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House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was students.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 1998Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Budget Implementation Act, 1998Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Budget Implementation Act, 1998Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Budget Implementation Act, 1998Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Budget Implementation Act, 1998Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Budget Implementation Act, 1998Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Budget Implementation Act, 1998Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Budget Implementation Act, 1998Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Budget Implementation Act, 1998Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 158Government Orders

May 25th, 1998 / 12:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

Division No. 158Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to debate and vote on the following motion:

That this House congratulate the board of the new Ottawa Hospital on its decision to confirm David Levine in his position as chief executive officer and reiterate—

Division No. 158Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Division No. 158Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Division No. 158Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member have permission to put the motion?

Division No. 158Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Division No. 158Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The House resumed from May 13, 1998 consideration of Bill C-36, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 24, 1998, as reported (without amendment) from the committee; and of Group No. 1.

Division No. 158Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-36 before us contains various provisions, including one regarding the millennium scholarships program, which the Prime Minister would like to impose on and force down the throats of the provinces, particularly Quebec, whose loans and grants system is working remarkably well.

Incidentally, last Wednesday, in the City of Lac-Mégantic, I attended the opening of a new foundation, which does not make any waves or cause any jurisdictional problems. The founding president of the Montignac Foundation, Serge Poulin, who is the vice-principal of the Montignac school, together with the board, will carry out his duties on a voluntary basis and will be required to raise up to $1 million within five years in support of Montignac's high school graduates.

Unlike the federal government, this foundation does not plan to spend 5% of its budget on administration costs. Everyone involved unanimously agreed to work for free, not only in managing and administering the fund but also in raising funds, while it is a well known fact that the federal government has already earmarked $2.5 billion in the 1997-98 budget for scholarships that will not be granted to students for another two or three years.

It is a real scandal, and, in addition, it is causing barefaced duplication. The last time I spoke on this bill, I compared the duplication to the situation of a farmer with a mixed quota of processing milk and fluid milk. That means two ministers of agriculture will be managing the same cow, which belongs to the same producer.

There will be two levels of government, two heads of government, two forms for every student to complete to obtain money to continue studying.

Of course students do not care whether the cheque bears a maple leaf or a fleur de lys. We all know that the Government of Quebec will deduct from bursaries to students any amount it discovers the federal government has given them.

I would like to congratulate Serge Poulin, the founding president, and the members of his board of directors along with the members of the 15 municipalities surrounding the city of Lac-Mégantic, who will manage the Fondation Montignac. The region of Lac-Mégantic is very prosperous, with a level of unemployment no doubt under 6%. However, the average income is lower than that in the eastern townships. With this sort of foundation, we will enable dozens and dozens of students to continue their studies.

In closing, I invite the federal government and the Minister of Human Resources Development, in particular, to sit down with Pauline Marois and come to an agreement. It is disastrous when the government is continually sowing the seeds of discord and always looking for an argument or a run in with the provinces, given that education is a provincial matter.

Division No. 158Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Reform

Gary Lunn Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak on Bill C-36, the budget implementation bill, and to represent my constituents.

I suppose what is most frustrating, though, would be for them to witness this last vote. The government should be ashamed of itself. It has just forced closure again, again and again. There are 107 amendments to this bill. There has been less than one day to debate these at report stage and what does this government do? It does like it has in the past from the very first bill, right back to Bill C-2. It forces closure.

The government pulls every single trick and all the people on that side of the House get their little marching orders, they stand up like trained sheep and do what they are told to do. It is absolutely disgusting and appalling.

I want to talk about Group No. 1. I have not quite figured out whether this is the Prime Minister's slush fund or if it is the finance minister's. The Prime Minister has announced a $2.5 billion slush fund which nobody will see until at least the year 2000. We have no idea what direction it is going. He is sort of burying it in a dark hole. We are not sure if it is being put away for the finance minister's announcement when he wants to seek the nomination of this party to sit on this side of the House. We do not know where it is going.

Imagine if it does go to some of the students. Only 6% of the entire student population would receive any benefit of this $2.5 billion slush fund belonging to we are not sure who.

I find that very disturbing but even more disturbing is that this government stands up on that side of the House, gets on its moral high horse and all of a sudden it is so proud of doing something for young Canadians, putting something back into education. This government has a very short memory. Over the last four years during the last parliament this government cut $7 billion in transfer payments to the provinces. What do those go to? Education.

Students are struggling. Now the government is on its moral high horse again to announce a slush fund. It does not want to do it too early in its term. It is going to wait and the fund will benefit at best 6% of students if it ever gets to them. That is a disgrace.

