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House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was education.

Topics

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague asks what we will do for future generations. We want to educate them. We want to create structures so that young people can build a strong Canada and find solutions.

In the past four months, we have found several solutions. We have just got here. We have done many things in four months and we will continue to do so. We want to go ahead, not stop, and find solutions so that our young people are proud of our Canada and so that they can find ways of succeeding in this world with the best possible tools that we can give them through education.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, again, I did not hear a single specific suggestion on how we are going to ensure that the young people of today can access education to take advantage of the new 21st century economy.

How is the government going to allow for students to get into university or college when tuition has increased 100% and when many of them are dropping out of educational institutions because they cannot possibly manage to keep up with their payments and financial demands? What specific suggestions does the minister and the government bring to the table to improve access for students to college and university education?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, we have put effective measures in place. I think that $500 to help every post-secondary student buy textbooks helps a bit. Making the first $3,000 of bursary and scholarship income tax exempt is also important. What we want to do is help these children go further in life. We will keep doing it, and we are proud of it.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to debate the motion put forward by the hon. member for Halifax West. It recognizes that Canada's growth and prosperity are advanced by a number of key factors. Among these are measures to help newcomers and others integrate successfully into the workplace.

In citing various global and demographic challenges we face today, the motion reminds us that immigration must be a vital part of any plan devised to respond to them. It reminds us that when immigrants succeed in our society, we all succeed.

It is notable that the member for Halifax West's own party presided over a period when immigrants saw a marked decline in outcomes for their earnings and livelihood. At the beginning of the 1980s, two-thirds of skilled immigrants earned more than the Canadian average income within a year of coming here. Under the Liberal government, that 66% success rate fell to just 4%.

I would like to highlight a number of investments the government has made to assist newcomers in the workplace. They are precisely the kind of focused initiatives for which the hon. member calls.

First, Canada's immigration policy and immigration system is far more than a means of bringing newcomers to Canada. Getting them here is only one side of the coin, only one-half of the job. The other half is ensuring their successful integration once they arrive here.

The government has a fundamental role in helping newcomers adjust to their new homeland and ensuring they become productive and responsible citizens when they get here. It is not just to be in Canada, but it is also about succeeding and making Canada a part of their home and also feeling part of Canada.

Our immigration system exists to serve the interests of all Canadians in all regions and communities, in all sectors for all Canadians. It is for this reason that we continue to work on a fair and sensible immigration plan that works for Canada. The government moved quickly, after taking office, to implement a number of specific immigration measures. These measures were needed immediately to advance an immigration program that would work for our country.

In addition, the new Conservative government has acted to bring forward measures that “strengthen skills, job-readiness and successful workplace participation...among new immigrants”, to use the exact wording of the motion put forward by the hon. member for Halifax West.

Canada's economy is strong and thousands of jobs are being created. However, there is also a growing concern that vacant jobs in key sectors in regions are not being filled as quickly as employers need or sometimes are not filled at all. The solution is not technological or organizational. It is more than that. It is people, our greatest human resource. People have to be the centre of this agenda. To be successful, we have to make full use of the diverse talents and skills of all members of our society. They need to be what they can be. They need to become what they can become and contribute in a positive fashion to our society.

It is obvious that Canadian employers must be able to draw on the full range of their employees' skills, including assisting with their employees' skills upgrading. They must also be able to hire the additional workers they need and to do so quickly in order to meet the demands of our ever growing economy.

As we all know, immigration has been a major part of our country's labour mix from the beginning of our history. It must continue to be part of our strategy in facing the future. Our governmental plan is committed to making this so.

Through our permanent immigration program, we select skilled workers who have the training, education, language skills and work experience that will help them to make a contribution to Canada's longer term competitiveness.

The provinces and territories play an important role in this. Quebec selects its own skilled workers while the provincial nominee program helps other provinces and territories support the immigration of individuals who have the skills and other attributes needed by most provinces. Manitoba and my home province of Saskatchewan have shown leadership in the furtherance of the program and in the use of the program.

Still, there are urgent labour market needs that need to be addressed and they need to be addressed now. The temporary foreign workers program has been used to bring workers from other countries to Canada to fill jobs on a temporary basis when there is no one available to do the job in Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada is working closely with colleagues from Human Resources and Social Development to make this program work better for all Canadians.

Furthermore, the provincial nominee program could be used more extensively by the provinces and territories. We are prepared to work with any province that wishes to explore the greater use of this program.

In the recent 2006 budget, we delivered our commitment to cut in half the right of permanent residence fee from $975 to $490. This fee is a considerable burden for many immigrants at a time in their lives when every dollar counts. This fee reduction that we adopted would mean a $1,000 saving for a husband and wife coming to Canada; $1,000 they could use before finding that first job and money they could use to help start a new life in Canada. We said we would cut the right of permanent residence fee in half, and we did it. Budget 2006 delivers on that promise.

