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Evidence of meeting #5 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was million.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you.

We're going to move to Madame Bonsant, for five minutes.

December 3rd, 2007 / 4:25 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Thank you.

Minister, I only have five minutes, so my questions will be clear and specific. I'd like some clear and specific answers.

In view of everything that happened at Canada Summer Jobs and the ensuing debacle there, I'd like to know how much the management of that program cost in 2007.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

I'd have to get back to you with the precise numbers on the management costs; I don't know that I have that handy. It was a program that provided jobs for 42,000 students, and for longer durations, so I think it would be a bit of stretch to say that it didn't work out for students.

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

I agree because I've been working on the Canada Summer Jobs file since 2004. It's a victory for the Bloc. You centralized it in Montreal and, as a result of our pressure, it went back to Human Resources in Sherbrooke, in my riding. It's duplicated.

I'd also like to know the Canada Summer Jobs' budget for 2008? Do you know it? Are you able to announce it to us?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Well, I won't be announcing that today. But I can tell you that we tried to reflect a lot of the concerns that people raised with respect to criteria, budgets, all these kinds of things. We will be coming back to you soon with an explanation of what we intend to do.

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

That means it's still $45 million, what the former minister said it was.

I have examined your appropriations. You said that $82 million had been allocated to Indian residential schools. On page 232 of the document, we see that $36 million was transferred to other programs.

How is that?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

I have the press release from 2006, actually. What occurred was that we paid $82 million to the common experience payment. There was no funding that came from the common experience payment to Canada summer jobs. None of that has changed. I'd be happy to walk you through some of the particular numbers, if you can help me out with what you're looking at.

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

We'll come back to that. I have other questions.

In addition, in your own Budget 2007, it was stated that the amounts allocated to persons with disabilities and youth, particularly in respect of training, were to be transferred to Quebec and the provinces.

Where do the negotiations with the provinces stand in this regard?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

I'm sorry, are you talking about in the budget, or are you talking--

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Yes. You said in your budget that you would transfer money to the jurisdictions of the provinces, that is youth, persons with disabilities, and not Aboriginal persons, but the three parties...

4:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Immigrants.

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Immigrants; pardon me.

I want to know how far the negotiations with the provinces on this matter have gotten.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Those are the labour market development agreements, $500 million, and we announced that we would explore the feasibility of transferring some of this programming to the provinces. We are having those discussions. We have no mandate to go ahead and simply make that transfer, but we wanted to explore that with our provincial colleagues. We're still doing that; we're in that process now.

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

You don't have any mandate from the provinces. Do you have a mandate from Quebec? Training is a provincial jurisdiction. I was wondering where matters stood with Quebec's Minister of Labour.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Well, I can tell you that the officials are discussing these things. As I said before, it is a question of establishing the feasibility. We're not entering into negotiations with the provinces on that at this time.

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Since 2004, we have worked on 22 recommendations concerning Canada Summer Jobs. You're familiar with them. In 2006, your party even voted in favour of those 22 recommendations. I'd like to know when you're going to implement them.

My other question concerns the list of Quebec organizations, which is in PDF format on the Internet. Would it be possible to ask officials to convert that to Word format so that we can have them by riding, not by company?

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

As I said before, we will be announcing the new program pretty soon. Hopefully, you'll find it to your satisfaction.

With respect to the list, it's true that the list of different groups that were funded is on the Internet today. We've done it by province because that, of course, is how it was funded.

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Instead of doing my searches by organization, I'd like to do it by riding, as I used to do. Is it possible for officials to provide us with that in Word format, not PDF format? Otherwise it's impossible.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

A quick response, please.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

First of all, it has been provided that way in years past, but it was in the distant past. It wasn't the practice for a few years to provide it on the Internet, but I'll discuss that with the officials and see if there's a way we can be helpful.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you, Madame Bonsant.

I'm going to move to Mr. Cuzner, for five minutes, sir.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Thank you very much, Mr. Minister and officials, for being here today.

I have a brick and a bouquet.