I will talk about the budget. The minister was quite upset at being criticized by the auditor general for his accounting practices so he sent his cronies to talk to the auditor general. The message was basically that if you do not like the way we are keeping our books, we will just change the rules. Who do you think you are to criticize the government, you are only the auditor general.

I have to commend the auditor general on his reply. On March 18 the auditor general stated this to the government: “I believe the change will open the door for governments to influence reported results by simply announcing intentions in their budgets and then deciding what to include in the deficit or surplus after the end of the year once preliminary numbers are known”. The auditor general is trying to very politely tell the government to quit cooking the books. That is exactly what the government is doing. I cannot believe the Liberals sit on that side of the House with their faces buried in their papers. They are not paying attention.

Look at the facts. Look what those guys did less than a half hour ago. They stood up like trained sheep and followed their marching orders. How can they do that? We watched it on hepatitis C and we watch it on vote after vote. Why do they even come to Ottawa? They are ordered here. They think they have some dignity coming to this House and voting like that. I have been here for one year. Time after time I see closure.

They can crack jokes but this is serious business. The people of Canada are incredibly frustrated that the Liberals sit on that side of the House and force closure on bills like this, that they make a slush fund for the finance minister to dispose of when he feels it is right for his political advantage while students are out there struggling. They are struggling all over British Columbia where I come from.

Canadian students are facing rising tuition costs and expenses and the government's response to them is we will create a slush fund but come back and see us in the year 2000 and we will decide if you qualify. If you buy a young Liberals membership we will see where you fit in the mix and if you will get some of this fund. We have not quite decided who will benefit from it.

That is absolutely shameful. Students are looking for help. They are facing rising tuition costs on account of this government's massive cutbacks to post-secondary institutions, $7 billion since the Liberals formed government.

That is straight fact. Look at the numbers. Any financial expert can tell them that. They sit over there and think it is a big joke. The day of reckoning will come, next election day. How they can actually stand up and vote to force closure on 107 amendments is incredible. We have had one day of debate.

There was a time when those members sat on this side of the House. They thought it was appalling to force closure. But how quickly it changes when they are on that side of the House. Time and time again we have seen what these members have done. They get their marching orders from the whip. I think they call it a triple whip vote. That is what we are getting again.

How can those guys sit on that side of the House with straight faces and joke and laugh about something this serious? We are talking about the budget implementation act and I am specifically talking about the $2.5 billion millennium scholarship fund which is a nice fancy title for the Prime Minister and his cronies.

If this government had anything to do it would put that $2.5 billion into tax cuts immediately where there would be a tangible benefit, where jobs could be created for students who will be getting out of university in the next week or two looking for jobs. Students are facing dismal prospects right now across the country due to the government's high taxation on small business. This government could have done something positive for the students of this country. Instead it chose to play its political games, cooking the books, hiding the money and deciding what fits its political agenda and how it can benefit from this. That is exactly what the government has done.

I honestly believe that students and all Canadians in the next election will come back to this. We will make sure they remember that time after time this government forced closure when it was convenient, when it suited its own political agenda. There is no substance in this. It is just hiding $2.5 billion. The government calls it a scholarship fund but it is not accessible until the year 2000. Even then it may benefit 6% of the students of this country.

How can government members sit on that side of the House and be proud of themselves?

Division No. 158Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, about 10 days ago, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution asking the federal government to amend its bill on the millennium scholarship fund, so as to respect Quebec's unique student loans and grants program.

Over the next few minutes, I will explain why the representatives of the people of Quebec asked Ottawa to unconditionally withdraw from this area and to provide full financial compensation to the Quebec government.

Let me first discuss the federal government's unconditional withdrawal from education. Many reasons justify such a measure, but it is always worth repeating them.

First, under the Constitution, education is an exclusive provincial jurisdiction. We can never say it too often. The federal government argued that its initiative is not related to education, but to the funding of education. Yet, it is clear that the federal program interferes in the education sector by evaluating scholarship recipients and asking them for an activity report.

Second, the issue is even more sensitive in the case of Quebec which, as you know, is not a province like the others, even though some refuse to recognize that fact. Again, anything relating to language, culture and education is vital to Quebec's national identity.

Finally, the federal government's project is a waste of time, money and resources. Indeed, the Quebec government has been administering its own loans and scholarships program for 34 years. It has the expertise and the necessary infrastructures to ensure the smooth operation of a new scholarships program. Why create a new structure, the millennium scholarship foundation, and provide it with the required staff and mechanisms, when everything is already in place in Quebec?

