House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.


VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Andy Savoy Liberal Tobique—Mactaquac, NB


That. in the opinion of the House, the government should establish a fund to help ensure the maintenance and the preservation of war memorials in communities across Canada in honour of our war veterans.

Mr. Speaker, I proudly rise in the House this morning to introduce a motion that honours Canada's heroes, our war veterans.

The motion calls for the establishment of a special endowment fund. The fund will ensure that Canada's war monuments are maintained as lasting legacies to the brave men and women who served in Canada's armed forces. I believe there is no better way to recognize our veterans than to guarantee there are permanent monuments to their war efforts.

In my opinion, the Government of Canada has a responsibility to provide a portion of the funds needed to repair and restore these memorials. There are about 6,000 war memorials in communities across Canada today. The cost for their upkeep is estimated at a few million dollars a year. That is a small price to pay for the maintenance of monuments to our war veterans. Indeed, what price can we place on this?

I think the debt of gratitude we Canadians owe our war veterans is beyond value. Frequently, while touring my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac, I have the opportunity to meet with different groups, legions and community groups that are in fact charged and responsible for these war monuments and cenotaphs. Inevitably, we talk about the important days in our calendar year. Certainly, for Christians, the holy days are very important and as a patriotic Canadian, Canada Day is very important.

However, of the days that have the most significance, I think Remembrance Day is very important, by virtue of the fact that without the efforts of our soldiers, especially in World War II, we may not have been celebrating these other days. We may not have had that freedom of choice, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion that makes Canada what it is. In terms of important days on our calendar, I rank Remembrance Day right up there. Without those efforts, we may not be celebrating those other significant days.

In the last century, 116,000 Canadians gave their lives and their future, so that we may live in peace. As long as we continue to pay homage to our troops overseas, their memories will never fade.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs recently declared that 2005 will be known as the Year of the Veteran. Can we think of a more appropriate gift to our veterans than a fund that protects our war memorials?

As the Minister of Veterans Affairs stated when she announced the Year of the Veteran, we can only repay the tremendous debt we owe our veterans through active remembrance. The year 2004 was a special year for our veterans, with ceremonies here and abroad commemorating the Italian campaign during the second world war and the D-Day invasion in Normandy.

The year 2005 will continue to be a year of remembrance for our veterans as Canadians observe the 60th anniversary of the end of the second world war and we mark the Year of the Veteran with a number of commemorative activities.

The timing could not be more fitting for the establishment of an endowment fund to thank our veterans with money for the preservation of Canada's war memorials. These cenotaphs are important symbols of remembrance and appreciation for the sacrifices that have been made for our freedoms.

Without the sacrifices of those who fought for peace and democracy, our nation would not be the great land that it is. Veterans only ask one thing of us, that we remember the sacrifice of those who did not get to come home, did not get to live out their dreams, did not get to enjoy the peace that they fought so hard to win, and did not get the opportunity to do what we have done.

It is important that we remember not only what our veterans did for us, but that we show them publicly that we remain grateful for their service and sacrifice. That is what these memorials in cities, towns and small communities across Canada represent.

Today's generation of Canadians knows war only from history books and television news. These memorials serve as constant reminders and as testaments to those who gave their lives for us and those who protect us still.

Our job is to ensure that the stories of Canada's veterans, men and women who served us so nobly in war and ably in peace, are remembered and passed on to our children. We pledge to them to never forget. In a small way, that is what today's motion is all about, a tangible demonstration of our pledge.

We as Canadians have an obligation and a duty to remember how fortunate we are in this country. We must remember that our good fortune is due to the efforts of our men and women in uniform past and present.

All parliamentarians in the House will recall that in the last session we had a very distinguished gentleman who sat in the gallery. One day we recognized him after question period. He was the last surviving Victoria Cross recipient from World War II.

I have a poster from the mid-1990s about 16 Victoria Cross recipients. The poster is entitled “For Valour”. The names on the poster are: Sgt Maj John Robert Osborn, Winnipeg; LCol Charles Cecil Ingersoll, Vancouver; Rev. John Weir Foote, Madoc, Ontario; Capt Frederick Thornton Peters, Charlottetown, P.E.I.; Capt David Ernest Hornell, Mimico, Ontario; Sqdn Ldr Ian Willoughby Bazalgette, Calgary, Alberta; Maj David Currie, Sutherland, Saskatchewan; Capt Paul Triquet, Cabano, Quebec; Maj Charles Ferguson Hoey, Duncan, British Columbia; Maj John Keefer Mahoney, New Westminster, British Columbia; Pilot Officer Andrew Charles Mynarski, Winnipeg, Manitoba; Sgt Aubrey Cosens, Latchford, Ontario; Maj Frederick Albert Tilston, Toronto, Ontario; Cpl Frederick George Topham, Toronto, Ontario; Lt Robert Hampton Gray, Trail, British Columbia; and that great gentleman who blessed us with his presence that day, Smokey Smith, Pte Ernest Alvia Smith, New Westminster, British Columbia.

It was a magical day. We stood up as parliamentarians for minutes on end with a standing ovation. There were a lot of lumps in people's throats at the time, recognizing the sacrifice made by Smokey Smith. That day was something that is etched indelibly in my memory as a parliamentarian. It was one of the highlights of my time here on Parliament Hill, a short time of four years.

Another time that really shows how the past and present come together was last May. There was a horrible accident in Afghanistan, where Cpl Jamie Murphy of Newfoundland lost his life. One of the people seated with Cpl Jamie Murphy and injured was Cpl Richard Newman from Hartland, New Brunswick, in my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac.

After Cpl Newman went through rehab, I invited him here to the Hill. I brought him here for lunch and presented him to both the Upper House and our House. Cpl Newman was greeted with a similar standing ovation. It made me think of how the past really means the present, and how in honouring these veterans with war memorials we are really honouring the people of the present who are serving for us in various arenas.

It is a privilege to put forward a motion that pays tribute to the servicemen and servicewomen who laid down their lives for the liberties that we enjoy today. I thank the members for Lac-Saint-Louis, Davenport and Cape Breton—Canso for supporting me on the motion.

I hope that all of my fellow parliamentarians will give favourable consideration to the fund. It is the right thing to do. The legacy of veterans to this wonderful country we call Canada will never ever be forgotten. Lest we forget.

VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I certainly enjoyed the member's presentation. I agree with him wholeheartedly that this country has really let our veterans down, on a number of levels, and of course the one the public sees out there is the memorials, cenotaphs and so on.

I am wondering about the timing of this bill. Why now, after a decade of neglect that his government was actually the ringleader of? We saw Wal-Mart step up to the plate and come to bat to raise the money to redo some of the war memorials in Europe. Then of course the government came on side to say, “We will lead the delegation now that the work is done”. Why now?

VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Andy Savoy Liberal Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I expected no less than to have someone come forward and play politics with this serious motion. Members should be looking at this motion and focusing on looking forward. I hope that the hon. member will consider supporting this motion. Now is the time to do this. The year of the veteran is coming up in 2005 and I think it is very important that we do this in memory of people like Smokey Smith and all our veterans. Certainly moving forward I think we should focus on the good news of this initiative and work together to make sure this fund comes to fruition.

VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Betty Hinton Conservative Kamloops—Thompson, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion. Although it is not a new or innovative motion, it does have merit. This issue has been raised in the House before, once by my former colleague, Mrs. Elsie Wayne.

It is refreshing to see what having a minority government can do for this country. The government has designated 2005 the year of the veteran, and rightly so. The men and women of our armed forces have made this country what it is today, a place of freedom and prosperity. There is no doubt that any monument constructed here or abroad in honour of those achievements and sacrifices should be maintained in a dignified manner.

My concern with the member's motion is that it could be interpreted as taking the responsibility of maintenance for war monuments away from those who have historically been responsible for them. For example, in Canada there are nine national memorials that are maintained by the federal government and budgeted for in the federal tax structure. In each province and territory, the capitals have war memorials maintained by the province or territory, the cost of which is built into the provincial tax structure. Most cities and many towns have war memorials maintained by the town or the city and these too are built into the municipal tax structure.

Where this is not the case and a memorial is allowed to crumble or decay, I am certainly in favour of a fund being available to restore it. However, I would certainly want to know why that was allowed to happen. If Canadians are being taxed by three levels of government to maintain war memorials, how could they be allowed to deteriorate to any extent? This question would need to be answered before funding would be made available.

There is another issue that would have to be considered. Is the monument actually used? If not, why not? Is there an alternative? If, for example, a war memorial was built in a town that has lost its population, somewhere where the principal industry has ceased to operate and the population has moved, the fund could be accessed to move the war memorial to an alternative site.

In 2002, two Conservative members of Parliament had similar motions, both of which were dropped from the order paper. I would like to see this go forward. However, I will need to see amendments to reflect the issues I have just raised.

VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I speak to this motion introduced by our Liberal colleague, I want to say that today is a very sad day for Quebec and Canada. On December 6, 1989, 14 young women were killed by a gunman at the École polytechnique de Montréal. He not only completely destroyed the lives of all these families, but he also deeply wounded the hearts of all Quebeckers and Canadians.

We often talk about paying tribute to war veterans at dawn and dusk. Accordingly, I want to tell the families that we will always remember these young women who, unfortunately, lost their lives solely because they were women. Quebec reacted with shock and surprise. It is important to honour their memory today. We must never forget these women nor the fact that violence in our society is totally unacceptable.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois and my colleagues, I offer my condolences to the families of these 14 young women.

Second, I want to address the motion before us this morning. Obviously, the Bloc Québécois has nothing against virtue. The aim is to create a fund to preserve war memorials around the world honouring veterans, to ensure, above all, that they are not allowed to fall into ruin. The Bloc Québécois clearly agrees with this point.

Every year, we celebrate November 11, a day when everyone makes a point of remembering the terrible sacrifices that were made. But, it should not be the only day. November 11 represents the apex, the culmination, the ultimate day of remembrance and tribute to these individuals. It is also important to erect monuments on the sites where the great battles were fought, so that the fallen are not forgotten.

A little earlier, the hon. member from the Conservative Party explained a bit about how this operates. Monuments are found in all the provincial capitals, among them Quebec City. Ottawa has a very beautiful one. Other cities and towns, though, are beginning to be have some problems. Not just the municipality is involved; the Royal Canadian Legion is often active, too.

I am a member of the Iberville branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and am proud of it. Ms. Côté, our president, will be very pleased to see in Hansard that I have mentioned her name. It is unusual for people to see their own names there, but I think it is important, because she is an excellent president. She recognizes the merit of the women veterans as well as the men. We must never forget that.

During the last parliament, a resolution was put before the House asking to the effect that the nurses who accompanied the troops on the front must never be forgotten. Women have participated in the wars, as well; it was not just the men. Women also made their contributions during wartime. They kept the economy running. While the men were away at the front, women worked in the industries supporting the war effort and supplying the front-line troops with what they needed to wage war.

I have, moreover, often accompanied the minister on visits to the cemeteries of Europe. They often present rather a sad sight. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is the body that is supposed to look after these cemeteries. There is certainly a need for representations on this. It seems to me that this commission must be told if memorials or other things fail to honour appropriately the efforts of our veterans, so that the situation is remedied.

I also want to point out that these memorials, together with November 11 itself, are not dedicated solely to those who lost their lives. People will reply that they are for them first and foremost, which is true. They made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for their country. Others, however, bear physical or psychological scars, and they too must not be forgotten.

The effects of time spent in theatres of operation remain deep within them today. This phenomenon is not restricted to the two world wars and the Korean conflict. It is still the case today. There is more and more evidence of psychological wounds in those returning from today's theatres of operation, post-traumatic stress for one thing. We must not lose sight of that.

Every chance I get, I tell people that my father fought in Holland. In fact, he took part in the liberation of Holland. Whenever I go to the Netherlands I am pleased tell the Dutch about my fatherwhen they take us to see their cemeteries, where the many gravestones reflect all the sacrifices the young soldiers made.

My father was only 20 when he volunteered to go to Holland. He was one of the lucky ones who came back without injury. However, he had friends who did not come home from the front. He also told me he saw some friends being brought back in baskets completely dismembered, without arms or legs. This experience had a tremendous impact on him. Thus, their memory absolutely must be commemorated. They must not be forgotten.

