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House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, I did ask my question, and I am waiting for an answer. Could she tell us if any of her Conservative colleagues complained about these cuts? This is part of her accountability to the House. Could she tell us what their ridings are, if they did?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, I have had numerous discussions with many of my colleagues. In fact, as we discussed these savings for Canadians, the vast majority of my colleagues were in favour, particularly once they understood what we were trying to do.

Not only that, but many of my Conservative colleagues came to me with examples of areas where the previous Liberal government had invested in programs, which fall within my department, where there was significant waste and where we should look for even more savings as responsible government.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, yesterday in committee, the minister agreed to instruct her officials to provide, in writing, details of all adult literacy program funding for her department for the fiscal year 2006-07. Where are they and why were they not provided before now?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, my recollection is that I did not commit, however, to do that within 24 hours. I know the hon. member asked for it. I do not recall agreeing to do that, but I would be happy to check the record and correct it if I did.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, just to be clear, is she saying she will not provide it, or will she provide it, and when?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, I thought I made it clear that I did not recall making that commitment. I do recall being asked for it. I would like to check the record, and if I am mistaken, then I will comply.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Will you do it?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, her time is up.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Halifax West does not rule whose time is up. The Chair does. The Chair will try to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance. I do not mind if there is back and forth, but interruptions within back and forth prevents the sharing of information.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, you will understand my frustration. I asked her a very clear question. Will she commit to provide the information? She did not answer. She talked about what she had already talked about before.

Will she please tell if she will provide the information that I asked for yesterday? I do not care whether she agreed to it or not at the time, but will she agree now to commit to provide the information?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, I was trying to answer except that I am afraid the hon. member did not hear me over the sound of his colleagues. I would be happy to provide that information just as quickly as we can get it ready.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Chair, in an OECD study of 14 member countries released in September, Canada now ranks dead last in spending on early childhood education. In light of this dismal state of affairs, could the minister explain how the monthly payoff of $100 constitutes the most effective program to develop the best and the brightest to compete in the global marketplace of the 21st century?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, the OECD study was done prior to this government taking office. It based its analysis on the previous Liberal government's investments in child care. Despite their best promises, we have doubled those promises for child care and early development. We are very pleased that Canadians are receiving the money now in the form of $1,200 a year for each child under the age of six.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Chair, the money they are spending is far less than the money the Liberals were spending. The fact that we are dead last, as of September 2006, suggests that we have stalled on this file.

The same study revealed that access to early childhood education in Canada was measured as negligible, ranking us with Greece and Mexico.

The Conservative government has been in power for eight months, plenty of time to improve access for our children. How many new child care spaces has the Conservative child care spaces initiative created to date?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, after 13 years we are still waiting to see the ones the Liberals promised.

I made it very clear to Canadians that our child care spaces initiative would take effect April 1, 2007. That is when the spaces will start to be created. We made that very clear from the start. That is why we provided transition funding to the provinces in the meantime.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Chair, the minister's first strategy was based on a $10,000 tax credit to entice businesses to create spaces. When it received no response from business and failed, she went to plan B and created a ministerial advisory council on child care spaces initiative.

Of the nine members on this council, how many are recognized as child care experts? How many run for profit day care operations or represent those who do? How many are from Quebec?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, I do not have the detailed bios of each of the members of the advisory committee at my fingertips I am afraid, or at top of mind. However, we were trying to find people who could advise us on what would best motivate businesses and community groups to create spaces.

Who better to ask than the groups we are trying to motivate? That is why we are consulting with them. They have a wide range of backgrounds, including the head of the YMCA, which is one of Canada's largest child care providers.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Chair, the government boasted that recent cuts to the department were made in an effort to trim the fat and provide taxpayers with value for money.

How much money does the government spend each year in mailing out the $100 cheques, cheques that are taxable, which the minister forgot to mention during the campaign and even afterward?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, we made it clear from the very beginning that the choice in child care allowance would be taxed in the hands of the lower income spouse. We have been upfront about that all along.

