canada Student Loans Program, Department of Human Resources and Social Development

Essentially, I would add that under the amendment a non-participating jurisdiction would receive an alternative payment without having to deliver any type of access grant. There's nothing in the clause that would require the jurisdiction to report to the program on a similar grant program.

In terms of actually calculating the alternative payment, it isn't clear how we would calculate that alternative payment. It could be something that's based on past experience or it could be a calculation based on all students who would have been eligible for such a grant. Essentially, it would leave the department in a state of uncertainty on how to proceed with the delivery of that. If in fact all jurisdictions chose to opt out of that particular element, the grant element, then we would not have any basis on which to calculate the alternative payments.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Ruby Dhalla

Thank you very much.

Mr. Lake.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

I find it interesting looking at this. Right off the bat it says toward the end that they are paying the amount the minister would have paid to students, but at the beginning it doesn't attach any kind of condition whatsoever to that. It seems as though it basically becomes a blanket transfer of cash to provinces with absolutely no conditions--nothing to do with post-secondary education even. Am I correct in that?

3:40 p.m.

Director General, Canada Student Loans Program, Department of Human Resources and Social Development

Rosaline Frith

That is correct.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

If you take the money and use it for something specific, that's obviously set out in the act. But if you say you don't want that, you can basically take it and give it to whomever you want for whatever you want.