Money must not be an issue. The current government has accumulated a surplus year after year. I think it is important to preserve the memory of these people forever.

The amount of money to go into the fund has not been determined yet, but I think if we adopt the principle then it must apply across the board. We must ensure that those who made the ultimate sacrifice are not forgotten.

In conclusion, I mentioned earlier a sort of watchword with respect to the veterans. It is: “At the dawning of the day and at its closing; we will never forget them”.

VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure, on behalf of the federal New Democratic Party, to rise on this very pertinent motion, which was first introduced in the House a few years ago by a gentleman by the name of John Herron of Fundy Royal. We are very pleased to see my colleague from New Brunswick bring this up once again. Anything we can do to preserve the heritage and memory of those who served our country is an important discussion in the House of Commons at anytime.

I would also like to take a second to remember the 14 women of École Polytechnique who passed away 15 years ago today. As well, I would like to remember the over 2,000 people who were killed in the December 6, 1917 explosion in Halifax harbour. I ask all members of Parliament, senators and all Canadians to take a moment when they go to bed tonight to pray for those of our past.

Speaking of our past, this motion is extremely pertinent. As members know, many of the cenotaphs and memorials, not only within Canada but around the world, require repair. I am pleased to note that Veterans Affairs Canada has allocated money in previous budgets for the Vimy memorial and others, but there is much more to be done. We in the New Democratic Party support establishing a fund, as set out in the motion. We think it is relevant and important. If we do not do it at this time, when will we? We have funds available to preserve our past.

Since 1998, I have been introducing in the House the need for a women's memorial to recognize their service in our wars and to recognize those who stayed at home to look after their families. They also played an important role in the economy during the war efforts to get the machinery out. Winnipeg has a beautiful monument to women's efforts during the wars. We have asked that a particular monument be in every capital in the country to honour the sacrifices of women.

As members know, most of our monuments are dedicated to our men. While we do not have a problem with that, we think it is now time that women are appreciated and recognized for their sacrifices and efforts as well. Many went overseas. Many stayed home and looked after the families. Many stayed home and went into the fields, the factories and fish plants. They kept the economy going by producing the goods and services that our armed forces personnel required.

We think the member from New Brunswick should be congratulated for reintroducing the motion. I honestly cannot see any reason that any member of Parliament, or senator for that matter, would oppose or disagree with the intent of the motion. The amount of money required for this is a possible discussion for the future, but we need to move forward on this. We need to let the surviving veterans and their families know that their memories will be preserved and remain intact.

Anyone who comes to Ottawa should visit the War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, just a few steps from Parliament Hill. We have taken people who have come to visit our offices to see the memorial. There is not a person who I know of who has not been moved by the beauty and the solemn memory for those who served in our past.

I never served in the armed forces. I can only appreciate the sacrifices and the concerns of those men and women did, as well as those who are currently serving. They deserve our utmost gratitude. They are the ones who have the ultimate liability when they sign up to serve their country. We as members of Parliament, especially in the government, we have the ultimate responsibility to ensure that their and their families' needs are met. At the same time, we also have to ensure that our war memorials are preserved and protected as well.

On behalf of the federal New Democratic Party, I would like to congratulate the member from New Brunswick for once again raising this important issue. We fully support it and look for full implementation from the government in the very near future.

VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to join my other colleagues in paying my respects to the 14 women who were brutally murdered 15 years ago at École Polytechnique. I think what unifies all of us here is a desire to end violence. As today marks that 15th anniversary, we want to bring focus to the problem of violence against women, and urge the government to continue to do all it can to address this problem.

Before I begin my speech, I would like to refer to the Halifax explosion, which the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore mentioned. It underscores a point which our colleague across the way from Saint-Jean raised. During wars not only are those who battle overseas affected, but those who remain in Canada are as well. The Halifax explosion is a graphic and poignant example of how war can touch us even though it is technically taking place overseas.

It is an honour for me to rise in this House and it is with great pleasure and pride that I do so today to participate in this debate on Motion M-190, sponsored by my hon. colleague from Tobique—Mactaquac, to establish a fund for the restoration of war monuments here in Canada.

My interest in this issue does not stem only from the fact that a number of veterans and their families live in my riding of Lac-Saint-Louis or that we have in our riding—and I point this out with great pride—the only federal veterans hospital in Canada, namely Sainte-Anne's Hospital, in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. In itself, this building is a sort of war monument, with its impressive architecture reminding everyone of the significant role Canada has played over decades in several international conflicts.

While these considerations did influence my decision to take part in today's debate, a greater motivation was the esteem I have for that generation of people who sacrificed themselves, in more ways than one, to defend our freedom and, thus, changed the course of our history, moving it toward freedom, peace and prosperity.

I was not only motivated to speak today bythe wonderful Remembrance Day celebrations that are held in my riding every year, which are extremely well attended and which garner the attention they deserve in the community and in the local media, I also was motivated by the great respect that I hold for the generation that made all manner of sacrifice to protect our freedom and democratic ideals, whether it was through their actual presence overseas or through various duties, military and civilian here in Canada.

It is worth mentioning that the generation that defended freedom in Europe in the second world war also lived through the greatest economic crisis our country and society have known, the Great Depression. One can only imagine what it must have been like to survive the stresses of that bleak economic period only to then be asked to make further sacrifice, to put one's life and career on hold to fight a military enemy.

It is out of profound respect for the members of that generation that I am speaking today, and I dedicate my remarks to them.

War memorials, and in this category I include not only cenotaphs but war cemeteries, such as the Field of Honour Cemetery in Pointe Claire in my riding, have in my view an important dual role to play in our society.

War memorials have an educational role. They are an educational vehicle, albeit a silent one, that can inspire Canada's teachers in many different ways.

Obviously war monuments reminds us of the specific dates of very specific events, events that future generations need to know about. They also force us to think about the related events sometimes that preceded a conflict itself or about the ideas and the ideologies that circulated at the time that may have led the way or prepared the intellectual groundwork for the conflict in question, or at least reinforced that conflict.

War monuments force us to think about economic history, social history and political history, about isolated personal events that have influenced, for good or for bad, the important decisions that leaders made that may have impacted one way or the other on a particular conflict and therefore on the course of history.