We have begun sending out the cheques, and I am pleased to report that the CRA has advised us that the vast majority of parents are moving rapidly to direct deposit so we will achieve even further economies on the administration of this program.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

There is no time left but because of the interruptions I will allow one more question.

The hon. member for Halifax West.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Chair, could the minister name each of the literacy groups she consulted with before she gutted this program? To be specific, which groups did she sit down with and ask how cuts would affect what they do?

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Chair, we make it a practice, my officials and I, to consult with a wide range of people on a wide range of subjects. Many of those consultations are private in nature and, out of respect for the privacy of those individuals consulted, I would prefer not to provide that list at this point in time.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

The time for the official opposition definitely has ended now. Most members who are in the committee of the whole at this time were in the House a little earlier when the Acting Speaker did not hear certain things that should have happened.

Let us make sure that the Chair of this committee at this time hears everything that he must hear. That can best happen with less heckling. It is most important to the work of this committee that the Chair does a good job and the Chair can do a better job if he hears all the relevant information on both sides. Please, I ask you, less heckling.

The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Chair, I am sure we all appreciate your efforts to keep decorum in the House.

I rise in my place today to speak to the 2006-07 main estimates. Canada's new government brought together many of the key levers for Canada's economic and social future. It combined the former Department of Human Resources and Skills Development with the former Department of Social Development and also gave me responsibilities for CMHC.

I am very pleased to head a department that has a broad impact on Canadians, an impact on our economy and on our society. We have a vision for Canada based upon the values of Canadians: protecting the vulnerable; emphasizing the family as the key building block of a strong society; championing hard work to get ahead and the importance of learning and skills in the workplace; encouraging individuals to make choices for their own future; and, carefully managing hard-earned money.

It is an honour to have been entrusted by the Prime Minister to oversee this ambitious and large ministry, which employs over 24,000 Canadians across the country and has planned spending of nearly $80 billion. As its mandate centres on helping Canadians, nearly 95% of this spending goes directly to Canadians through statutory benefits such as employment insurance and old age security.

The remaining funds support programs that help Canada and Canadians succeed, help children get the best possible start, help develop skills for the 21st century and , help seniors and Canadians with disabilities take an active role in their communities. In pursuit of these objectives, Canada's new government is taking bold steps to strengthen our programming in concrete, meaningful ways.

For families, some 1.4 million families are receiving a universal child care benefit for every child under six. We are working with partners across the country to find ways to create real, flexible child care spaces.

For students, we are expanding eligibility for Canada student loans. We are eliminating federal income tax on scholarships and bursaries. We have created a new textbook tax credit. This is a total investment of an additional $390 million over two years.

For post-secondary education, we have transferred $1 billion in the post-secondary education infrastructure trust that the provinces and territories will spend in modernizing libraries, laboratories, classrooms and other infrastructure projects.

For Canadians in need of housing, we have provided a one time strategic investment of $1.4 billion for the establishment of three housing trusts with the provinces and territories for affordable housing, northern housing and for aboriginals living off reserve.

For the homeless, we extended the national homelessness initiative to the end of March 2007 and invested an additional $37 million from funds unspent by the previous government. Now we are looking at ways in which we can support the homeless in the future.

For skilled workers, we provided an apprenticeship incentive grant and a tools tax credit for those who want to pursue careers in skilled trades. For older workers, we have a targeted initiative to help the unemployed older workers in vulnerable communities get new jobs.

For seniors, we have increased the pension income credit to $2,000. Over the next two years this will put 900 million additional dollars into their hands.

For all Canadians, the Service Canada delivery network now reaches more communities. The number of service points has increased by 157, for a total of 477. In its first year of operation, Service Canada paid about $70 billion in benefits to nearly eight million Canadians.

In delivering these programs, Canada's new government is committed to respecting the hard-earned dollars of Canadian taxpayers. We are committed to reflecting the true priorities of Canadians and we are committed to providing value for money and to delivering real results.

