Mr. Speaker, I thought I was going to be able to further interrogate the member for Victoria-Haliburton, but I guess it is my turn now.
I would like to begin by declaring something we probably all know. Members on this side of the House certainly are aware of it. Members on the other side are becoming aware. We are very happy to notice that in recent days even the Minister of Finance has made public pronouncements admitting that our national debt and ongoing annual deficit are problems and something we must address.
As a matter of fact it is very important for us to remember in all this debate when we are talking about revamping our social programs the objective and one of the very large motivations for us being here is that we need to reconsider the financial picture of the country. We are in trouble. It is a matter of simple realism to recognize that if we do not do something about it external forces will take over and we will have it done for us. If we can do something about it while we still have control that is much to be desired and the highest of several different options.
In keeping with a well known couplet which probably everyone in the House knows, the borrower is a slave to the lender. Our debt with its required interest payments has made us slaves in the sense that we have now lost our freedom to do the things we want to do.
I really think it would be wonderful if we could just simply pick up everyone who does not have a job. I think it would be wonderful if everybody in the whole world could come to Canada to get medical procedures done because we have a wonderful free medicare system for everyone regardless of their ability to pay. I think it would be wonderful if we could offer free education to everyone, young and old alike. I think it would be great if we could say to people who are unemployed: "Don't worry. We will pick up your cost of living. We will pay for your tuition to get retrained. We will help you to get re-established in another workplace". Would that not be great? No one would ever suffer at all. That would be great.
However we do not have that option because of our fiscal situation. Right now for every $4 the government spends $1 is borrowed. We only have income of $3 for every expenditure of $4. A lot of that growth is not even in our control. Just adding the interest payment this year of $40 billion, if we do nothing, will add another $5 billion of interest payments next year because of the interest due on the interest we paid this year and had to borrow the money for. Unless we get a hold of it and get a hold of it fast, we are not going to have the option.
Members opposite love to make wonderful promises. I do too. I cannot help but use an analogy. I have a couple of sons. They are now thankfully grown up or close to it anyway. One of them is still at home because he needs my subsidy to go to school and that is fine. We love him and it is great having him there. I thought I would be considered the world's most wonderful dad if I could say to my boys: "Hey guys, I will buy you each a Corvette". They would just love it. Very frankly they would go around bragging. They would say: "I have the greatest dad in the world. He is going to buy us each a Corvette". It is an empty promise because I do not have financial backing. I do not have the money in the bank to buy two Corvettes to give to my boys. My promise is empty.
It is time the Canadian people woke up to the fact that despite the best promises that governments of the past have made and the present government is making, unless we maintain the fiscal backing that enables us to fulfil the promises, they become empty promises. That is why we must discuss all of our spending realistically, including social spending because it is such a large portion of our total budget.
In the body of my speech I would like to concentrate on the question of education. Since I graduated from university I have been an educator. All of us here have been educated to some degree or another and we have all benefited from receiving an education.
It would not be stretching it at all to recognize that our standard of living is based on education. Our democratic system is based on education. If we did not have a generally educated public we could forget about having votes and debates in public. We could not present things for people to read. If they were not educated and not literate we could only talk to them. We could not appeal to their ability to compute matters to see whether we are reasonable in our projections on the budget and government spending. Our very democracy depends on a generally educated public.
However, I would go beyond that. Without in any way minimizing or marginalizing those people who do get past high school, we also need to acknowledge that our standard of living is greatly dependent on what happens in educational institutions past high school.
I am not in any way minimizing or marginalizing those who for whatever reason do not go beyond high school. I know a number of people in that category and most of them do very well but our standard of living, as I am going to show now, is dependent on what happens afterward.
Think of the basis of much of our standard of living. Think of the things that we enjoy. I guess because of my particular field of study I would first of all thank the mathematicians, since mathematics is the foundation of almost all science, all research and all engineering. Without mathematics and a solid mathematic, analytic ability we really would not have any of the wonderful things that we enjoy in the western world. I extend that to studies in engineering, to research scientists, to medical practitioners, medical researchers. All of these people contribute to what we almost take for granted in our country as a standard of living.
We take it for granted that if we are ill we can go to the hospital for treatment. It goes beyond just having the hospital facility. Unless there are trained doctors and nurses, hospital and medical technicians, respiratory people and all the other specialities and all of the lab technicians, going to the hospital is as useful as going out to the wood shed when you are sick. We have to have qualified, trained people.
It is important for us to make sure that we have not only quality education but quantity education. We need to provide a high degree of quality control in our education right through the years so that when our students graduate whether they are doing surgery on us or are designing our aeroplanes, bridges, or buildings, they will provide a highly reliable, dependable service.
It also has a spin-off in our economic competition in the rest of the world. It is only when we do very well in those areas that we can maintain our standards. We are dependent on people who invent, who design, who plan, who build, who produce, who organize, who maintain and operate equipment, who build and maintain structures and systems. We need people who invent combinations of chemicals and materials to help our agriculture and forestry industries, to help us fight diseases with medicines. We need all of those different aspects, which are the result of education, if we are going to have our standard of living.
We need to have electrical engineers and others, who are capable of learning, developing and inventing new ways of communicating with each other via telecommunications systems, computers and things like that. We need to constantly be on the move forward.
So much for building the case for the need of education. Should we as people collectively, through our tax system fund education? I have said it in the House before. I say it again by way of emphasizing something that has been greatly misunderstood. Many times misinformation has gone out, especially from members opposite, regarding our party. They keep talking about us wanting to cut and slash and do away with everything.
We said during the campaign and we are as deeply committed now as ever to bringing our fiscal House into order so that we can maintain a universal Canada-wide health care system. It is in our policy. We have said it from the beginning. We have always said it, notwithstanding that others have tried to minimize our message.