There are some who pessimistically contend that we never learn from history, that history fatefully repeats itself in an endless cycle of war, albeit using updated technologies. I do not believe this to be the case.

War memorials are important sign posts of history. They are a part of a system of historical memory and recollection that will, I am sure, now and into the future, perhaps in ways we will not immediately understand, lead us to better political decisions.

Creative educators in communities can take inspiration from war memorials in their midst to teach their young students about war and peace.

As I mentioned, my riding houses the Ste. Anne's Veterans Hospital. Again, it is not a war memorial per se and certainly not the kind of structure that is being addressed by the present motion. However, I should mention that this structure was created obviously for a practical purpose but was also motivated by a desire to honour our veterans. It is an imposing architectural structure and is probably the tallest building in my riding and in western Montreal.

I would like to mention the impact that structure has had on one particular educator in my riding and on his students in the community. Professor Bill Tierney is an English professor at John Abbott College located in the town of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue where the Ste. Anne's Veterans Hospital is also located. I should also mentioned that Mr. Tierney happens to be the mayor of the town of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue.

A few years ago he began teaching a course around the novel All Quiet on the Western Front. As a part of his English course, he asked his students after reading the book to do volunteer work at the hospital, namely to visit veterans and talk to them about their lives. Magically, some veterans began to talk about the war for the first time. No doubt these students today have had the benefit of great reflection on some of the major events of history and no doubt they are more thoughtful citizens as a result.

I believe that a focus on war memorials across Canada could unleash the same kind of creativity among our educators and the same kind of insight among our young people.

A second role that war memorials have is that they are a place of contemplation for anyone who passes by and takes the time to reflect. War memorials are windows into the historical soul of a nation and of humanity itself. Who has not stopped in front of a cenotaph to reflect on the misery of war, the misery of the trenches, the mud, the mustard gas, the pain, the loneliness and the suffering? Who has not walked away with the silent conviction that war is not the answer or that tyranny and the conflict that it creates is an unmitigated evil?

In preparing for my remarks today, I took it upon myself to read the latest novel by one of our great Canadian novelists, Jane Urquhart, entitled The Stone Carvers , a fictional work based loosely on the life of Toronto sculptor Walter Allward's Vimy Memorial in Vimy, France.

While I realize that the fund we are speaking about today is for war memorials in Canada only, I think a reference is warranted. I quote from the novel:

Allward took all of this in...the now distant pain of bereavement and lost youth...this huge white structure meant to be a memorial to grief, on the one hand, and a prayer for peace on the other.

I believe that all war memorials in Canada serve that kind of purpose.

This kind of contemplation, this kind of knowledge of history that war memorials give us, creates and nurtures a sense of duty in all of us, a sense that we must give, however modestly, back to our society, that we must make some effort from time to time to make this country a better place.

At a very basic but vital level for our democracy, I doubt that anyone who has had a chance to reflect seriously on the sacrifices our veterans made would want to forgo his or her right to vote. I believe that such a reflection can only reinforce one's sense of duty in that respect.

I would like to mention one of my constituents, a gentleman by the name of Robert Rushbrook, who fought, like the father of the hon. member from Saint-Jean, in the liberation of Holland. He told me the other day that the school children of Holland make a point every year of maintaining and taking care of the Canadian war cemetery in Holland and of the Commonwealth cemetery.

If school children across the ocean can pay that kind of respect to those Canadians who fell in battle liberating them at the end of the second world war, then it is incumbent upon us to make the funds available to pay the same kind of homage here in Canada to our veterans and to those who fell in battle.

VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on this worthy motion. This is not the first time that memorial maintenance has been discussed in this place. If I recall correctly, similar private member's bills have been put forward in the past by my colleagues opposite. This time it is my friend from this side of the aisle, all of which is to say that when it comes to remembrance and commemoration, our debate is almost entirely non-partisan. Usually our disagreements are over matters of details, not intent.

This is, by definition, a worthwhile and interesting motion, and I weigh my words carefully.

I say it is worthwhile because all of us in this place feel the motion is appropriate for all the reasons that our intellect tells us. We are wise to heed the words of philosopher, Santayana, who said, “Those who do not know their history are condemned to relive it”.

We know that if we forget the stories of veterans we will lose our sense of place in history. We will be breaking the faith with Canadians who served and sacrificed for others and with the families they left behind.

Part of that storytelling surely lies in the memorials that can be found in most communities throughout Canada.

I also say it is an interesting motion, because I believe that it raises valid questions about the nature of commemoration and the best way to invest public money.

In fact, my hon. colleague referred to some of these issues in his remarks.

I should point out that it is not as if the government does not spend substantial money now for physical icons and markers of remembrance. Hon. members are quite familiar with the fact that the government is responsible for the maintenance of our glorious national war memorials. If ever anyone wants proof of money well spent, they only need to watch the reaction of our visitors to the amazing Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

It is clear that monuments and cenotaphs can have the power to move and motivate people to stop and think about the legacy they have inherited from those who were caught up in the maelstrom of war and destruction. Because Canadians' wartime sacrifice has been on foreign shores and because the monuments that arose from the ashes of the first world war are now disintegrating before our eyes, our duty is clear. We must meet our responsibility in the care and maintenance of the 13 great war memorials in France and Belgium.

Anyone who has seen the monument of Vimy Ridge, even if only in picture books, can see the reason. To not see the magnificent monument or any of the others would be unthinkable. That is why we are in the midst of a $30 million refurbishing to bring these wonderful witnesses to Canadians' sacrifices back to their original condition.

On the home front, there are 6,000 cenotaphs and monuments in municipalities across the country, some of which are in need of preservation and restoration. I know that the veterans are very pleased that the necessary maintenance of these cenotaphs and monuments is among the government's priorities. I also know that more remains to be done, but I think that, through this fund, it will be possible to put together the initial financial resources necessary to cooperate with individuals and community groups in restoring cenotaphs and monuments.

I congratulate the hon. members on the motion and the government for making a positive response. A collective pat on the back is due to all who continue to pursue this matter to its fruition.

VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to join in this debate on Motion No. 190.

