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House of Commons Hansard #35 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-5, an act to provide financial assistance for post-secondary education savings, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2004 / 3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

There are two motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-5. Motions Nos. 1 and 2 will be grouped for debate and voted upon separately.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 and 2 to the House.

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3:20 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-5 be amended by deleting Clause 3.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-5, in Clause 13, be amended by adding after line 32 on page 10 the following:

“(l) establishing a process for defining the conditions that constitute undue hardship under subsection 9.1(1) for a beneficiary or the primary caregiver of a beneficiary.”

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3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

We will have a little order please.

It is hard to hear when everyone is talking and there are discussions in the gallery.

I encourage hon. members to go to their galleries and lobbies, and have their discussions there. The hon. member for Halifax has the floor.

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3:20 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, as we resume proceedings, we are debating two report stage amendments to Bill C-5, an act to provide financial assistance for post-secondary education savings.

The stated purpose of the bill is:

--to encourage the financing of children’s post-secondary education through savings, from early childhood, in registered education savings plans.

The effect of this first amendment, to delete clause 3, would be to actually delete the stated purpose of the bill. Let me be clear about what we are talking about here. Clause 3 purports to serve the purpose of introducing so-called incentives to encourage families to save for their children's future. However, it fails to take into account the reality that many low and fixed income families cannot afford to put money into RESPs.

We heard from witnesses, who appeared before the human resources committee on Bill C-5, that the stated purpose was bogus and that the provisions contained in the bill could not possibly come close to achieving the stated purpose. It was the view of all but one witness of the many who appeared before the committee that Bill C-5 would actually widen the gap between upper income families who can afford to open RESPs for their children and those living on low and fixed incomes who cannot.

It cannot be ignored if there is not to be a total democratic deficit in the work of the human resources committee. Every single organization that spoke to the bill said to scrap it. Fundamentally, there were two reasons why they said to scrap it.

The provisions of the bill do not achieve the stated purpose. It could be documented in dollars and cents that low and modest income families would not be the chief beneficiaries of the bill. The greatest benefits of the bill would go to upper income families who could afford to set aside savings and who could draw down the benefits that are contained in the bill in a way that lower income families could not do.

Student representatives, spokespersons for anti-poverty groups and single parent groups spoke against the bill because it completely failed to address what was really needed to achieve the purpose of opening up accessibility for low and modest income students to our post-secondary education institutions.

There is absolutely nothing in the bill that even purports to address the current post-secondary education crisis that is sweeping this country. Every single education stakeholder who appeared before the committee as a witness demanded that what was needed instead was a needs based grant system instead of this woefully inadequate piece of legislation.

I have heard some people argue that Bill C-5 is better than nothing. The bill would not achieve its stated purpose and that is why we are proposing the deletion of the stated purpose because it is bogus. If it does not actually achieve its stated purpose, at least it does attempt to do something. There would be some people in the low and modest income family category who would benefit from it. It is true that some would benefit. One must take into account whether this is the best use of the money that would be invested.

The reality is that the principal beneficiaries of the money invested will be upper income families and therefore we have to take into account the opportunity cost.

As is proposed in Bill C-5, the forfeited use of that money would be invested. It was the overwhelming contention of everyone that if the government is sincere in its intention to do what is most cost effective in achieving the stated purpose, then that same amount of money will be invested in a needs based system of grants. Anything short of that would be bogus and should not be supported.

For that reason I am appealing to members of all political parties, particularly those who heard the witnesses again and again say that this was not where public dollars should be spent. They said that public dollars should be spent on addressing the crisis in post-secondary education to ensure we have a system of needs based grants, something for which we could all be proud and which together we could all support.

I want to be perfectly fair. We did hear one representative of an organization, unapologetically, which is fair enough, say that his organization supported the bill because his organization was in the business of dealing with registered education savings plans and therefore would be a principal beneficiary of the provisions of the bill.

However I do not think the purpose of the bill is to enrich the investment activities of an organization that is in the business. Nothing is wrong with that, and if that is the intention of the bill, then there will be such beneficiaries, but the stated purpose of the bill is to deal with low income students and families who face a major accessibility problem in gaining entrance into or maintaining their status as students in post-secondary education institutions.