Budget 2006 puts an extra $307 million in settlement funding for new immigrants. This is over and above other recent increases. This money would go to the heart of improving outcomes for immigrants and to giving them opportunities to add to the success of our country.

Our budget earned praise from the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance as the first major increase in funding since 1995. This funding would go toward language training, help with job searches, skills upgrades, suitable housing and other programs, things that would make newcomers successful and integrate successfully in our society and country.

Canada has a variety of existing programs to assist newcomers in settling into their communities.

The immigration settlement and adaptation program focuses on various needs, particularly during the first year, including orientation abroad and in Canada. Our host program connects immigrants with people in their communities who provide a personal touch in assisting them. Through the language instruction for newcomers to Canada considerable resources are allocated for the provision of basic language training to help newcomers integrate more rapidly into their new society.

As well, the minister recently announced that foreign students in our universities and colleges would be allowed to compete for off-campus jobs on a level playing field with their Canadian peers. We estimate approximately 100,000 students would be eligible to participate in this initiative in all parts of Canada.

This program would increase Canada's attractiveness as a destination for students. International students bring more than $4 billion to our economy each year. We want to attract and retain these highly-educated people to Canada. The program would give international university and college students the ability to work off-campus and help them participate in Canadian society. This would also allow foreign students to gain valuable Canadian experience that would benefit both them and us.

These are initiatives the government has introduced quickly in taking office. They have been introduced to make Canada's immigration program one that works better for Canada, one that would advance the objectives that are at the heart of the motion here before us.

These measures help to strengthen the job readiness and workplace participation of newcomers that is the very intent of the hon. member's motion. There are already programs in existence that realize these objectives, such as enhanced language training.

Through Citizenship and Immigration Canada's enhanced language training initiative, $20 million goes toward an integrated service for immigrants that provides labour market levels of language training coupled with employment supports such as internships, skills and educational assessment, mentoring, workplace cultural orientation, preparing for licensing exams, and information on how to access professions. This is in addition to approximately $130 million a year the government spends on basic language training.

In conclusion, I have provided an overview of the targeted initiatives taken to advance workplace participation among immigrants. Most of them are the result of the action our government has taken to improve our immigration program. These improvements are serving the interests of Canada by better serving the needs of newcomers and the requirements of employers in the workplace.

I am sure members would agree that these targeted initiatives fulfill the objectives of the motion put forward by the hon. member for Halifax West.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for taking part in the debate on my motion. I enjoyed listening to his comments.

When we talk about post-secondary education, which of course is a fundamental element of any innovation or economic productivity agenda for this country, we must recognize that we are looking at a situation where the last government was putting $2.75 billion into access to education and financial assistance for students.

What is the new government offering in its budget in return after that? It cancelled all that. It is offering an $80 tax credit for text books. It is laudable that it is not going to tax scholarships, but of course an awful lot of students do not have scholarships. An awful lot of low income and moderate income students do not have scholarships. That $80 is not going to go very far and is not going to help them pay their tuition in September when it is time to pay and start university.

When I asked the minister this same question earlier and about the importance of post-secondary education, as usual she turns to skills training. It is important but it is an entirely different topic. The question on one hand is what is the government doing for real about access to education and why is it not really doing anything?

The other thing of course is that in relation to skills training, what has the government done? It has cancelled the labour market partnership agreements that the last government signed with Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Each of those provincial governments signed agreements that have been cancelled. It is a bit like Kyoto and particularly Kelowna.

This morning in the human resources committee, a Conservative MP said that the answer to unemployment in Atlantic Canada is to move unemployed people to Alberta. I did not get an answer to this earlier from the minister, but is that the government's policy on unemployment in Atlantic Canada?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, first, that has little to do with immigration, but when we look at the budget and what we have introduced, we have over 24 tax cuts that will help every segment in our society. These tax cuts will reduce the tax burden of many Canadians, a tax burden that has increased year after year making it nearly impossible for Canadians to survive in Canada.

We have reduced the burden on many Canadians so that they can go forward and start working. We have helped every family that has a child under six by investing $1,200 for everyone to have not only a relief in their tax burden but some money to help them to go forward.

We have helped families that want to be part of their child's education, to allow the child to make application for funding when we increased the amount of the income that can be considered by parents.

We have done a number of things that bring skills training to our Canadian people. We have also done a lot to bring people in who have skills. We set up the foreign credential assessment committee to ensure that the skills are appropriately matched.