As has been mentioned by previous speakers, this topic has been brought to the floor of the House on a number of past occasions. I think there is a shared recognition in the House that it is important and significant that we continue to honour the memories of those who served. Certainly, the motion goes a long way in doing so. It reaffirms that the great privileges we have as Canadians were earned and fought for by veterans. It is important that we continue to recognize their contribution.

The motion, as it is presented, leaves us some latitude as to how the program would be delivered. It was raised by my colleague from the Conservative Party earlier that in no way does the federal government expect or anticipate that the responsibility for cenotaphs across this country would fall back into federal jurisdiction and responsibility. We should continue to work with stakeholders in community groups on these projects.

Two years ago, in one of my communities, the former town of Louisburg, there was a fairly significant fundraising project that was driven by a couple of members of the local legion from Louisburg. They went out to the business community and private donors, raised a considerable amount of money, put together a cenotaph, and developed a park area around it that was very much embraced by the community.

The people of Louisburg and the broader areas certainly understood the importance of developing this space. It is a beautiful and important addition to the downtown area. People visit it on a regular basis and certainly did during the Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11. It is an inspirational place to gather and to pay homage to those who served and did not return.

I think that is where we are heading with this particular motion. It is an opportunity for the federal government to play a role in important projects similar to the one in Louisburg. I have one on my desk. There is a community group in the Arichat area that are looking at doing a similar type project. It is not always easy to find some kind of assistance and support for those community based projects. Hopefully through this motion, we can develop the necessary supports so that we can go forward, and help these people and community groups as they try to do such important work.

I know the minister herself is very committed. She has recognized that this type of initiative is important. Past ministers have as well, but the contentious aspect of it has always been where we find the money. As stewards of the public purse and taxpayers' dollars, there are always incredible demands. One can imagine that for every tax dollar in Ottawa, there are probably 200 very worthy, noble and important places that this dollar could be placed.

Past ministers within veterans affairs have recognized that this would be a very appropriate and beneficial program to enter into, but the difficulty was making the dollars available. We hope that through this motion the minister will recognize that the House supports such an initiative and allow it to go forward.

I do not think the intent of the motion from my colleague from Tobique—Mactaquac is to draw up criteria, parameters or whatever. It is certainly not in the interests of the House of Commons, the government or the members on the government side to actually develop specific criteria. We know that through interventions with stakeholders, legion members and community groups that veterans affairs would hopefully be able to develop criteria so that decisions could be made on which projects would get funding and which would not. Some might go through one year and others in subsequent years. We would hope that veterans affairs would engage with the various stakeholders to develop the necessary criteria. From there the stakeholders could make application and hopefully receive some type of assistance from the fund.

We might ask ourselves a philosophical question as we discuss the motion today. How is commemoration and remembrance best fostered and encouraged? There is an argument to be made that when individuals band together on a volunteer basis to raise funds for a commemorative project, it takes on a personal meaning for which participants take firsthand pride. I mentioned in my opening comments the group in Louisbourg and Arichat that have shown this initiative. It is only proper that the federal government stand beside them so that we honour the memories of these veterans.

I acknowledge the fact that there are no easy or absolutely correct answers to these questions, and we do not need answers today. I join my colleagues who have addressed the motion today in agreeing with it. It is a good idea to devote some funding to the repair and preservation of monuments. Remembering and honouring those who have proudly served our country in war and in peace is crucial for all Canadians in preserving the legacy of our veterans. Our objective with the motion is to help in that preservation. In agreeing with Motion No. 190, we are taking one more step along the commemorative road and that surely is a good thing.

I would like to personally thank the member for Tobique--Mactaquac. The motion has a great deal of merit. He has done a good thing in bringing this issue to light today. I will be supporting the motion.

VeteransPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just arrived from Toronto, leaving a snowstorm there, and coming into the House I was taken by the speech and the address from our colleague from Tobique—Mactaquac.

The subject matter is of absolute profound interest to all members of this House. My riding of York South—Weston is an old riding that formerly consisted of one of the oldest townships in Canada, York Township. It preceded all of the townships before the formation of the city of Toronto and its associated suburbs. In the first and second world war the old York Township had one of the highest levels of voluntary involvement in our armed services. In fact, each Remembrance Day, as the mayor and my father as the reeve before me, we participated in the Remembrance Day services of many army and navy associations, veterans associations, and legions.

I remember attending Remembrance Day ceremonies with my father in the early 1950s when attendance was in the thousands. In fact, over the years we have seen the reduced presence of those veterans as a result of the number of veterans who have passed away or are unable to participate. In a graphic way, we have witnessed what they can give us and the role they have played in our lives. We remember what they stood for in terms of freedom, in terms of the values, and in terms of what we as Canadians see as our heritage and our responsibility as a result of their service in the affairs of the world. It is also in terms of those that are vulnerable to the loss of democracy, in particular in developing nations, that are susceptible and being confronted with the loss, in a very inhumane way, of their most basic rights of food and comfort.

I say that as a preamble to my observation that in these last few weeks there have been two things that have drawn me into this issue. One is the possibility that the symbols of our Victoria Cross winners, and the member referred to those Victoria Cross winners, would be lost; that the symbols of their bravery and heroism, and what they stood for and died for would be lost to future generations.

In my area the Victoria Cross of Corporal Fred Topham, who was a medic in the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, was put up for auction to the highest bidder. It appeared that the Victoria Cross would be bought up by a foreign interest and would possibly be ensconced in a private collection.

What a tragedy and what a statement. The inability of Canadians, in some way, to rally around that Victoria Cross and the heroic sacrifice of Corporal Fred Topham and to allow that symbol of everything we purport to believe in to be lost to the present and future generations. It is the ultimate demonstration of what our freedoms really are all about. It is scandalous.

In response to that particular issue, the members of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and veterans organizations throughout my community and other communities, along with students and teachers, involved themselves in the preparation of a program that would raise the money to purchase the Corporal Fred Topham Victoria Cross in order that it would not be lost as a symbol of his sacrifice and the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of Canadian young men and women.

At a very late date the government recognized that there was a role for the government to play in that situation. The Minister of Canadian Heritage announced that there would be participation from a government position and I know that position was supported by all parties on both sides of this House.

Let me give the second example of how in a very profound way we can lose our heritage with respect to the kinds of issues that are raised in this motion. As the mayor of a former municipality, I was able to reflect back on many of the legions and their sites that they had looked after for many decades.

