Liberal members from Quebec either do not have the Prime Minister's attention or are insensitive to their constituents' needs.
Need I remind my colleagues opposite that all the witnesses from Quebec who appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance were in favour of a withdrawal with full compensation?
Some 14 groups and individuals from the education community came to express their disagreement with the Prime Minister's idea.
To put in perspective the outcry caused by this Liberal initiative, it is interesting to note that 41% of the witnesses who appeared before the standing parliamentary committee to express their views on the millennium scholarships were from Quebec.
And yet, the federal government continues to turn a deaf ear and is not proposing any amendments to Bill C-36. The comments made by those witnesses from Quebec were very clear to those who understand French, one of the two official languages of this great country that is Canada.
For example, the Coalition des ex-leaders étudiants québécois eloquently said that with its millennium scholarships, the federal government is proving its ignorance and its incompetence in the area of education.
As for the president of the Fédération des cégeps, he said just as eloquently that Bill C-36 does not take into account what Quebec has accomplished over the last 30 years in the area of financial assistance to students.
One has to wonder if the government that concocted these infamous scholarships lives on the same planet as we do. How many times, since Quebec joined the federation, have Quebeckers of all parties condemned duplication and overlap between federal and provincial programs? Today, with the millennium scholarships, the federal government is trying once again to invade Quebec's education system by competing directly with the province's loans and scholarships program. Has the federal government even looked at the needs of Quebeckers in this area? Certainly not.
After making drastic cuts in transfers to the provinces and threatening the balance in Quebec's education system, the federal government comes up with a wall to wall solution that simply does not suit Quebec.
In 1997 the task force on funding for Quebec universities concluded that previous cuts were the main reason for the increase in the number of students per classroom and in lecturers' workload and for the decrease in the number of teaching assistants. These choices led to a decrease in the overall supervision of students, which is directly related to the quality of education.
The opinion of Mrs. Boileau, of the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec, a member of the CSN, is totally in sync with the suggestion of the Bloc Quebecois to opt out of part I of Bill C-36. She said that the only way out is for the federal government to give back to the provinces what it has cut from the transfers, not to hand out millennium scholarships.
As several people said before, Quebec has proven its ability in the loans and scholarships area. The way it manages its program is quite innovative. More needs to be done in order to ensure equal access to university studies for young Quebeckers. However, the implementation of a parallel system will not help to improve the system we now have in Quebec, especially since eligibility for the millennium scholarships will be based on an elitist approach.
By contrast, Quebec's loans and scholarships program focuses on the needs of students, to promote greater accessibility and equal opportunities.
We need to enhance our current system, not create more duplication that would only further distort the Quebec loans and scholarships program. I therefore urge my colleagues in this House to listen to the 1.2 million Quebecers who, through their associations, expressed their views on the millennium scholarships to the Standing Committee on Finance.
Just like them, and on their behalf, we ask members for nothing less than the right to opt out with full financial compensation, so that we can spend the money according to the needs and realities of Quebec.