We have also found that because there is such a demand for labour and skills training within our country, we are using every means we can to enhance that within our country and to ensure we can bring in others to make those economies, that are growing speedily, to have the people and the resources needed to continue to go forward in our country.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the backlog in immigration applications has gone up yet again. When the former government was leaving office, the backlog was around 700,000 applications. Now it is up to 826,000 applications, so it is steadily increasing and we have seen no progress.

In fact, the new Conservative government has cancelled the deathbed backlog money that the former government announced back in November of a $700 million contribution to work toward reducing the pile from 700,000 applications down to 500,000 applications.

I would ask the parliamentary secretary, what is this new government's plan to deal with the backlog? We have not heard anything yet. We have seen a cancellation of money but there is nothing in its place. What is it going to do about the huge backlog in immigration applications?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that under the former Liberal government there were no increases in funding to the degree that we see in this particular budget and immigration levels were not increased as promised. The Liberals made significant promises and said they would attain certain goals, like 1% of the population. They had many applications come in but did very little to actually increase the intake into Canada.

We have taken an approach where we are going to ensure first of all that we have the capacity and ability to intake and process efficiently to ensure that can happen. We have added 33% or more to the existing budget and we are looking at not only efficiencies but also ensuring that those who arrive in our country are able to integrate into our society appropriately and become contributors in the way it was meant to be.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will share my time with my colleague and friend, the member for North Vancouver.

I would like to congratulate the member for Halifax West and thank him for introducing this motion. It is obviously a large motion, and it is also extremely inclusive. It has vision. I am especially proud to participate in this debate today because the day before yesterday, I reached a milestone in my personal life: I completed my studies for an executive MBA. That is exactly the kind of debate we are having today. We have to see and understand that our planet is a global village. There are some challenges related to globalization: productivity and competitiveness do not just affect the economy, they also affect society. We must have a vision that enables us to maintain our social conscience. I do not agree with Thomas L. Friedman, who wrote that The World is Flat. We have to protect our way of life. As the saying goes, we must “think globally, act locally”.

Today, we must look at the facts and at what will happen between now and 2026. I was very proud to serve as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration under the Liberal government for two and a half years. The department is very important because it is very much the department of Canada. We had the opportunity to make a series of decisions that enabled us to chart a course for the future. My NDP colleague asked a question earlier.

It is a living thing, so we have to be very careful. It is an ongoing issue. We need to be vigilant and ensure that we do not create other burdens.

However, by 2026 our demography will depend only on immigration. It is very important that any kind of decision taken for the future sends a clear message. If we need those people to help our own demography, we must ensure that we are choosing the right way to do so and the right process, and also to ensure that those people know that this is a great nation and that we will be there to help them at the same time.

It is urgently important to realize that, in the next five years, we will be lacking a million skilled workers. That does not mean, as some unfortunately suggested at the time, that we are not looking in our own backyard for the people we need. Despite all of the work we are doing, we unfortunately lack a million skilled workers.

So what do we do? I think we need to have short-, medium- and long-term vision. We must in fact ensure that we have a strategy, a policy that will enable us to respond to this particular situation, but we also have a duty to ensure that all policies are inclusive. Those policies must enable us not only to examine, in the medium and long terms, the ways that we assist our children and those who have to change jobs, but also to offer these transitional and educational tools, whether in the technical field or in post-secondary education, to prepare for the future.

We also have to realize that Canada is not just Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. We must have an urban strategy, and also a rural strategy. We must send a clear message that, when skilled workers are needed, the regions will be considered. We need regionalization and retention tools. It is not enough to send someone to work in a certain place; we must also find a decent way of doing so—this is a necessity—so that person can put down roots in an environment where it is good to live. We must be able to give that person the necessary tools to bring his or her family there, so they can put down roots in the community.

I have had some extraordinary experiences. I remember, as a minister, personally signing an agreement with the government of the Northwest Territories. We can have a selective immigration strategy that allows us to meet certain glaring needs. They have full employment in the Northwest Territories. The diamond industry is an exceptional industry. The diamonds of the Northwest Territories and northern Alberta will be legion, and will far surpass in quality those of South Africa.

However, there is one major problem. It is not just a matter of prospecting and mining, but we also need specialized tradespeople, the diamond cutters. We were unable to get them; there were none available locally. With certain immigration measures, in collaboration with the Government of the Northwest Territories, we targeted certain needs and went and found 13 diamond cutters. If I recall correctly, they came from Armenia.

At the same time—and this is why the motion also refers to aboriginal peoples—we wanted an inclusive procedure so that people could not only find an ad hoc response to a problem or situation, but also develop an inclusive vision for the future. That way, the local people could also eventually benefit from these newcomers, develop work procedures with them, and so develop the industry and technology of diamond cutting.

We created a training centre. If memory serves, even members of the aboriginal community were able to participate in it. We have this tool for renewal which allows us to develop a technology from which the local people can benefit.