We all know that across the country there are amalgamations and consolidations of municipalities, and some of the things that are very sacred fall through the cracks, such as our heritage sites and the preservation of war memorials. In my area, there was a little war memorial that had been maintained by the town of Weston in Little Avenue Memorial Park. Every year, the students and the town fathers, along with the community and the veterans' associations, would go up to Little Park and have their Remembrance Day programs. As I have indicated, over the years and the decades fewer people have been going to the park to the extent that the war memorial, after the town of Weston became part of the borough of York, was maintained by the borough of York as part of a broader number of war memorials.

As time went on, some of those war memorials were forgotten or were not maintained to the extent that they should have been as the number of veterans in the veterans' associations in fact themselves diminished in numbers. The result was that when the Town of Weston merged with the borough of York and the borough of York then merged with the City of Toronto, this huge city then had to maintain all of the war memorials against all the circumstances I have outlined.

That one little war memorial, sacred to the memory of the young men and women who names were inscribed in all the churches in Weston, who came from families who have long since gone but whose names we look at and reflect on in church, fell into disrepair.

To the credit of the community and the City of Toronto, there has been a renaissance and a rekindling of interest in these war memorials. Thank God for that. Now, the war memorial in Little Park, with the old sword ingrained in the limestone, is being refurbished in a manner and to a state that we as Canadians and the people of Weston and the people of Toronto should expect would be the manner in which we would maintain that war memorial.

These are not hollow symbols. These war memorials across this country in little parks, hamlets, villages, towns and large cities are absolutely fundamental in their symbolism of what we have received as the heritage and legacy from the sacrifice of those young men and women. They are not to be treated lightly.

I was so pleased that the member for Tobique—Mactaquac was speaking on this subject. I was very interested in hearing the concerns raised by others on both sides of this House. I think Canadians will feel that we have now come around to once again being sensitized to how important this legacy is.

I ask members to think of how many times we have heard these words:

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old;Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.At the going down of the sun and in the morningWe will remember them.

This motion is an affirmation of everything in that exhortation. I know that all members will support the spirit and the substance of this motion.

VeteransPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In light of the cooperation that the last member just spoke of, I would certainly agree, and I think if you sought it you would find unanimous consent that this bill be passed at all stages today and moved along, that the question be put, the vote taken and deemed done, because of 2005 being the year of the veteran and so on. This would be a great way to kick-start that. I know all members would give unanimous consent to that.

VeteransPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

May I remind the hon. member that we are dealing not with a private bill but with a motion.

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent of the House to present the motion?

VeteransPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


VeteransPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

An hon. member


VeteransPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hour provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House resumed from December 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, an act to provide financial assistance for post-secondary education savings, be read the third time and passed.

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12:05 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to participate in the debate on third reading of Bill C-5, an act to provide financial assistance for post-secondary education savings.

A weekend has passed since several of my colleagues had an opportunity to very ably address the bill in debate on Friday and I want to say how appreciative I am of their contribution to that debate. Perhaps we need to take just a moment to remind ourselves that Bill C-5 is an act to provide financial assistance for post-secondary education savings, the stated purpose of which is to encourage the financing of children's post-secondary education through saving from early childhood in registered education savings plans.

On the face of it, one might ask how anybody could not be in favour of people setting aside savings for the future education of their young people if they are in a position to do so. Nobody in their right mind could be opposed to that.

The difficulty with the bill and the reason why the New Democratic Party will not vote in support of the bill is that it is fundamentally flawed.

It is fundamentally flawed because it takes the approach that what is really needed in order to make sure that young people can access our post-secondary education system is just for their families to act more responsibly and, in order to get them to act more responsibly, the government needs to put some money out front, a small number of dollars, a token in terms of the actual cost of post-secondary education, and then families will act more responsibly.

They will learn from this because it is an important symbol. The government is saying that post-secondary education is so important that it is prepared to put some money into people's pockets to take out a registered education savings plan and that will take care of the educational needs of their children in the future.

This is a false signal, because of course the real problem with post-secondary education is that for yesterday's students, they are now crippled with debt. For today's students, their educational quality of experience is being eroded because they are so desperately trying to work at part time and underpaid jobs, which robs them of attending classes and getting assignments done and so on to pay for the privilege of being there, or they are having to drop out because the debt load has become so great that they simply cannot carry on.

Even for tomorrow's students the problem is not solved with the bill that is before us, because tuition is going up and up, the government has massively eroded its commitment of dollars to post-secondary education, and students simply are not able to get into the system in the first place in many cases.

Why? Because the government's commitment--and not the commitment of low income families who are supposed to be the target of the bill and who are supposed to be able to solve the problem by pulling savings out of their pockets--to post-secondary education is woefully inadequate. It represents doublespeak by the government. It is constantly reminding young people of the importance of post-secondary education to their future, which of course is absolutely true, but then the government acts so irresponsibly that it makes that post-secondary education virtually inaccessible for large numbers of students.

I know it is a subject for another day and it is certainly a subject when it comes to the budgetary priorities of the government as we go into the next budget, but the reality is that the government has so massively and unilaterally withdrawn dollars from post-secondary education that we have sent exactly the wrong signal to all Canadians about whether it is really important or not.

The result is that we have students faced with crippling debts. As an outstanding student leader in my own riding said during a debate in the recent election, what used to be a student crisis has now become a family crisis for a great many people in this country, especially low and modest income families, and I want to say especially families that live in the least prosperous areas, because it becomes part of an out-migration policy of our youth.

I know that one of our elected members from Cape Breton absolutely understands this: that not having adequate funding for post-secondary education at the public level becomes a deportation policy from rural areas, from remote areas and certainly from Cape Breton. I have to say that one of the most eloquent presentations before the human resources committee on this bill came from the spokespersons for and the representatives of the students at Cape Breton college, the University College of Cape Breton. I apologize for tripping over that name; unbelievably, I understand that UCCB is in the process of stripping “Cape Breton” out of the name. But that is another topic.

