Mr. Speaker, we are now on Group No. 4.
I would like to give everyone in the House an explanation and general remarks as they relate to the amendments to Bill C-11, an act to establish the Department of Human Resources Development now being considered at report stage.
Bill C-11 had a life before prorogation. It was Bill C-96 which was introduced during the first session of Parliament on June 7, 1995. The bill received second reading on November 28, 1995 and was subsequently referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. The committee studied the bill last December and January. Then, as we all know, the House prorogued.
The HRD bill was subsequently reinstated and on March 7, the bill received its new number, Bill C-11, which we are debating today. Reinstatement of the bill means that it is at the same stage and contains exactly the same words it did in the previous session. It also means that it was necessary for the bill to be reviewed by its drafters to determine whether amendments were required due to prorogation.
That review was done and it was determined that amendments are necessary because Bill C-11 must now take into account the fact that certain pieces of legislation which were proposed in the last session are now law. In other words, the conditional clauses in the HRD bill, for example those that indicate "if this bill passes before that bill" must now be changed to reflect actual laws and not proposed laws.
In this context 11 amendments are being proposed to the HRD act. All the amendments relate to the fact that Bill C-11 must be updated to take into account the passage of certain bills in the previous session.
In some cases this means that the amendments will work in pairs. One amendment will update the HRD bill to reflect passage of a previous bill; another amendment will delete the reference to the HRD bill to the conditional "if this bill passes" clause to reflect the fact that the bill passed where appropriate. If any of the members in the House are interested in the very technical and somewhat complex and dry issue of just what those particular changes are, I would be willing to relate that to them in this House. That is the general gist of the different motions; it is very much a technical nature and is very general.
Based on that I want to make some remarks this afternoon about the bill itself. We are getting down to the end of our discussion at report stage and all the different motions that were put before the House. At the same time I want to try to put to bed some of the myths that have been debated in this House especially by the Bloc members who have spent a lot of time talking about what is not in the bill versus what is in the bill. I thought it would be nice if we spent some time talking about what is in the bill.
We are not talking about new organizational changes or new statutory powers or changes in federal-provincial relations. We are dealing with a simple housekeeping bill to create the legislative foundation for a department that has been hard at work since 1993. That is Human Resources Development Canada.
Some people will bend themselves right out of shape trying to describe Bill C-11 as some kind of elaborate ploy hatched with the intent of robbing provinces of constitutional power. Believe me, the government has no such plans up its sleeve.
Bill C-11 does just one thing. This bill assembles related functions that used to belong to several different departments into one department which is now known as Human Resources Development Canada.
I urge all members to recognize Human Resources Development Canada as a streamlined, efficient organization focused on service to its clients. After all, Canadians need and deserve the most highly integrated focused human resources efforts this House and our public service can muster. The old system worked against this type of innovative action plan.
For example, Labour Canada handled workplace relations and standards while Employment and Immigration Canada took care of providing income support to unemployed workers and matching job openings with available and qualified people. At the same time, the Secretary of State dealt with equity issues and Health and Welfare Canada handled long term income security. That means four large complex organizations working in different and sometimes conflicting ways on interrelated issues which touch on the very fabric of the working and home lives of Canadians.
This bill consolidates all of those roles into one streamlined department. Let us not forget that this department already exists. All this bill does is it simply and clearly sets out what HRDC already does every day.
Bill C-11 also means that it will cost less to develop the flexible, imaginative and innovative approaches we need. We cannot afford to delay the reorganization any longer. We owe it to Canadians to find new approaches to jobs and training that will help them in these difficult and unpredictable times.
As an example, years ago factory workers generally needed much less knowledge and skills to do their jobs. Today however, relatively higher knowledge and skill levels are required for many factory jobs. In fact, higher knowledge and skill levels are an integral part of a growing number of jobs in all sectors. In response to this new reality, the new HRDC brings together the pieces we need to flourish in a global knowledge economy. The new HRDC takes a holistic approach to social, economic and training issues.
This bill has another exciting dimension which will serve to enhance Canada's ability to deal with the challenges of the modern economy. Bill C-11 builds new structures that the federal government can use to work in partnership with the provinces on resolving some of the issues that have bedevilled us all in the past.
Although HRDC has yet to be officially legislated into existence, it is already working on using these co-operative structures to provide in partnership with the provinces innovative and effective services to Canadians across the country. I will share a few examples with my hon. colleagues.
In Newfoundland and Labrador a program is providing training vouchers to allow disadvantaged youth to continue their education. So far, nearly 3,000 young people have taken advantage of this assistance, about one-third of whom were previously receiving social assistance. Many of these young Canadians would have been unable to continue their education without our help. By "our" I mean both HRDC and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
In the past two years HRDC has helped 300,000 students pay for their education. It has assisted 24,000 young people in finding jobs that pay decent living wages and have some potential for the future. With provincial help, another 60,000 marginalized Canadians have learned new skills and have landed jobs. These programs help Canadians prepare for the new economic realities which affect so many of us today.
HRDC is also intent on providing improved service and has already achieved some very impressive results. Seniors can now get personal service at four times as many places as they could have before 1993. It takes half as long to process some claims and there are almost twice as many points of service.
That is the kind of service and those are the kinds of programs which HRDC is offering and which Canadians want and need. Bill C-11 and HRDC do not concern new powers. They are new ways to use the familiar established powers to provide in conjunction with our partners highly integrated and cost effective services in the most efficient way possible.
HRDC is the sentinel which protects the fairness, equity and opportunities that everyone in Canada treasures. Bill C-11 will keep that sentinel on the job.
In one form or another, this bill has been under intense scrutiny for some time now. It is time to recognize that any and all lingering concerns have been addressed. It is time to move on. I suggest it is time to pass Bill C-11. We have had a long afternoon. We have talked about a lot of Russians and moles under the rocks and all the paranoias of the opposition.
I want to assure the House that this is a revamped department with one function in mind and that is to make sure that we deliver services to Canadians to the best of our ability, as efficiently and as cost effectively as possible.