I was speaking earlier about rural communities as compared to urban communities. It must be noted that 88% of new immigrants arrive in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. More than 60% of newcomers settle in Toronto. There are problems and needs in Moose Jaw, Calgary, Kelowna, the Atlantic provinces. That is why we need tools for development and immigration policies that will enable every region to find not only a way of meeting demographic needs for the future, but also of responding to this competition and productivity.

Today, knowledge is wealth. Wealth is having people who are able to produce and to meet the challenges presented by South Asia, for example. If we do not have the tools we need, we will still be able to draw on old victories, but we will never have the capacity to grow and to flourish. That is why we need tools.

In committee, we met with the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development. She has a crucial job to do, the job of identifying and recognizing needs.

However, there is an exceptional program for temporary workers. People who are familiar with agriculture will know that in Quebec and Ontario, particularly, there are temporary six-month contracts. We have signed agreements with Guatemala and Mexico, for example, that allow those people to come here for six months to work, to harvest crops and do the packaging work. They then go back home, but they can come back.

We could do exactly the same thing for other occupations We could admit doctors and health care professionals, obviously by agreement with the professional associations. For example, if we needed a doctor in Flin Flon, we could give a foreign resident a temporary contract. That person would bring his or her entire family, the person’s qualifications would be recognized, and he or she would be accepted via a single window. The person would come to work for five years as a doctor in Flin Flon. At the end of the five years, he or she would be given permanent residence and the citizenship process would be expedited.

What would such a program do? It would mean that roots would be put down, that the community would be able to work and the residents would be able to stay in their own part of the country. The exodus does not consist of young people alone. Some people need specialized health care that is not available in some areas. They must therefore move to large centres to receive that care.

By adopting this kind of policy, I think we can get results.

Obviously, we will still have to work in cooperation with our partners. I was the first one to sign a unanimous agreement with all of the provinces and territories. We have always provided a warm welcome to immigrants. We need only think back to what was done by Clifford Sifton. We had never really had a federal-provincial conference with all of the partners. What we did was to sign a unanimous agreement.

Regardless of what government is in power, regardless of what the Conservative government may try to do to pat itself on the back for coming up with the best inventions since sliced bread, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. All that needs to be done is to ensure that things are running smoothly. The ingredients are there; what needs to be done is to make the decisions and allocate the resources needed.

The motion by my colleague from Halifax West must be given broad support. This is not a matter of partisanship, it is a matter of making choices, as a society, for our country.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to hear my colleague's comments. He mentioned that the economy is a social issue. It is all well and good to say this from the opposition benches.

They could have taken action with respect to competition from Asia and the closing of industries—for example, the textile industry—by implementing POWA, which the Bloc Québécois has been requesting for years. These are social measures. Instead, the entire textile industry has been left to close, since the CANtex program did not meet the needs of the population.

I would like to ask the hon. member a question about a plan to help rural areas. In Quebec, there are CLDs that are very close to communities, and there are rural development budgets that are often too tight to support the industries and various projects on the go in the area.

Could the government not adapt its programs, such as Economic Development Canada, and decentralize budgets, such as the CFDC budgets, so that they may be more accessible to project developers in rural areas? Should it not also be supporting agriculture more?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a good knowledge of the riding of Berthier—Maskinongé. Being from Saint-Alphonse and a native of Joliette, I know the Lanaudière area quite well.

The member knows full well that my roots are there and that I am extremely sensitive to the need for a rural strategy. In my view, the government at the time invested in structural economic measures: the CFDCs, CEDCs and so on.

With competition and globalization, we have to make decisions that are sometimes difficult. Did we do enough through adaptation measures? Have some people paid a price for globalization? Most definitely.

I agree with the hon. member. We have to invest more, and we have to send a message that quality of life is also a rural concern. Every time we make a decision, we have to remember the people who live in the regions. That is why the government of the day increased CED's budget. Not only is it important to us, but issues of attitude and culture are important to us as well. We created a department to make sure we had the necessary tools. It is much more than an agency.

Unfortunately, the member's party voted against that bill. I know that this is not a partisan issue. I endorse some of what my colleague said: every time we take a position, we need to emphasize adaptation. There was the POWA for older workers. We need to provide workers with tools, especially as our society becomes steadily older. There is no obvious solution. I agree completely with the hon. member that when we talk about employment measures, employment insurance, measures that will help workers adapt and transition to new jobs, we have to keep rural communities in mind, otherwise the whole country will not be reflected.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know that the member was a former minister of citizenship and immigration.

The motion today talks about successful workplace participation and includes immigrants, but there is a huge group of people who work in Canada and contribute to the economy who do not have the proper documentation. They are undocumented workers. There has been talk in the past, certainly the former minister of citizenship and immigration, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, talked about a regularization program being one of his six priorities as minister.