I want to get to what it is about the bill that is so absolutely flawed, and it borders on the immoral. The rhetoric, the flourish around the bill is it is about helping low income students first and foremost. This is simply a number's crunch that will lead to the conclusion shared with the committee, and particularly by an outstanding Quebec economist who gave us the numbers, that this is a bogus bill because the principal beneficiaries of it would be those earning over $70,000 a year.

It is no good for government members to get up as they have and say that is not the intention of the bill. They say that the intention of the bill is to help those in the lowest income category. If that is its intention, it does not live up to its billing. It does not deliver on its intentions. In that sense, it is fundamentally flawed, dishonest and it is immoral. Bill C-5 purports to do one thing, but it would do something different from that.

Students, from low income and modest income families across the country, who did their homework on the legislation, non-governmental agencies and community-based groups, whose resources and expertise are primarily allocated to helping low income families deal with the challenges they face to get into post-secondary educational institutions, came before the committee. With two exceptions only, every one of them said that the bill should be scrapped.

The reason given by those who spoke from the other three parties in support of the bill is that it would be better than nothing. Why? It is either the bogus claim that it will benefit low income families, which it will not, or in some ways worse still, it shows an impoverished state of mind and a lack of understanding of the problem.

I will not name any members when I say this, but I find it repugnant that several members said to me that they agreed with my analysis of the bill and that they had listened to all the witnesses who appeared before the committee who had said the bill should be scrapped. However, they admitted that they would not look good if it appeared they would not support giving money to low income people. I call that a lack of principle as well as a lack of leadership.

The voices that have expressed themselves in opposition to the bill and that have said to scrap it include, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Canadian Council on Social Development, the National Anti-Poverty Organization, the National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada and Low Income Families Together. The most stunning thing of all is the fact that the Bloc would support Bill C-5 in defiance of the eloquent, informed pleadings of la Fédération étudiante Universitaire du Québec, a group of highly informed students who represent the whole student body in the province of Quebec. These students also told us to scrap the bill because they felt it was offensive.

Another group from Quebec that also told the committee to scrap the bill was the Fédération des associations de familles monoparentales et recomposées du Québec, or in other words, the federation of single parent and blended family association.

The economist about whom I spoke briefly, André Lareau, a highly respected professor at Laval University, made it clear in his detailed analysis that the chief beneficiaries of Bill C-5 would be the highest income earners in Canada, not the lowest income earners.

Let me make one more plea. It is never too late to change one's mind. There is nothing weak-kneed or feeble-minded about changing one's mind in the face of the facts and the voices that came forward and who pleaded to scrap this bill. There is nothing wrong with changing one's mind in the face of the evidence.

This is what Ian Boyko of the Canadian Federation of Students said:

To begin with, we believe the learning bond will not get anywhere close to the heart of the problem. Just speaking in purely financial terms, the amount of money that low-income Canadians may accumulate under the learning bond will be wholly inadequate to cope with the rapidly increasing costs of colleges and universities in most jurisdictions. Until spiralling tuition fees are brought under control, the federal government is just throwing good money after bad money in student financial aid.

Let us remember that the majority of the OECD countries have tuition free post-secondary education. In addition to tuition free post-secondary education, there are a good many countries that are far less prosperous than Canada that also provide considerable financial support in terms of living costs and helping to cover related costs to post-secondary education.

This is what the national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations said, apparently falling completely on deaf ears in the House of Commons, except for the New Democratic Party caucus. He said:

The greatest problem of learning bonds, however, is that they place heavy expectations on low-income families that simply do not have the resources to contribute significant amounts annually to an RESP for each of their children. Even if families are completely aware of the benefits of saving for education, low-income Canadians cannot afford to save the necessary funds to pay for education funds while still putting food on the table. As we've said before, it's like giving a low-income family $500 and a Mercedes-Benz and expecting them to finance the rest of the car.

Finally, I want to quote from the very powerful testimony of the representative from the University College of Cape Breton. Jamie Crane is a woman leader at UCCB. She said:

Low-income families, even if they did have the time to invest in registered savings plans, would not be able to contribute huge sums each year. Add that to the small amount of $2,000 that the government would contribute in the Canada Learning Bond and we're not looking at an amount that would even allow a child of a low-income family, or even a middle-income family, for that matter, to get their foot in the door, considering the rate at which we know tuition is estimated to rise over the next 10 to 20 years.

One really ugly charge has been made about the student leaders in the country today, which includes the Canadian Federation of Students, CASA and the Quebec federation of students to which I have referred, Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec. That charge has been made by some of those who support the bill, but criticize the student leadership. They have said that they only care about themselves, that only care that they are facing crippling debts and that they are not willing to let the government introduce a bill that will, and let us be clear about this, only begin to benefit a student for the first time 18 years from now.

That completely ignores the fact that all the other education stakeholders who have spoken, who very much have a long term investment and interest in the post-secondary education system, have also condemned this bill as ill-conceived, inadequate and a false signal to Canadians that what needs to be done about the financing of post-secondary education is actually accomplished by this bill.

Furthermore, as I have already said, every one of the community-based organizations, the NGOs, the non-profits, the research bodies, whose sole focus is on the question of how to help give low and modest income families a leg up in meeting the challenges that they face in this world, have also condemned the legislation as flawed, inadequate and not supportable.

At the end of the day, I hope it is never too late to say to people that we are supposedly in a minority Parliament that is more receptive, not less receptive, and more responsive to hearing the voices of Canadians. We have heard overwhelmingly voices that have informed themselves on the bill. They have analyzed and experienced this. They have lived and breathed every day the challenges that students and their families of yesterday, today and tomorrow have faced and that their community have faced in trying to support them. They have all said to scrap this legislation. This is supposed to be a Parliament that is renewing democracy. How is it a signal that the democratic process is alive and well and more responsive today when just about every witness and those who have commented outside of the hearings before the human resources committee have said that the bill should not be supported?

The voices that have said to scrap this bill have not done so because they are unaware of what is needed for low income families to support their young people to get an education. The single parent and blended family association from Quebec is stunned that it does not have the support of the Bloc in its position. It has said that since access to quality education is one of the surest ways to fight poverty, it should be one of the federal government's priorities, coming well before tax benefits for the more affluent. However, the bill effectively is about a tax benefit primarily for the most affluent. Not that this is the intention. I see the impatience of some members, wondering how I can say that. I can say it because that is the fact of it. That is what the figures clearly indicate.