With regard to the first amendment, I ask all members who heard those pleadings and the overwhelming evidence from witnesses, and representatives of all of our respective caucuses who are here to support this amendment, to recognize that the stated purpose of the bill is bogus and to vote in favour of the amendment that is now before us, which is to delete clause 3.

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3:25 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe LiberalMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Madam Speaker, I have to say that I am little perplexed by the position taken by my hon. colleague.

For the benefit of all those who are listening or watching, the purpose of the bill is to encourage the financing of children's post-secondary education through savings from early childhood in registered education savings plans.

What we are trying to do is encourage parents to begin, immediately upon the child's birth, to consider the ambition of a lifelong approach to studies, and the way to do that is to begin to save from the moment of birth. We encourage that by putting in a $500 learning bond. That $500 learning bond can be matched, but more important, we encourage continued savings by putting in an additional $100 per year for 15 years.

Here is the catch that perhaps members have not understood sufficiently. This is a measure designed for the future: the students of the future and the parents who want to encourage their children to study in the future. This is especially directed to those parents who are unaccustomed to some of the sophisticated instruments of investment. We put them in a position where they can take advantage of those instruments in the way that those in the middle and upper middle classes are accustomed to doing.

Why do we do that? We do it because we recognize that those families that are in receipt of a child tax benefit, those whose income thresholds are below the norm that we feel is sufficient for some people to fit into that middle class or upper middle class, need additional assistance.

I am absolutely surprised that my colleague from the neo-socialist NDP would think that this was a bad idea, that the Government of Canada would encourage people from such a background to actually contribute to their child's own future learning potential.

I do not know how we could possibly be more direct than to say that we want to partner--

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3:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if I could just seek some direction or clarification from yourself as Speaker as to whether the member is now debating the bill as opposed to addressing the first two amendments that I put forward.

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3:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The member for Halifax was at the end of her 10 minutes speaking time. The next speaker was on debate.

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3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, the amendment speaks to the purpose of the bill. Virtually everything is in order, but most important, if the amendment is to delete the purpose of the bill, nothing else functions unless we can justify this purpose.

To call this bill a bogus bill is to go to the heart of the intention of all hon. members in the House, which is to promote education and encourage low income families to engage their children in education, which we all recognize is the vehicle for upward mobility in our society and the vehicle for addressing the shortages that we will have in qualified skilled labour in the future.

We are being proactive in this matter. We are talking about the students of the future, the families that find themselves in a position today that might not be able to address the needs of their children tomorrow.

We also recognize that the member's view may have some merit with respect to those students who are currently in the system. For those students we have already indicated in our budget 2004 a series of measures that will aid them in their pursuit of higher learning, whether it is in community colleges, in universities, in learning centres, in trade schools, whatever the case may be. We have taken some very important measures.

For example, some members may recall that one of the measures in the 2004 budget tries to address the difficulties that some students may have in their first year. For those lower income and middle income parents, we said that we will give them a one time $3,000 grant or 50% of their tuition, whichever is less.

If I might bore the member who made these motions which go to the heart of this bill and which I think could be ruled out of order, she will probably recognize that we already spend $1.6 billion annually in Canada student loans programs to assist some 330,000 students and that the Canada millennium scholarships are awarded to another nearly 90,000 students and that there were some $285 million a year for those who are in financial need. We do that on an annual basis.

If she complains that there are not enough funds to help students in need, let me point out as well that we have Canada study grants for those students who have demonstrated some merit. These grants are issued to approximately 56,000 students, totalling a value of $75.5 million annually. The Canada education savings grant program rewards all those people who begin to save for their children or for themselves in an RESP by the government putting in some $2 billion.

The member who just spoke to the purpose of the bill may object to people making money on investing on behalf of students but I am proud to say, quite frankly, that this initiative has already generated some $12 billion of additional investment for the education of young men and women. I do not know why anybody would be such a curmudgeon to say that is bad.

We believe in post-secondary education. I am not sure that the members over there quite fully understand the dynamics associated with preparing for lifelong learning. If the House were to, even in a moment of absent-mindedness, consider this motion and the amendment by the member for Halifax in a serious way, it speaks to coming under examination about whether they are serious or rational. I do not know if the two are synonymous but if we are going to talk about education and lifelong learning then we need to consider that all of those members had an opportunity in committee to take a look at all of the measures and there are several very good amendments that I think the committee accepted.