Such shameful duplication is condemned so strongly that a consensus quickly developed in Quebec to have all student scholarships administered by the Quebec government.

This leads me to discuss the second Quebec claim, that is the transfer to the Quebec government of the financial resources reserved for Quebec, so that it can implement an additional scholarship program if needed.

The main reason for this is the current imbalance between the federal government's financial resources and those of the provinces.

In February 1957, ten years before he became Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Elliott Trudeau wrote the following: “The total wealth at the disposal of the Canadian tax system needs to be divided between the federal government and the provincial governments so that each may do as it sees fit with its share”.

In other words, each level of government must have its share of taxes so that it may meet its constitutional responsibilities. The present Prime Minister would do well to read what his mentor had to say on this.

The federal government does, however, have greater powers of taxation than the provinces. This problem dates back to the beginnings of Confederation, worsening as the provinces began to develop programs to meet the growing needs of their populations in the areas of health, education and welfare. Instead of splitting tax resources differently with the provinces, however, the government of Canada offered to co-finance programs under certain conditions.

Worse yet, the federal government did not settle for controlling the provinces' exercise of power. Often, solely in order to raise its profile, it wants to be the one to control a program in an area of provincial jurisdiction. As we know, very often it does this by taking advantage of its spending power.

What is the millennium scholarship foundation but just one more abuse of the federal spending power, despite this government's promise to limit spending in the aftermath of the 1995 referendum?

The present Prime Minister of Canada is launching unprecedented assaults on the provinces. Even Pierre Elliott Trudeau supported the Quebec premier in his opposition to the federal grants to universities in the 1950s. On this he wrote the following: “If a government has such a superabundance of revenue that it undertakes to provide part of the common wealth which does not fall under its jurisdiction—that government is conspicuously guilty of going against the principle of proportional taxation”.

Judging by these words from a Quebecker who cannot be labelled a separatist, the Government of Canada collects too much taxes compared to the provincial governments. This is no doubt the reason the Minister of Finance is trying to camouflage his budget surplus. Every year he has underevaluated his taxation revenues, overestimated his reserve for contingencies, and as a result exaggerated the size of the federal deficit. Today, he is trying to include in the 1998-99 budget expenditures that would be made over a period of ten years. What will he invent tomorrow to interfere, once again, in areas under provincial jurisdiction?

The federal government now has more money than it needs to fulfil its responsibilities. That money is not the federal government's money. First of all, it is the money the provinces should have received through transfers, which were cut by several billion dollars. It is also the money of the workers, whose EI contributions were diverted. Finally, it is the money of taxpayers from Quebec, Alberta, New Brunswick and all the other Canadian provinces where the federal government collects taxes.

If there is a need for scholarships, the provinces must meet that need themselves. The federal government just has to give them part of the fiscal base so they can collect the necessary taxes directly or, as a former premier of Quebec used to say, “to give them back their loot”. But, as we can see, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In other words, the federal government should withdraw from the area of scholarships with full compensation to the provinces, as demanded unanimously by the members of the National Assembly of Quebec. As a matter of fact, that is the intent of the amendments to the bill that were brought forward by my colleague, the member for Quebec. It is so convenient to attack the separatists when things are not going well in the Canadian system.

But if there is a sovereignist movement in Quebec, is it not primarily because the Canadian federation is not working? If it is not working, is it not mainly because the federal government is infringing upon provincial areas of jurisdiction, which is leading to costly overlap?

To answer these questions, let me remind the House of what the late political analyst Léon Dion wrote in 1980: “The political stability of our country relies on Quebec being granted control over all linguistic and cultural matters as well as the financial means to develop and implement the programs it would see fit to promote in these areas as suitable for its own people.”

Canada is a dysfunctional entity. For the last 50 years, Canadian federalism has moved away from the model developed by its founders, since respect for the autonomy of the provinces is at the heart of the 1867 pact.

The Millennium Scholarship Foundation is but another example of this distorted federalism. Since negotiations are underway to allow the Government of Quebec to regain exclusive control over scholarships, it would be appropriate to suspend the implementation of the millennium scholarship program.

However, the federal government seems to be too concerned about its political visibility and not enough about the welfare of the students to support the amendments put forward by the Bloc Quebecois.

Division No. 158Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have some quick facts on the so-called Liberal millennium fund.