I'll start with the bouquet, and that's the extension of the EI provisions for seasonal workers today. That was a good announcement. I think you'll find the components of that program are essential to persons who are working in seasonal industries, and I hope that eventually that will roll into a permanent aspect of the EI system. So I want to congratulate you on that.

I have another little bouquet. It is for returning my calls this September, when we were in the midst of a bit of a crisis down in Cape Breton. Whether that was based on years of friendship or because of your great sense of duty to doing the Queen's business, whatever the motivation was, I appreciated the call.

The brick is that the issue that I phoned on remains unsolved. That's to do with the allocation of training dollars, really, across Nova Scotia. I'll tell you, if you believe nothing else that I say here today, Minister, between the summer jobs situation and the training dollars in September, this would have been the worst year that a lot of your front-line employees would have had in their public service careers. It has been a tough six months on those employees, because of the change. I know change is always difficult--but because of the change.

Where we sit now is that we have a fund that's supposed to be there for training, and your officials will not tell you that the fund is broken. They'll say there's money in the fund, but we know that the money in the fund can only go to four focus groups: persons with disabilities, first nations, visible minorities, and displaced workers. Those are the groups that can receive funding.

There's no more money for training. For anybody who has registration in January, January intakes, continual intakes, there's no money there. JPCs--no money available for JPCs. We had a great program in Glace Bay, citizens' services, where we trained a number of carpenters and tradespeople over the years, and then they would go into full-time employment. So those dollars are gone.

My question is, are there additional dollars within the system, or additional dollars from the centre, are there moneys that can be reprofiled, so that we don't lose five or six months of training opportunities, or JPCs, community investments, going forward to the fiscal end?

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

First of all, I appreciate the bouquets.

With respect to some of the issues you raised, first of all there is still funding there, and there will be funding. Right now we're considering funding for a number of people who are applying at colleges and this kind of thing for the beginning of the year, so there is still funding there.

I appreciate the concern about the scope of the funding and the groups that will have the best chance of getting funding. All I can tell you is that in the past the program's always been oversubscribed. There's no cut in funding.

The one thing we did do this year was pick up several million dollars' worth of funding for the province when they had a court decision go against them that wouldn't permit them to provide income support to social services recipients. We picked that up. People who were on social assistance are hopefully, because of this, going to end up getting jobs, which is good news. It means that obviously there's not quite as much money to go around at the end, but the budget, as you know, hasn't changed; in fact, the amount of money will actually increase for training in Cape Breton and across Nova Scotia because of some of the other training initiatives we've put in place.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

I see the officials shaking their heads “yes”, but I stood in those classrooms; I stood in those training areas. I've got a story here of a young lady, a single mother with three children, who was making $9 an hour. She started her program in September; they told her there was no money left for her to qualify. She's now without a job, and because she left her job voluntarily, she's not eligible for EI.

They're going to tell you there's money in the program, and there isn't for those people. They're saying call centre employees who are making $9 an hour are job-ready and they're not supporting them, so they're twisting the criteria to pencil these people out. We've got people hurting in the community, and I don't think my community is unique. It's not as severe in Halifax or in Dartmouth, but in rural communities it's severe. I really ask you, Minister, to scratch through the....

You know, sometimes when you're asking the guy who's designed the program to provide his comments on it, we call it leaving the dog in charge of the meat. We've got to scratch down past that and get down to the people this is impacting.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

I'm happy to have a look at this. I'm concerned if there's some indication that individuals were led to believe they could step into a program and found out when they got there that they couldn't. It's hard to discuss individual cases, but as you know, if you take in some, you're going to leave out others. That's been the case every year. The best way to resolve that is to put more money in overall, which is what we're doing. Through the new labour market agreements, we're talking about millions and millions of dollars going to Nova Scotia so that there's more capacity to provide exactly the type of training that we're talking about.

Overall, while I appreciate some of the criticisms of the particulars of this program, you know where we're going: we're putting more money into training overall, which is tremendous news.