I am pleased to say that I will be accepting all those amendments that came from the committee because in a moment of sanity the committee members said that this could be improved and they showed us how. They did not say that we should throw the whole thing out because it was bogus. They did not say that this would widen the gap.

If there is a learning bond for kids who come from families that are in receipt of child tax benefits and that fund is built up on a year to year basis, the gap is not being widened. Everything that can be done is being done in the realm and the authorities of government to ensure that the gap is narrowed.

Some people over there do not understand the difference between broadening and narrowing. We are trying to narrow the gap and provide our future citizens with an opportunity to engage in lifelong learning. We are providing them with an opportunity to reach out to that Canadian dream to be productive, competitive, flexible, adaptable members of a thriving, booming economy. That is what all of our citizens demand. That is what they deserve. That is what Canadians get with citizenship. They do not get negatives. They get an opportunity to share in that dream and that ambition.

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3:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou, Social Housing.

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3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, the amendment put in front of us by the member for Halifax is one that we, with respect, do not support because we believe in the purpose of this bill. We believe in the value of higher education. We believe in this proposal that uniquely combines the genuine compassion for those in need and the support they need, as well as encouraging self-reliance for people to advance and improve their lives.

We take a different view from that of members of the New Democratic Party who, if they do not think it is perfect, throw out the baby with the bathwater. Nothing in this world is perfect but we think the bill achieves very important purposes. As I said, those two purposes, compassion and support for those genuinely in need, are part of the role of the state. That is what we look to a government to do.

In this case the bill proposes through the establishment of the Canada learning bond an opportunity to encourage savings and to provide grants for young families with children that do not have the means to start saving immediately for their children's education. It gives them the opportunity to do that from the beginning. At the same time, due to the matching grants and registered education savings plans, once started, there is an encouragement for the family to save and contribute, to aspire to a better life and a better future and to improve the family's conditions through subsequent generations.

That aspiration to live a better life and to achieve a higher education is something which I believe really defines the values we on this side of the House hold as very important. They are the principles of what education can do for people, such as, higher incomes, a higher standard of living, better communities and a better quality of life all around. An educated society helps contribute to that. That is why we support this bill.

As the minister indicated in his comments, when we were dealing with this at committee, we came up with some very practical and constructive amendments to improve the operation of the bill. I am proud to have put forward two of those.

One amendment I call the grandparent amendment. It makes it easier for people other than parents who have set up an RESP, perhaps grandparents or others, to make contributions to those RESPs and help support for children's education. That amendment eliminates red tape and bureaucracy and will encourage more saving. As a result of that amendment, we will see more young individuals going to university than before with the financial support they need to make that happen.

Another amendment which was very important to me was one to allow the Canada learning bonds and registered education savings plans to be utilized for part time learning. Some people think they should only be for full time learning, but our economy and society are changing. Particularly for families of modest means, often a full time education is not an easy option because money is tight and there is a fundamental need to work at the same time as pursuing an education.

The quintessential example in my own life is my assistant of many years who herself came from modest means and was able to achieve a university education only on a part time basis, the first in her family ever to do that. Had this program been in place when she was growing up, it would have been much easier for her.

That opportunity is a very tangible improvement we have seen made here. It improves the legislation. It helps to achieve the purpose of the bill of encouraging the use of registered education savings plans particularly by those families of modest means.

Simply put, we cannot agree that the bill does not do that. It is targeted and tested for those who are genuinely in need. That is what we want when we look for intervention and support from the government, that there is not willy-nilly a blank cheque for anybody regardless of his or her means, but that we are targeting our assistance to those who need it most. I believe that is what this does and for that reason the purpose in the legislation is a good one.

We are pleased on this side of the House to support the bill, in particular to have been able to put forward some amendments. I believe they have made it a much more constructive and stronger bill. It will help children many generations from now achieve a higher education, contribute to better lives for their families and communities. It will make this country more competitive economically, a richer place to live and a place where people can achieve their dreams and aspirations.