We know there are a great many low income families who are struggling now to figure out how to pay for their groceries and rent and at the same time have money left over to help pay for school supplies and equipment of their elementary, junior and senior high sons and daughters. They are trying to help support them through the education system.

I again implore members not to close their ears to the voices that have been speaking out and pleading with us to address the real problems with respect to access and crippling education debt for today's and tomorrow's post-secondary students.

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12:25 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity, now that we have the subject of post-secondary education before the House of Commons, to raise what I believe to be a critical issue with respect to the rising costs our young people face as they study in post-secondary institutions.

As the youngest member of Parliament in Canada, I am probably the most recent student of our university system. One of the greatest costs that we experience when we are students is actually a cost that many people do not know about at all. It is the cost of buying new textbooks year after year. Some students spend as much as $1,500 a year on textbooks. That is three, four or even five months' rent, depending on where the student finds housing.

I want to know what kind of a solution the hon. member has for reducing the cost of textbooks? In this particular context though, many of these books could easily be reused year after year through used book stores which many student associations have set up.

However, the publishers, along with the professors, have set in place a policy requiring students to buy new textbooks every single year. As a result, as students move from year one to year two, they cannot even sell the books that are now obsolete to them because a new edition is now required. This costs probably millions of dollars to students right across the country.

I am wondering if there is some sort of a solution that the hon. member across the way can propose to deal with this problem.

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12:25 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I think the cost of books is a huge issue and a huge burden. I appreciate the member raising the question.

However I must say that I find it surprising and I would welcome the member sharing the evidence that professors across the board in every university community are requiring students to buy new textbooks every year. I have to say that has not been my experience. I am not saying that there might not be some instances where a new textbook or perhaps a new version of a textbook is introduced and that students are being requested to buy the new book.

I am very proud and privileged to represent, I believe, a riding that has the highest number of post-secondary education institutions in the country. If other members want contest that and say that they are number one, that is fair enough. My riding of Halifax has seven universities and colleges.

I know for a fact that a great many students buy second-hand books. What is a particular nightmare is that many students cannot afford to buy books at all. A lot of students borrow and try to scrimp with notes and all the rest of it.

I would respectfully say to the hon. member, in answer to his question, that if those are the kinds of concerns he has he certainly should not be supporting this bill. This bill does absolutely nothing to deal with the nightmare for students and low income families who cannot begin to pay for the tuition, let alone the books, the lab equipment and whatever other requirements there are to support their educational experience.

I would be the first to support an initiative that would speak out loudly and address this very problem of books that may be required to be purchased new, when they should be, and in many instances are, available as second-hand books.

At the end of the day it is not getting at the fundamental issue, which is the inadequate funding of post-secondary education for our students of today and tomorrow, let alone 18 years from now, despite the stated intentions of the bill that we have before us that is so fundamentally flawed and should be scrapped. I hope the member will be voting against the bill given his concerns.

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12:30 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have difficulty understanding the position of the NDP and even more understanding the attack on us earlier by the hon. member.

I have difficulty understanding people's inability to see the need to fight a number of battles. Yes, the transfer payments for education need to be increased. We must also ensure that educational institutions have sufficient funds to purchase books and other supplies. We must ensure that families receive more money. However, when we have to fight for one of the measures that could ultimately encourage children of lower-income families to continue their post-secondary education, I fail to understand.

We must fight a number of battles. This is not the only one. At the very least, when an initiative is introduced to improve the future of the children from the most disadvantaged families, the NDP must not be opposed. The Liberals have become more socialist than the NDP. There comes a time when we have to get our priorities straight and we must not spit on an initiative by saying that it is only in 18 years.

Consider children who are two or three years old today with no future in terms of education. If we allow their families to hope that, in some respects, they could take advantage of such a plan, we should not spit on that hope. However, we must fight at the same time to improve the standard of living and cut taxes, for example for lower-income families, the highest percentage in the lower income tax brackets of all the G-7 countries.

This is the kind of thing we need to do. Clearly, federal transfer payments need to be increased, but we must not spit on something that could benefit lower-income families.

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December 6th, 2004 / 12:30 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will try to answer the member's question in two ways. First he says that if we were to add a room on to a house would that not be improving it. It could. However what is happening with our university infrastructure is that the foundation is crumbling and the walls are caving in. The libraries and laboratories in our universities are in trouble because of the lack of investment. The walls are falling down and the roofs are leaking.

Would this be the wisest investment? Yes, we could add a room but is it the wisest investment to add a room when the educational infrastructure is in such desperate shape?

My second comment may be perhaps more persuasive for the member. I probably will not do justice to André Lareau from Laval University when I quote him, but I want to remind the member of what this Quebec expert said on Bill C-5 in pleading for it to be set aside. He said:

However, one of the objectives of the tax system is to distribute wealth fairly. How can we justify a government financial assistance program that targets the well-off members of society?

To summarize, richer families are the big winners in the income splitting that results from the education savings plan. Furthermore, they benefit from these amounts because their children are less likely to have to work. We have a double impact that benefits upper income families.

I would not have thought that would be the position of the Bloc. I say, with no reservation and no hesitation, that one of the reasons that it is so shocking to see the Bloc supporting this flawed bill is that in the province of Quebec, under both Liberal and Péquiste governments, there has been an understanding of the comprehensive approach that is needed. In fact, we have the asymmetrical educational measures taken in Quebec, an approach that goes in the opposite direction to this one.

I hear in this member's question the same thing I am hearing, and dismays people so much, is that is it not better to do something than to do nothing. It is not better if the choice we are making of the something is the wrong choice, that there are other things that are more important in both the short term and the long term and certainly in the medium term to which the educational dollars ought to be directed.

I make that plea again, particularly for the Bloc members because I think Quebec, I do not want to go over the top here, has closer to a model of what is needed in the rest of the country. The only thing that has interfered with Quebec governments, the previous Péquiste government and the current Liberal government, from doing an even better job on supporting the educational needs of students, particularly access to post-secondary education, is the fact that the federal government still has not even replaced the massive unilateral cuts that it introduced, starting with the so-called 1995 budget.

I do not know why the Bloc would be voting for this bill.

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12:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?

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12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Education Savings ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members