The first time the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration appeared before the standing committee, I asked him what was under way at the department, what had been under way, was there a plan being developed around regularization, was any work being done, was there money being set aside in the budget. The new minister said that no, nothing had been done and nothing was under way.

I want to ask the minister why are we ignoring the important contributions by these 100,000 to 200,000 people in Canada? When will we see an important program to regularize their ability to participate in our workplace?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his extremely important question.

Unfortunately, the current minister has once again stooped to partisan politics.

I remember, I worked with some unions from the Toronto area at the time to see if we could take a look at the situation of undocumented workers. It is a problem. It is a situation. We put in place an adaptability pilot project together with the Department of Human Resources. Nonetheless, I think the concept, or the primary principle—to me anyway—must be known and must be the following: we live in an inclusive society. We are generous, but we need not be naive either.

In other words, as a Canadian citizen, and as the former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I would never accept having general amnesty measures put in place. We must find another solution.

As I was saying at that time, we should have our own clusters, take care of those issues one by one in a fast track situation. It is nonsense for those people who have lived here for the last 10 to 20 years, who have been working but are undocumented and there are some issues and some problems.

That is the reason we wanted to create that template with some of the unions. It was to make sure that we identified them, but not in a way like delation. It was truly based on making sure that we take care of--

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am sorry, but the time for questions and comments is over. On debate, the hon. member for North Vancouver.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House to speak to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Halifax West.

I will focus my remarks on the section of the motion that calls on the government to make focused and immediate investments to reduce financial barriers that now stand in the way of students seeking greater access to post-secondary education, including, most particularly, grant programs aimed at offsetting the high cost of tuition.

The critical importance of higher education is clear, not only for the economy but for individual achievement, advances in research and Canada's competitiveness in the knowledge based global economy.

Let us compare the current government's support for post-secondary education to that of the previous Liberal government. The differences are huge and highlight the divide between the two parties on this issue.

Liberals are committed to creating an opportunity for every Canadian to succeed by ensuring that Canadians of all incomes have access to first class education and opportunities. We were doing this by working with the provinces and territories to reduce financial barriers to post-secondary education through a range of grants, loans, tax and savings support programs.

The previous government contributed almost $9 billion annually to support post-secondary education through programs and transfers to students, institutions, provinces and researchers. However, we were prepared to go further. A re-elected Liberal government was set to increase this very substantial commitment by more than $4 billion in new resources over the next five years. I was proud of the measures in our election platform to increase access to post-secondary education. I would be happy to run on these policies again.

I will now outline the areas in which our party would have moved forward by increasing federal funding in the following areas.

First, the is fifty-fifty. A Liberal government would have paid one-half of an undergraduate's first year and graduating year tuition to a maximum grant of $3,000 in any year or a total of $6,000. This new fifty-fifty plan would have been available to any student pursuing a first degree or diploma from an accredited university, community college or other post-secondary program in Canada.

Qualifying students would have been those commencing undergraduate education beginning in 2007-08. The plan would have been delivered through the Canada student loan program. Currently, the governments of Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut do not participate in this program, so we would have had to work with them on alternate payment programs.

However, by providing the first payment at the beginning of a student's post-secondary education, the fifty-fifty plan would have provided families and students with the incentive to begin undergraduate studies. The second payment would have provided an additional incentive for students to complete their programs.

Since the fifty-fifty plan would have been available only for study in Canada, it would have given young Canadians a further incentive to support schools in our country.

The fifty-fifty plan was expected to have a net cost of roughly $1.9 billion to 2010-11 and $600 million per year when fully phased in, by which time it would have supported an estimated 750,000 students each year.

An example of the potential benefits of the fifty-fifty plan in North Vancouver would have been to students wishing to pursue a career in the growing film industry in British Columbia, an industry that contributes over $1 billion a year to the B.C. economy and over $100 million per year to the North Vancouver economy.

The Capilano College Film Centre, for example, offers a wide range of full time programs that prepares students for a variety of career paths in the film production industry. The largest of these, the motion picture production program, now offers second and third year programs designed specifically for emerging entrepreneurial filmmakers. The program has existed for only eight years and is already producing festival worthy films.

The costuming for the theatre and film program and the cinematography program also both have second year programs in development . For those who seek entry level craft training in the film business, the film centre also offers courses in lighting, grip and set dressing. The film centre is also the home of the apprenticeship programs, run in conjunction with the B.C. branch of the Directors Guild of Canada.

Another area in which our party would have moved forward was expanding of Canada access grants. In the 2004 budget the Liberal government created Canada access grants to make post-secondary education more accessible for children from low income families, generally those with incomes below $35,000 a year. The grant paid the first half of the first year tuition, capped at $3,000. This benefited more than 20,000 students.