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3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Alain Boire Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, concerning the learning bonds bill, as we announced at a previous reading, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill because one could hardly be against investing in making post-secondary education more broadly accessible, contrary to what the NDP is asking for.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the establishment of the learning bonds program, as this would directly help lower-income families. Families who could not afford it otherwise will be able to save for their children's post-secondary education.

The Bloc Québécois is also in favour of increasing the Canada Education Savings grant because this is a tax measure that benefits middle and lower-income families.

Bill C-5 will allow less well-off families to take advantage of the benefits of the registered education savings plan and the Canada education savings grant, as better off families already do.

I would like to remind the House, however, that neither the learning bonds nor the increase in the Canada education savings grant will help Quebec provide quality education, because they do not give Quebec the means to do so. They force students to cover part of the cost of their post-secondary education, without improving the quality of this education.

This bill should be combined with an increase in the CHST, because now is the time when students in Quebec need financial assistance and quality education, not 18 years from now.

Correcting the fiscal imbalance and restoring fair transfers to the provinces would enable the Government of Quebec, which is in the best position to understand the Quebec reality, to support Quebec's students appropriately.

Quebec already has a loans and grants program, which it could substantially improve with the funding provided under the Canada Education Savings Act. A $40 million budget has been announced to administer the program during its first three years of operation. This budget includes an envelope for setting up the computer system to manage the registration of children born after 2003.

An advertising budget should also be included in order to encourage families to take advantage of the new measures contained in the bill and to avoid the kind of problem encountered with the guaranteed income supplement program and having people who are eligible for the program but do not know that this bill exists

We are used to the federal government's propensity to underestimate. We need look no further than the firearms registry for proof of that. The government does not know what the annual cost of administering the measures set out in Bill C-5 will be. It will be determined by an analysis of the first three years of the program.

It will cost more than $13 million annually to distribute $80 million over the first three years of the bill. The Government of Quebec could have distributed this to students in greatest need at no additional cost if the Canadian health and social services transfer had been increased. We could then save the annual administration costs of the program, which total $13 million, and improve equalization payments to the provinces.

The hon. member for Halifax has brought in a motion today concerning clause 3, calling for its deletion. As presently worded in the bill, clause 3 reads as follows:

The purpose of this Act is to encourage the financing of children's post-secondary education through savings, from early childhood, in registered education savings plans.

Hon. members will understand that clause 3 is the very heart of Bill C-5. Deleting it is tantamount to doing away with the entire bill.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of this bill on learning bonds. It is in favour of the implementation of the learning bond program, because it will provide direct assistance to lower income families. It will enable them to have access to post-secondary studies and not to be penalized for not being able to save money for that purpose.

As well as being in favour of the purpose of the bill, the Bloc asked for an amendment to clause 3 in committee. That amendment reads:

3.1 The Minister shall take measures necessary to carry out the purpose set out in section 3, including making known to Canadians, through informational and promotional activities, the existence of CES grants and Canada Learning Bonds and any terms and conditions.

With this addition, the Bloc Québécois wishes instead to see the object of the bill realized and not have it share the fate of the guaranteed income supplement which some people are not receiving because they are still unaware of its existence.

In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois is opposed to the NDP motion calling for deletion of clause 3 of Bill C-5.

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3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also want to speak on this subject to express my profound disagreement with the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Halifax. She is probably already aware of my disagreement. I mentioned it the other day in this House, when she spoke in our first debate of this bill, that is, at second reading.

Philosophically, I cannot understand the position of the hon. member for Halifax at all. I know that she and her colleagues claim they are the defenders of widows and orphans. That is their right, of course. We are all entitled to think that we are able to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. That is fine, but I do not understand how she arrives at her conclusion.

I said it the other day and I will repeat it.

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3:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

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3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Oh yes, she has all the answers. I will just say that there are some people in our society for whom post-secondary education has never been part of their values. I come from that background and I know something about it.

For these people it is very important to build a culture in which aspiring to an education for their children becomes a family goal. Do you think that when I was little we talked about cousin Fred who defended his master's thesis so well? That was not what we talked about around our kitchen table. It did not exist in our family values. I am not the only one. There are a lot of us.