On January 23, Canadians voted for the end of an era of waste and mismanagement. Canadians voted for the end of a tired and corrupt government that had so many priorities that it actually had none.

Canadians voted for a new government that is about respecting Canadians, achieving results and strengthening accountability. Canadians expect their hard-earned tax dollars to be invested in effective programs that meet their needs. We are committed to making our spending transparent, disciplined and accountable. We are consulting with provinces, municipalities and stakeholders to ensure we are moving in the right direction and building effective partnerships to ensure success.

For instance, on the recognition of foreign credentials, we are working with provinces, business, academia and interested organizations.

As we move forward with our child care spaces initiative, we are getting ideas and advice from business, communities and the real child care experts, Canadian parents.

We are consulting the provinces on national objectives, roles, responsibilities, accountability and results for post-secondary education and training.

This brings me to another key area in which our spending priorities are different from those of the previous government. Canada's new government respects provincial jurisdiction. We are committed to ensuring that federal programs do not encroach upon areas that are rightfully provincial matters. Our goal is to work with the provinces and territories to provide the most effective use of taxpayer money.

Canada's new government recognizes that there is only one taxpayer. We recognize that it is the same taxpayer that pays to the federal, provincial and municipal governments. We owe it to that taxpayer not to compete with one another for jurisdiction.

However, the bottom line for my department is that within our mandate and jurisdiction we invest in people.

Our investments are aimed at ensuring that our labour force can meet the challenges of the 21st century. We will make investments so that individuals will have the opportunity to make choices that will equip them with the skills to have productive and rewarding lives, while participating in our economy and society.

This includes helping the most vulnerable in our society. For example, we are working with partners to find the most effective ways to enhance the inclusion and participation of Canadians with disabilities.

We are examining the most effective ways to address the needs of the homeless, while recognizing the importance of addressing the root causes of homelessness.

Investing in people also includes ensuring that Canada has a skilled and capable workforce for the 21st century.

We are in an enviable position. This became clear over the past month as I had occasion to compare Canada's performance with my OECD counterparts in Toronto and my G-8 colleagues in Moscow. In my consultations, I was able to point out that the state of Canada's labour market is strong. We are in the midst of our best labour market outlook in decades. Our overall participation rate for workers of nearly 80% is one of the highest in the G-8 and our unemployment rate is at a 30-year low.

In spite of this, Canada's new government recognizes that we cannot be complacent. We have an aging workforce. Global competition places new demands on knowledge and skills and skilled labour is in short supply.

While Canada has a highly flexible and adaptable workforce, not every community or every individual can adapt to this environment. We will work to remove barriers to work and ensure appropriate support for underrepresented groups, such as aboriginal people, recent immigrants and people with disabilities. By doing so, we will have a sufficient quantity of workers to meet the needs of our economy.

We are also providing significant support for skills training and post-secondary education to ensure that Canada has a quality workforce to compete globally. We will promote an efficient national labour market so that employers can find the skilled workers they need and so that workers can pursue opportunities throughout Canada.

Our vision is of a strong, vibrant and diverse Canada, a Canada where individuals have the skills and opportunities to participate in the economy and society and to live productive and rewarding lives.

We are taking real steps to achieve that vision. All the while, we are committed to remaining accountable to Canadians by listening to their concerns and spending their tax dollars wisely.

This is the foundation we are building on and that is the legacy we wish to leave for generations to come.

Human Resources and Skills Development—Main Estimates 2006-07Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, I listened to the minister with great interest. She used words such as “invest in people”, “most vulnerable”, “recent immigrants”, “foreign credentials” and “working with provinces”.

My question is very simple. I wonder if the minister could give us an update as to the work that her department has done in recognition of foreign credentials, not pretty words, but specific.

I would refer the minister and some of her officials who are here to a symposium on December 9 of last year that was going to take in all the provinces and all the stakeholders in order to work toward the recognition of foreign credentials. I wonder if the minister could bring us up to speed on what her department has been doing since then, if anything, in moving toward the recognition of foreign credentials.