According to human resources development, in Canada 45% of all new jobs by the year 2000 will require post-secondary education. This means that for many young people attending university or college is not an option if they want to find work. Despite this fact and despite the fact that the Liberals say they are committed to youth, the Liberals continue to throw barriers in the way of young people struggling to develop the skills and talents necessary to get ahead in a cutthroat global economy.

Since 1995 the federal Liberals have cut $1.5 billion from federal funding for post-secondary education. Since 1980 Liberal and Conservative governments have cut federal funding from $6.44 for each dollar of student fees to less than $3.

Over the last 10 years tuition fees have climbed by 240%. Last year alone they rose by almost 12% nationally, increasing at a rate seven times the rate of inflation. Tuition fees in Canada have reached a national average of $3,100 which surpasses the average tuition rate of publicly funded universities in the United States.

In a 1997 survey of high school students in the maritimes, 40% of students not going to university said they could not go because they could not afford it. The average student debt load is $25,000. That is up $13,000 in 1993 when the Liberals took power. Bankruptcies for students trying to pay off loans are at record levels, having increased by 700% since 1989. Currently 130,000 students are in default. The number of bankrupt graduates is estimated at 37,000. Missing one payment determines default.

Now some questions for them. By the time the first cheque from the millennium fund is mailed out the Liberal cuts to the Canada health and social transfer will have cost colleges and universities $3 billion. It does nothing to redress rapid increases in tuition fees for post-secondary education which have almost tripled since 1990. It would not substantially alter the huge debt load the university students face upon graduation. Nor does the scholarship better the situation for students graduating into unemployment. Less than 1% of unemployed youth will benefit from the government's program to fight youth unemployment.

To add hypocrisy to the mix, very deep within the budget's small print is a provision that stops students from filing for bankruptcy for at least 10 years after they have graduated. The current policy is two years.

We have heard a lot of discussion about the millennium fund and whether it will improve the situation for post-secondary education. Having looked at the document in committee where some of the discussion has taken place, it is quite clear that post-secondary education is in a very deep crisis. One of the reasons that we are facing a crisis with post-secondary education is the retreat of public funding for our post-secondary educational facilities.

Although we have heard a lot of talk about the millennium fund, this grand fund of $2.5 billion, the reality is that this fund will not even begin until the year 2000 and will only help 7% of the students.

The auditor general has some questions about the accounting practices of the millennium fund. Those questions should be raised with the Minister of Finance as well.

By the time the fund begins in the year 2000 we will have experienced cuts of around $3 billion. It becomes very clear that the millennium fund does not even come close to replacing or compensating for the massive draining cuts we have experienced in post-secondary education. This is causing enormous concerns not only in terms of where public policy is going, but also for the impact it is having on the lives of individual students.

It is because of the retreat of public funding that tuition fees have skyrocketed. We have seen huge increases over the last 10 years. There is a direct relationship between the pain and debt load students are facing in the retreat of public funding as a result of a loss of transfers from the federal government to the provincial governments. There is absolutely no escaping the fact that the millennium fund cannot make up and does not make up for the loss we have experienced.

In addition the other really serious situation that the millennium fund creates is that it begins to take us down the slippery slope of privatization. New Democrats are very concerned that with this foundation, a private foundation being set up which will have representation from corporations in the private sector, there will be less and less control of public administration and public direction of our post-secondary educational facilities. For that reason alone this fund should be rejected.

We should go back to the drawing board and say that the real issue here is to support publicly administered, publicly accessible post-secondary educational facilities. We have already seen examples in Canada where the corporate influence on a board of governors of universities and colleges and now on this millennium fund is beginning to have an impact on the curriculum, deregulation of tuition fees and deregulation of programs. All these things are creating an environment where there is increasing privatization and corporatization of our post-secondary educational system.

The NDP believes that we have to have leadership from the federal government. It needs to be the kind of leadership done in co-operation and collaboration with provincial jurisdictions to design a national program of national grants that deals with different jurisdictions and different provincial contexts where there is a clear understanding and a principle that accessibility for all students in Canada is a national standard.

The NDP believes that this is a starting point of ensuring that our post-secondary educational system is protected and strengthened and not destroyed as we have seen over the last few years.

Canada is only one of two OECD countries that do not have a national grants system. We need to ensure federal funding is provided in co-operation with provincial governments to establish a national system of grants.

In the province of British Columbia as well as in the province of Quebec leadership has been shown in terms of trying to keep education accessible for students even in the face of massive cutbacks. British Columbia is now in the third year of a tuition freeze. This has been very difficult to accomplish, given the massive cutbacks it has experienced in transfers from the federal government.