What do I want? I want the group in our society for whom these values did not previously exist to adopt this as their own goal from now on. There is nothing wrong about that. I know that the hon. member says that better things could be done with the money. There are always better things one can do; that is true.

Last week I met a group of students who came to do some lobbying in my office. They told me that the same money could be given to those who wanted to register for next year and it would help them right away. Perhaps. Perhaps that should be done as well.

Nevertheless, meanwhile, we must not say that certain groups of people who have never aspired to pursuing a post-secondary education do not have the right to adopt this as a family goal, just like anyone else.

At some point, retirement savings plans were introduced. Of course, at the time, some thought that only rich people would set money aside. That is not true. I know many people who worked all their lives, including janitors, and who were able to save a bit of money to ensure a better retirement.

What the minister is proposing today is the same thing, namely to set a little money aside to ensure a better future for our children. We must create a situation where, from now on, people sitting down at the dinner table will talk about the $25 or the $50 that they saved during the month, or that they invested at some other time, so that this becomes part of the family values. Is it too much to ask on our part?

To try to empty the bill of its substance, as the hon. member is proposing, is bad. I am saying it now and I already said it at second reading. At least, where I come from it is bad and I think that others who come from the same background should also be entitled to the same thing.

As some hon. members know, I got my university degree while sitting as a member of this House. It took me 11 years, on a part-time basis. At times, it was hard, particularly during the last four years, when I was a minister. I am the only minister in the history of Canada to have pursued a university education while serving as a cabinet member.

What motivated me to get my degree was that my two children were also attending university. What message would it have sent to them if their father, who was attending university at the same time as they were, had dropped out? It was impossible to do that. This is one of the things that motivated me and kept me going during those times when I had to get up at 3:30 a.m. or 4 a.m. to complete my courses. This is the example that we set for the next generation.

It is true that, at the time, I had the means to help my children and so on. However, I still needed the same courage to set an example. This takes a different form at a different socio-economic level. It becomes a family objective, no matter how modest, so as to instill those values.

I think our children and grandchildren are entitled to this. Be that as it may, I personally will support the minister's position. I am asking everyone to reject this amendment, and I am even asking the hon. member to withdraw it.

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3:55 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to say for the record that I am disappointed in the position that the Bloc has taken on Bill C-5. I always felt that the Bloc was a kindred spirit in many ways on issues of social policy and in understanding what is really needed for those of modest means to fully participate in our society. Quebec has done some very progressive things that members of the Bloc have had a significant hand in. They were very progressive, but this is not a progressive piece of legislation. This is not progressive public policy in any way, shape or form.

I am really disappointed, though, in the disrespectful intervention by the member from the Liberals, the member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell. To suggest for a second that he as a member of Parliament going to university on the side, I guess, in his off hours, was in any way similar to a family living on low income and the struggles it has to face to send either the parents or the children to university, sends us the message that he does not understand. He does not understand what is going on out there. He does not understand the challenges that are faced by poor and modest income families. He does not understand the passion and the understanding of the member for Halifax, who has put forward the amendments we are considering this afternoon.

As a matter of fact, it is not just the members of the New Democratic Party who do not believe that this bill is going to do what the government is suggesting it may do. Every person connected at all with the post-secondary education system who came before the human resources and skills development committee to speak about the bill opposed it. They encouraged us to oppose it as well. If that does not tell us something, I do not know what will.

The second NDP amendment that we are looking at today sought in committee to ensure that the bill would require the minister to clearly define what constitutes undue hardship. Again, when we listened to the intervention a few seconds ago by the member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell, I guess we began to understand why the minister was not willing to accept that very simple amendment and why the minister would not put something more concrete on the table that would help those folks out there who are trying to get their heads around how this piece of public policy would help them.

Bill C-5 would give the minister broad authority to subjectively assess, in an unaccountable and non-transparent manner, whether a student is experiencing undue hardship. What could be defined by one MP as undue hardship being experienced by a constituent could be rejected by the minister, with no means of appeal.

As a matter of fact, I served for 13 years as a member of the provincial parliament in Ontario and over the last 6 to 10 years I have seen in that province a deterioration in the ability of families and students to appeal when they have applied for assistance to get relief from the pressure of a loan or debt they incurred because they tried to better themselves to go to post-secondary education.