A Liberal government would have extended the Canada access grant to be available for up to the full four years of undergraduate study. This extension would have cost approximately $550 million over the next five years and would have benefited a further 55,000 students. A student qualifying for a Canada access grant could not also receive the new fifty-fifty grant.

A Liberal government would have launched a comprehensive review of student financial assistance programs. In collaboration with the provinces and territories and other partners, the purpose of this review was to ensure student assistance programs continued to make post-secondary education accessible, and to identify areas where more support was needed.

One key area that would have been studied was access for students from middle income families and students with dependents to ensure they did not face insurmountable financial barriers. The review would have examined a range of potential measures such as grants, loans and ways to improve debt management, including reduced interest rates.

A Liberal government would have increased by 50% the support currently being given to the most promising masters and doctoral students in science, engineering and other disciplines through Canada graduate scholarships. The Liberal government established these prestigious scholarships in the 2003 budget, to be awarded through national competitions by the granting agencies to ensure a reliable supply of highly qualified personnel to meet the needs of Canada's knowledge economy. Canada graduate scholars also help renew faculty at Canadian universities who will be the research leaders of tomorrow.

Just this week I received a letter from a constituent of mine who was recently awarded a Canada graduate scholarship. His story not only puts a human face on this excellent program, but highlights the important research that is undertaken through the assistance that Canada graduate scholarships provide. He says:

I am writing you this letter to show my appreciation of the federal government's commitment to health care and health care related research. I am a graduate student at the University of British Columbia working towards a PhD degree in the department of Experimental Medicine. I was recently awarded a Canada Graduate Scholarships (GGS) Doctoral Award. I am very excited at the opportunities this award has and will continue to give me as I complete my degree.

I am working on a project where we are trying to better understand the differences present in the airways of patients who suffer from Asthma relative to those that do not. The overall goal is to develop a better understanding of the disease such that new treatments and therapies can be developed to improve the quality of life of those who suffer from asthma. The travel portion of the award will also allow me to present my research at international conferences which will permit the sharing of ideas and not only improve my work but will showcase some of the exciting work taking place in Canada with the help of the CIHR.

Thank you again, sincerely,

Ben Patchell

PhD Candidate

UBC/James Hogg iCAPTURE Centre

Another area in which our party would have moved forward was through the creation of the post-secondary educational innovation fund. Through this program, a Liberal government would have provided $1 billion to help modernize and improve post-secondary infrastructure, including teaching hospitals. The fund would have supported the acquisition of equipment, improved access for students with disabilities and enhance learning environments in northern and aboriginal institutions.

In the area of international study, and in order to create new opportunities for Canadians to study abroad and for more students to come to Canada, a Liberal government would have provided $150 million over five years to assist with the extra financial cost that international study entails. This initiative would have contributed to our objective of positioning Canada at the heart of global networks.

The Liberal Party's approach to post-secondary education was comprehensive and would have increased substantially the federal government's role in supporting students in all stages of post-secondary education.

The Conservative budget cancelled all of the above commitments made by the previous government, except the $1 billion in 2005-06 for provinces for investments in post-secondary infrastructure. In total, the Conservative budget cancelled funding worth $3.1 billion over five years, or over $600 million a year, and replaced it with $125 million a year for a tax credit for the cost of textbooks, providing only about $80 a year for a typical full time post-secondary student, $50 million a year for the elimination of taxation on scholarships and bursaries and $20 million a year for expanded eligibility for Canada student loans.

The Conservatives have clearly abandoned a wide range of programs that would have considerably increased access to post-secondary education. I am happy to therefore support the motion put forward by the hon. member for Halifax West.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I listened quite closely to the comments made by the hon. member. He continued on at great length about the commitments that the Liberals were going to make. I hope members will forgive me if I do not hold my breath waiting for any Liberal commitment that will ever be delivered after the last 13 years.

When we think about what has happened over the last 10 to 13 years, we had continual cuts to our health and social transfer, the dedicated education transfer was cut. While the Liberals might talk about this tuition thing, they was treating a symptom. In fact, one of the reasons tuition has gone up so much is because of deferred maintenance on the buildings at these universities.

Could the hon. member to comment how that band-aid would help and why he did not come up with real programs over the last number of years when the Liberals had an opportunity to deal with that deferred maintenance problem?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, during the last two years that I have had the privilege of being a member of the House, the development of the policies that the Liberal Party came up with and took into the last two elections, related to the commitments we made and the actions we took, were based on consultations and discussions with the various institutions.