Based on our very careful analysis of questionnaires of members in our party, which we think is a very good cross-section of the Canadian citizenry, those people have said that health is first and education is second. Here we have two programs. The review that the government has embarked on does not even talk about health care, old age security and some of the things that are so important to Canadians, but we have talked about it.
Those are the items which are of very high priority for Canadians. We are here to do what we can to make it more than an empty promise. I would like to say that investment in education is exactly that. I have already indicated that we benefit as a society and as individuals from the positive spin-offs of having an educated population. I would also like to add that it is a very positive fiscal investment. We can invest our money and actually get a monetary return.
I want to go way beyond what the minister has suggested. In fact it has already been done, as we know, in some previous parliamentary work the government has embarked on and that is to increase the loans to students. I do not think that is the way to go at all. We need to give some positive support to education so that education is within the means of students in their present level of earnings however they earn their money in the summer months when they are on vacation from their studies.
We need to look at it as an investment. Let me give some numbers. I happen to love mathematics. I did a few calculations. It is totally realistic to assume that a person with a university degree, a college degree or a technical institute diploma could earn in some cases $1,000 or more per month as a result of that education.
I am going to take a very modest number. I used to use the word conservative, but that word has now come into disrepute around the country, so I no longer say that. I am going to use a modest number of $400 per month. Let us say that graduate can earn $400 per month more as a result of receiving an education. Let us say that he graduates at age 22 and works to age 62, which is a good 40-year life span of work.
During that time the $400 per month gives him an additional $192,000 of earnings. We all know that in our tax system the marginal rate of taxation is around 50 per cent. Governments right now are clawing back 50 per cent of the result of that added earning. Over the 40-year period that is $96,000. Just educating a student gives back $96,000.
I want to be realistic. Let us think of this as an investment. What is the present value of that, using an 8 per cent interest rate, which is what I used to compute it. Amazingly the present value of every educated student in terms of returned increase income tax collected is $57,238. That is an amazing number. We are quibbling about whether or not we should lend these students $4,800 so that they can go to school and then graduate with a huge personal debt load as well as the collective government debt load we have laid on their shoulders. That is atrocious.
We ought to be looking at more creative ways of funding education. It is a tremendous investment not only for our standard of living but even from a straight fiscal point of view. In the matter of direct income tax collected, it is a tremendous benefit for us all in the economic activity in the country. The more people we have who are educated the greater the economic activity in our country and the greater our exports. We benefit myriads more than just the income tax collected. That is but a very small portion of that investment.
The question that comes next is how do we do this? How do we provide an education system for our students so that it is affordable and we can have all of our students going to school? I agree with the goal that students should not be prevented from going to school because of personal economic hindrances, just as I agree that people should not be prevented from going to a hospital for needed medical care because they do not have the money to pay for it.
It is a downright shame if young people from poor families cannot go to school because they cannot afford it. It is time that we wake up to the fact that we have a responsibility to make sure that education is affordable. That can only be done if we put our fiscal house into order and stop all of the wastage in those many other areas.
I have some suggestions. In the elementary and secondary schools we practise the idea that education should be free. Students generally do not pay tuition. There are some exceptions. Unfortunately in parts of our country some people who choose to send their children to private schools for various personal reasons end up paying extra. They pay tuition. Others, if they attend the public school system or, in some cases, there is a legitimate separate school system in the province, do not pay. That is paid for by the taxpayer.
I have a question. Why would we use that principle up to grade 12, or in Ontario grade 13, and then abandon it for education past that? The only thing I can think of as a legitimate reason would be that past grade 12 further education is a marked financial advantage to the student as well. Not only do we benefit as a society by being able to collect more income tax from them, but they are paying more income tax because they are making more money.
Therefore, it is fair to say that the students should pay for at least a portion of their post-high school education, as it has been for quite some time. However, I do not believe that we should put the whole load, the whole burden of that education on these students, particularly because we know that over the years they will end up paying it back into the system anyway.
Therefore I would like to propose that we give very serious consideration to a system whereby the students would look after their own housing. That is more or less acceptable unless they have to travel to a place away from home. The family should be able to provide for housing. In most instances they can live at home. Where they cannot of course we need to look at ways of
funding that at a reasonable rate, perhaps as part of the particular educational institution.
Second, there are books and supplies. These too I think for the most part could be funded by students through their summer earnings, particularly if we had a good strong economy which would demand that a lot of students be hired in the summer months when they are away from their studies.
My last and most important suggestion is that we would go to a system of vouchers for students which would essentially pay their tuition. I would like to see the student upon graduation from high school get a little certificate as part of his graduation package that says the certificate may be presented to any post-secondary institution in Canada of his choice and it will provide for a payment of 90 per cent of the tuition at that particular institution. I did think of putting in a fixed number. That is another option, but we do recognize that some institutions, some universities and some colleges have different costs because of the kinds of programs they offer.
We know for example that in some of the engineering and some of the physics programs the cost of the equipment is way greater than in some other areas where the costs are mostly in books and libraries. I think to recognize that different programs have a slightly differentiated tuition system that certificate could be used.
It would be a wonderful encouragement to our students to say: "We believe in you. We don't care whether you have rich parents. We are going to see that you have an opportunity for a good education and we are with you all the way. Here is a certificate from us, the taxpayers. We know that you will pay us back. But we put our faith and our trust in you. We want to see you be successful".
Mr. Speaker, my time has come to an end. I really would like to encourage the people on the government side to give serious consideration when they are looking at this aspect of a social program review to do it and, for the sake of our young people and our children, do it well.