That appeal system has become almost impossible to access and to get some positive response from. We can imagine a family of modest means or poor means trying to appeal a decision made by government regarding their participation in this program and how difficult and frustrating it would be in the end for them to actually achieve that.

I am standing in my place today as the member for Sault Ste. Marie to support the member for Halifax in her very sincere attempt to bring at least a modicum of sanity to the bill in terms of the two amendments that she put forward so eloquently and effectively at committee only to be defeated by every party in the House with the exception of the New Democratic Party.

They obviously did not understand that this is a bill which from its very inception is nothing more than an exercise in smoke and mirrors by a government looking to curry some favour as it prepares itself to go to the electorate yet again. It in fact would do nothing to better the lot of many Canadian citizens who want to better themselves by going to post-secondary education.

The bill is smoke and mirrors, but it is more than that for me. It is also a very dangerous piece of legislation because what it is doing is encouraging people who are already making some basic decisions on a day to day basis about where they will spend the little bit of money they have.

Many members may have heard of the project out of Ottawa. Low income individuals got together and started a project called “Pay the Rent or Feed the Kids”. That is the kind of decision that families of low and modest incomes are making in our society today. It is not about whether they can afford to go to post-secondary education or not.

These people are at a more basic level than that. They are trying to decide from one day to the next whether they will pay the rent or feed the kids, never mind paying the hydro or providing transportation for themselves or their children to get to places they need to go. It gets boiled right down to whether they can actually feed themselves or feed their children or pay the rent.

This group of people is acting on that level in terms of their income. These are people who are trying to make do and in fact in many instances are making do with the little bit of money they have. They are doing way more than those of us who are in this position of privilege as members of Parliament would be able to do.

To suggest for a second that they should somehow, if they could find some money, perhaps by cashing in the bottles at the end of the month, put that money into some kind of savings plan that will see them into the marketplace, is hocus-pocus. Because that is what this is all about. It is about the managers of funds, those who play the stock market, identifying another source of money that they can actually use to better their own fortune.

It is dangerous to veil that in the cloak of how this is a good program for low income people to set money aside for themselves so they can send their children to school. It is a dangerous road to be going down; it is the same road that we are trying to push workers down when we determine that their pension plan should be an RRSP program instead of a fixed pension plan such as that which is championed by organized labour in this country.

It is the same kind of hocus-pocus that is being perpetrated on working men and working women in this province. Now, by means of this bill, it would be perpetrated on some of our lowest income families. It suggests that they might set aside some money, throw it into the market and see it grow. Yes, it will grow, all right; it will go is what will happen to it. It will not grow. In fact, that money, if in the first place they have been able to find it to put in, will be gone at the end of the day. It will not be there to help them and their children.

I suggest that this government, if it really wants to put its money where its mouth is, if it really wants to do something, not only for poor families and families of modest income in this country but where post-secondary education is concerned, it should cast its sights across the water to Europe.

Many countries there have decided that post-secondary education is now so important to their economy, their community and their people that there will be no tuition fee for post-secondary education. They have decided to invest in post-secondary education in such a way that those who qualify, those who want to go and take advantage of that opportunity, will in fact not have that obstacle put in front of them. These students can go, maximize the potential they have to be educated, and then come back and participate in their community and the economy of their country.

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4 p.m.

An hon. member

That's a vision.

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4 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

That is a vision, and not only that, but some countries have even gone so far as to say to those families of modest and low income that if the students, never mind the tuition, cannot even afford to leave home to go to the institution they qualify for, the countries will provide a grant.

A grant is free money. Do members remember the 1960s and 1970s when we went to university? We used to get grants.

Countries in Europe are saying that they will provide a grant for families of modest and low income so that they can provide for the food and the housing needed while the students get their education. Then they do not have to worry about that.

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4:05 p.m.

An hon. member

They must really value education.

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4:05 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Absolutely, they value education to the point where they are willing to invest public money in institutions that then will have the ability to absorb all those who live within their borders to participate in that post-secondary education opportunity.

That is what the government should do. The Bloc and the Conservatives should support this and, along with the NDP, call upon the government to do that.

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4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Some hon. members

No.

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The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

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

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4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.