For example, I sat for a year on the finance committee. We heard very clearly from those representing the institutions of higher education, post-secondary education, on what they needed and, more particular, what they needed in terms of assistance to students in the areas of tuition and scholarship programs. It was that area to which we felt a high priority to respond. Those were the programs and the commitments we made. In fact, our fiscal update indicated exactly what we were going to do.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member for North Vancouver when he identifies education as a key issue in developing an economy that takes us into the 21st century. I also agree with him when he says we have to do more as parliamentarians and as a government.

However, the problems we face today in education were in large part created by the Liberals. We are dealing now with a decade of cuts to education, starting with the 1995 budget when his government took $7 billion out of transfer payments. That had a huge impact on post-secondary education, and we still have not caught up to that point.

The suggestion by the Liberals to pay for part of the tuition costs in year one and year four is interesting, but it is an awfully small step given the serious situation. Four out of ten university students are unable to graduate on time because they have to drop courses in order to work. Sixty-six per cent of students are working an average of 19 hours a week. Three out of ten students resort to private bank loans or family loans because of inadequate government aid, and the stats go on and on.

The member cannot make up for past history, but is he at least prepared to commit his party now to reinstating the $1.2 billion which would take us back to at least 1993 when the cuts began under his government?

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and I both sat on the finance committee. I think we heard the same entreaties to government to respond in these areas.

I was not a member of the previous governments at that time, but I know by reading and studying the history that they were faced with the problem of a huge and growing national debt, with growing annual budget deficits. A determination was made that, to provide the healthy economic basis for the social programs, such as education, which were necessary, it was important to get the fiscal house in order, and the Liberal government did that.

Yes, some difficult measures had to be taken to have that come about, but that laid the groundwork for ongoing reductions of the national debt, eliminating the deficits and having eight years of surplus budgets. In fact, we are the only country in the G-8 to do so, a record of which we can be proud and for which we are envied.

I cannot speak for my party, but from discussions I have had with my colleagues, their commitment, as is mine, is to do all we can to ensure, as we indicated in our previous programs, to support a very healthy education program, as we do with health and as we do in a number of areas.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this motion today.

When I started reading the preamble of the Liberal motion, I found it interesting because it states:

That, in light of the rapid increase in the value of the Canadian dollar, high global energy costs, the overhang from huge budgetary and trade deficits in the United States of America, the rise of new economies such as China, India and Brazil—

These are all important aspects of the new economic reality. I was hoping there would be proposals at the end that would allow us to push this government that chooses not to intervene in anything and allows the market to function.

We even heard the Minister of Industry say that with the tax cuts, small businesses will be able to pull through. In reality, in today's competitive market, even if we reduce the taxes of a company that does not pay any because it does not make enough profit, then we are not really helping.

In the Liberal motion, the analysis at the start of their depiction of the situation is very interesting, but their recommendations show that they still have the same old bad habits. They make recommendations affecting provincial responsibilities in the areas of labour force training and post-secondary education. It is too bad that they include this kind of recommendation. That will force us to vote against the motion. The Liberal Party still wants to interfere in matters that are none of its business. It is too bad because the greatest danger we face today is the Conservatives’ laissez-faire approach to the economy.

I want to share my time with the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé, who will have the last 10 minutes.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

So we have two good speakers.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Thank you.

So I had reached the greatest danger currently facing the Quebec and Canadian economies: the laissez-faire approach of the Conservatives. There has never been such a fine demonstration of this as the minister’s appearance before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. He came to tell us that many issues in different sectors will be decided by the market. The government has policies to lower taxes, but it does not want to do anything else.

I was at the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology just a few minutes ago, where we were being told once again that the aeronautics industry needs assistance programs, like the old Technology Partnerships Canada, to help industry do basic research or commercialize its advanced research. But all we heard today was silence.

The Conservative government has quietly decided to allow the old program to end, without anything to propose in its place. We have no right just to let people wait. We need some news today because the investments made by multinationals and companies in these large industrial sectors are decided years in advance. In addition, the branch plants of the parent company in each country compete with one another and need the kind of clear messages that are nowhere to be found in the positions of the current government.

This is all the more the case in view of the fact that a two-tier economy is beginning to develop in Canada. There is the economy of the world of energy—the world of oil—where profits are very high and rising prices generate economic activity and even impact the value of the dollar.

Mr. Dodge, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, admitted in his presentation before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology that the factor that is making the dollar rise most at present is the pressure on energy prices. When we have as we do today a dollar that is up to 90 cents, people like Laurent Beaudoin, of Bombardier, and Perrin Beatty, of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, tell us that we must stop the rise of our interest rates because they are crippling the manufacturing industry in Quebec and Ontario, where these industrial sectors are the most concentrated.