The NDP is calling on the federal government to show the necessary leadership. We have heard a lot of rhetoric and concern expressed by government members about the levels of student debt. There is nothing in this bill that will alleviate the pressure and the huge debt load now facing students.

We need to go back to the drawing board and state clearly that this millennium fund is taking us down the wrong road. We need a national grants system. We need accessibility. Most important of all, we need restoration of the federal funding for post-secondary education in Canada.

Division No. 158Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Bonwick Liberal Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I contribute to the debate on the merits of Bill C-36. The question in my mind is, on such a basic issue as education, a mom and apple pie type issue, what does Reform have against students? It boggles me.

I consider it a privilege to serve as a member of this government and as we for the first time in a generation deliver a balanced budget speak about an education initiative this government has brought forward. What makes me most proud about this accomplishment is the fact that it has enabled us to introduce perhaps the most progressive program every witnessed in this country, the Canada millennium scholarship program, the cornerstone of the Canadian opportunities strategy.

This government knows there is no better investment in the future than future investments in access to post-secondary education, knowledge and innovation. That is why we are creating the single largest endowment ever offered by a federal government to ensure that a post-secondary education is within reach of anyone who wants it. We are especially targeting those of modest means for whom post-secondary education would be beyond their grasp.

This $2.5 billion initiative will change the lives and the future of Canadians. It will give Canadians access to the knowledge and skills necessary for jobs of the 21st century. It will give up to one million Canadians a chance to thrive in a new economy and in a new millennium.

There can be no debate. As we stand here on the threshold of the 21st century we must prepare our citizens to think innovatively and creatively in a world that is transformed into information and technology. For this very reason increasing access to post-secondary education must be a national priority.

Yet there are some in this country who suggest it is not the Government of Canada's business to ensure higher learning and make sure it is accessible and affordable; this despite the fact it is now universally recognized that post-secondary education is a precondition for full participation in a future economy. These critics overlook the federal government's well established history in helping Canadians to pursue advanced studies.

In addition to funding post-secondary education through Canada's health and social transfer we have provided some $4.2 billion in financial assistance since 1964 to students in provinces that participate in the Canada student loans program. Since that same year we have provided $1.4 billion to the two jurisdictions that do not participate in the program, namely Quebec and the Northwest Territories.

We have a long tradition of awarding scholarships to students through various granting councils and programs such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Medical Research Council of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. If this legislation is adopted we will add an additional $400 million for the next three years to the combined budgets of these three councils. This is pretty impressive.

While similar in spirit, the Canada millennium scholarship fund is quite unique. This contribution is Canada's way of celebrating the passage into the new millennium. We are observing this extraordinary event not by building monuments but by investing in Canadians and preparing them to be the knowledge workers in a knowledge economy.

An equally important reason why the millennium scholarship cannot be considered the same as other federal funding for post-secondary education is that the endowment fund will be managed by an independent organization.

The Canada millennium scholarship foundation in consultation with key stakeholders will decide how to design and deliver millennium scholarship funds. The fund will be administered by a board of directors made up of private citizens, at least one of whom will be a student.

The minister of education as well as the education community will play a key role in identifying prospective directors and nominating people who have a pulse on the education community. Once operational, the foundation will be able to enter into agreements with provincial governments and post-secondary institutions on some aspects of scholarship eligibility. In addition the Canadian millennium scholarship foundation will be expected to minimize administrative costs and overhead.

Our overriding goal is to significantly increase access to post-secondary studies everywhere in Canada for low and middle income students and to do so in a way that avoids duplication with any province.

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that the millennium scholarship complements other types of student assistance programs. Given this flexibility the Government of Quebec's decision to break off discussions regarding the millennium fund is both puzzling and very frustrating.

This government is deeply dismayed that Quebec has not put the interests of young Quebeckers first. Dismayed but not totally surprised. From the outset the PQ government took a hard line putting forward a lopsided proposal that left no room for reconciliation. Despite our repeated efforts to find common ground, our provincial counterparts remained intransigent.

The position of Mr. Bouchard's government has not changed. Mr. Bouchard wants to opt out with full compensation. His government has shown no flexibility whatsoever. It is clear that Mr. Bouchard had no intention of negotiating so there is no point in returning to the negotiation table.