The current non-interventionist attitude of the Conservative government will have its consequences. When the increase in energy prices slows down—this may happen in months or in years—it will be disastrous. The manufacturing sector will have disappeared. There will be a series of warehouses where people can go and get products made in the emerging countries and then distribute them. I can assure you, however, that a salary in a distribution company and a salary in a manufacturing company are not comparable. In the medium term, this will reduce buying power and will above all create unemployment among people who have dedicated 20 or 30 years of their lives to the economic activity of healthy businesses, and who earned their living from them.

And from one day to the next, they no longer have a job. We do not necessarily have proper training to offer them so that they can be reintegrated in the labour market. Often they can no longer be placed in other jobs. This is the situation facing us today. The Conservative laissez-faire industrial policy is the worst thing we could have in the present situation.

This sort of behaviour has been seen within the Quebec government, and the federal government should draw some conclusions from this. In fact, the Liberal Party of Quebec has adopted the same sort of attitude. It came to power three years ago, and decided to take the ideological approach of non-intervention. We saw private investment drop and we will see the same thing occur throughout Canada, if the Conservative Party continues to take the same tack.

In the coming days and weeks therefore, the government will have to listen to the demands of the manufacturers and the unions representing employees in the manufacturing sector. According to all the opinions we have, we must make sure that the Bank of Canada realizes that continuing to raise interest rates does not make any sense. It cannot be ordered to do so; it is not up to the government to order it.

The federal government also has to assume its responsibilities in other sectors and offer businesses an assistance plan, such as accelerated depreciation. For example, when they buy equipment, they could obtain a depreciation tax credit. That way they would have a chance to be competitive, develop their competitiveness, and continue their operations in the markets.

We also need measures that would allow small and medium-sized businesses to organize so they can deal with the export markets and win clients there. We could also see if there are markets that are worse off under the new global competition and make use of the tools available—and why not?

We note that the government has decided to take no action in the bicycle sector, where the Minister of Industry himself is accepting the loss of jobs in his own riding, in Beauce.

He also accepts that jobs at Raleigh will be lost in the same way. That is totally unacceptable. We were not asking the government to impose these measures permanently; we were asking it to put them in place. The Bloc Québécois, the unions, the employers and the managers of these firms want action from the government in this direction. The government must use all of its economic development tools, instead of hiding behind a laisser-faire policy that is doing profound damage to the economy of Quebec and Canada.

This is the more tragic in that there will be a major impact on employment and available wages. People who want to support their families now no longer have the means to do so. The federal government must recognize the importance of taking action. It cannot hide behind Canadian growth, in the broad sense. Basically, that growth is being generated by the energy sector; it leaves behind, in the background, a whole range of industrial sectors that are needed in Quebec, in Ontario and in Canada.

For all of these reasons, we are asking the federal government to intervene, to act and to change its attitude so it can create the framework that our businesses need for their development. This is not a matter of engaging in extreme interventionism. It is just a matter of seeing that there are certain basic conditions that need to be established. And right now, we are not seeing this.

The Liberals’ motion cannot achieve this objective. However, you may rest assured that the Bloc will move forward and continue exerting pressure to ensure that jobs in Quebec’s manufacturing sector can be maintained.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There will be time for questions and comments following the hon. member's speech when debate resumes later today.

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but the time has come for the Statements by Members.

HealthStatements by Members

June 8th, 2006 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, again this year I had the privilege of attending the Camrose Schizophrenia Society Walk and Run. This annual event is an important exercise for our community. It is heartwarming to see so many people showing their support. I found encouragement to bring their message to this House today.

I urge all MPs to promote awareness and understanding of mental illness. We can search the Health Canada website for the term “schizophrenia”. We can get the information to share and assist Canadians who are confronting ailments that challenge us as individuals, families and communities, and even nationally. We can see the book written by Canadian families who contributed the benefit of their own experience and counsel.

Anthony Holler, president of the Camrose Schizophrenic Society, emphasizes that people afflicted often become marginalized by society. It is important for us to tell our constituents that it is not a preventable disease, that it is not about just passing through a difficult phase or time, that there is no cause for shame, and that it can be easier to deal with when we have the available information. Let us get the message out.

TradeStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government is fast tracking a Canada-Korea free trade agreement that it wants signed and in place this year. It is absolutely essential that this agreement contain terms and conditions that protect Canadian industry and Canadian jobs.

We have a huge trade imbalance with Korea, especially in manufactured goods, and particularly in the auto sector, where the ratio of imports to exports is 150 to 1 in its favour. Eliminating tariffs will not give us greater access to Korean markets that are protected by relationships among their government and the manufacturers and banks. It will in fact increase this imbalance and mean the loss of more Canadian jobs.

Our auto industry is facing difficult challenges related to the Canadian dollar and the financial crisis of North American automakers. We have lost 20,000 assembly and parts jobs in the sector since 1998.

We should only proceed with this bill if it includes absolute assurances of equality in both the value and the nature of goods exchanged between Canada and Korea.