Even though Premier Bouchard told the Prime Minister last March that he recognized the Government of Canada's intention to “make a significant concrete and modern contribution to the knowledge through scholarships and” acknowledge that this was “a legitimate concern”, the Quebec government wants to opt out of this program with full compensation. This would seriously weaken and undermine the Canadian millennium scholarship foundation and the intent for which it is put in place.

As disappointing as these developments are, we must move forward without interfering with Quebec's priorities in the areas of education and without penalizing, most importantly, Quebec students.

Members on this side of the House are confident that a solution to outstanding issues relating to implementing a foundation can be found in the context of the current legislation. As the Prime Minister has already said in the House “We are satisfied that the bill gives us the needed flexibility to resolve the situation in a reasonable manner”. Reasonable words from a reasonable man.

The fact that the finance committee decided to extend its consideration for Bill C-36 to hear further witnesses is a further reflection of that flexibility, but there are practical limitations which must be factored into the equation. If we want this program in place by the year 2000 we must adopt the legislation as quickly as possible.

I hear my colleagues across the floor commenting “Not until the year 2000”. They speak is if we are in the 1950s or the 1930s. The year 2000 is merely 18 months away.

It is equally important that we not lose sight of the principal reason for introducing the millennium scholarships. Canada's success and competitiveness in the next century will depend on Canadians being well equipped and well motivated to meet Canada's challenges in a knowledge based economy.

The Canada millennium scholarships are critical new tools to help us prepare Canadians for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. As much as they will help equip 100,000 students each year with the knowledge necessary to function in an information society, they will also inspire other youth who may be thinking about dropping out or hesitating about going to college or university.

Perhaps most significant, these scholarships will heighten public awareness and appreciation that a post-secondary education is essential in a knowledge based economy. They will help mobilize the entire population behind a clear and strong inspiring vision, a collective future in which we all have the knowledge and skills we need.

The Government of Canada is determined to lead our society toward a future in which all Canadians are empowered to succeed in the new economy. That is why it is so critical that we quickly pass Bill C-36. If Canada is to grow and prosper in the 21st century we must begin by implementing the federal budget today.

I ask members opposite to read the bill, not the prepared texts which their staff have put together for them.

Division No. 158Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, sound economic policy involves dealing with the challenges facing Canadians in a holistic way, with consistent economic policies, not stopgap measures that further complicate, for instance, the Canadian tax code.

The millennium scholarship fund will only benefit—

Division No. 158Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It is with regret that the Chair advises the hon. member for Kings—Hants that he has already spoken in this debate. He cannot speak again, although that is going to leave a lot of people in the House terribly disappointed.

We will double-check the blues and if it is determined that the hon. member has not spoken on this group of motions, then he will be the first recognized if we make that determination.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River.

Division No. 158Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had fully expected to have my speech interrupted by question period. That seems to be my lot in life, to rise just before the start of QP. However, with this sudden unexpected turn of events that is not going to happen today and I will speak earlier than I had originally intended.

There are a couple of fundamental issues which I wish to address in speaking to Bill C-36, and specifically the amendments put forward in Group No. 1 by the Bloc Quebecois.

First of all, the very fundamental issue that we are dealing with in this very shortened debate that we are going to have today is the issue of time allocation. The Liberals, once again, have cut off debate for the 41st time since 1994. It is despicable. I think there is rising resentment across the country due to the fact that there is no democracy in this Chamber, the very place that is supposed to be the heart of democracy.

Perhaps the government has done this because it has decided that it wants a longer summer break. Perhaps the backbenchers put pressure on cabinet and on the Prime Minister to ensure they get a long enough time to flip burgers and go to barbecues in their ridings. While that is important work for an MP, no doubt, the fact is that the main thrust should be to debate legislation in this Chamber.

We have seen this so many times in the past. When the opposition parties start to really get to this government and start to hold it accountable on important national issues like its complete failure to address the reform of the Young Offenders Act or the issue of compensation for all victims of hepatitis C, what does this government do? It runs for cover by invoking time allocation, by bringing down closure to cut off debate. In this case what we see is the cutting off of debate on a whole long list of amendments to this very important bill. The Group No. 1 amendments alone constitute over a dozen motions. How can these types of motions be adequately addressed when debate has been limited?

Not only do they want to cut off debate, they are heckling and directing inappropriate comments at opposition speakers who stand here today wanting to hold this government accountable to the people of Canada. They direct those comments at us to distract us from the little time that we are allowed to speak on this bill.

This group of amendments specifically deals with the millennium fund. I listened in somewhat stony silence as the hon. member opposite—