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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

Oral questions--Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on May 17, 2006, and again on May 19, 2006, by the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier concerning the tabling of the document referred to by the Prime Minister during Question Period.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. I also wish to thank the hon. member for Outremont for his intervention and the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for his response.

In raising this matter, the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier stated that, in response to a question posed during Question Period on May 17, the Prime Minister had quoted from what appeared to be a cabinet document and that, according to the rules of the House, the Prime Minister was obliged to table the document.

On Friday, May 19, 2006, the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons responded to the point of order. He indicated that the Prime Minister had not specifically quoted from any document. He clarified that the document in question was being used as a briefing note and that the rules do not require the tabling of briefing notes. The hon. government House leader further argued that the document was a cabinet document that could not be tabled because it dealt directly with national security measures that could jeopardize the safety of Canadian soldiers.

I have reviewed the Debates for May 17, 2006, as well as the tape of that day’s Question Period. The video clearly showed that in responding to a question put by the hon. member for Laval—Les Îles, the right hon. Prime Minister did read from a document as the hon. members for Ottawa—Vanier and Outremont have argued.

There is a longstanding practice that any document quoted by a minister in debate or in response to a question during question period must be tabled forthwith if so requested. This practice is described on page 518 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice and I believe it would be helpful to all hon. members if I were to cite this passage:

Any document quoted by a Minister in debate or in response to a question during Question Period must be tabled. Indeed, a Minister is not at liberty to read or quote from a despatch (an official written message on government affairs) or other state paper without being prepared to table it if it can be done without injury to the public interest.

In addition to Marleau and Montpetit, this practice has been described in other procedural authorities, including various editions of Beauchesne and Erskine May. Indeed, the hon. government House leader quoted citation 495(2) of Beauchesne's 6th edition when he responded that the document could not be tabled because its contents concerned national security matters.

Moreover, this practice was upheld in 1983 when the Deputy Speaker ruled that he was satisfied, after hearing arguments, that the Minister of State (International Trade) could not table a document because it would involve some risk of security to the Canadian diplomatic communications service. This precedent can be found at pages 28627 to 28631 of the Debates for November 2, 1983.

In light of this precedent and the statement put forth by the hon. Government House Leader that the security of Canadian soldiers could be jeopardized, I must rule that the Prime Minister is under no obligation to table the document in question.

I thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier for having brought this matter to the attention of the Chair.

The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.

Oral questions--Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your ruling. I took note of it and I will certainly consult the sources to which you referred.

I have a question. How is the issue of security assessed? The government cites security as the reason why it is refusing to table the document quoted by the Prime Minister. How can one quote a document in the House—meaning that it is being read publicly—while claiming that it is an issue of national security?

Is this not contradictory? Would it not be necessary to establish a mechanism that would independently determine whether a document or part of a document—at least the part that was quoted—could be tabled without putting anyone in danger?

Oral questions--Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

As the member for Ottawa—Vanier knows full well, it is not for the Speaker to answer questions. I am sure that he will read the ruling I just gave the House concerning this point of order as well as the precedent I cited. He indicated that he intends to read it. Perhaps that will be satisfactory to him and perhaps he will consider that the advice of the government House leader—to the effect that the document could pose a threat to public safety—is enough for the Speaker to rule on the matter. The precedent that I cited is the one that I am following today and on which I based my ruling.

In the case, it is not the Speaker's role to examine all documents or to answer questions regarding those documents in the House.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today on the Liberal Party motion, which concerns the challenges posed by new foreign competition, especially from countries such as China, India and Brazil.

I would like to commend my Bloc Québécois colleagues who have taken part in the debate today, especially the member for Joliette and the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, for their remarks and all their work on these issues.

Once again, we have proved that the Bloc Québécois is the party that best defends the interests of Quebeckers.

The motion introduced today by the Liberal Party concerns the new economic challenges that Quebec and Canada must face, including the stronger dollar, the emergence of new economies such as China, India and Brazil as major world players and, of course, rising energy costs.

In response to these new challenges, the Liberal Party proposes a series of measures and programs. Two main thrusts emerge from the measures proposed by the Liberal Party in this motion. They explain why we cannot support this motion.

First—and this reflects the philosophy and approach of the Liberal Party—the motion urges the federal government to develop a host of measures and programs in areas that come under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, such as education, labour market development, skills training—something we spent years fighting for so that we could manage it better in Quebec—and university research.

These areas clearly come under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. Education, for example, is not a federal but a provincial and Quebec responsibility.

Unlike the Liberals and the New Democrats, we believe that Quebec does not need the federal Parliament to tell it what priorities it should set for its education system. The only education-related challenge that concerns Ottawa is correcting the fiscal imbalance, for example, by increasing transfer payments for post-secondary education. The Conservatives have taken a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go before Quebec sees justice on this issue. Of course, it is out of the question that this transfer should be directed toward Canada's priorities, as the Liberal Party motion stipulates.

The second reason why we oppose this motion is that it totally omits the areas that actually are the responsibility of the federal government. I am referring in particular to the total lack of action to support the modernization of the traditional manufacturing sectors that have been hit hard by global competition.

It is just as disturbing to see that the Liberal motion fails to deal with the difficulties facing the manufacturing sector as it is to realize that the new Conservative government prefers not to take action to help this sector. It would rather leave these industries to their own devices and abandon them to unfettered competition.

But manufacturers need help from the federal government, all the more so that it now has the economic means to act thanks to the huge budget surpluses it has been accumulating year after year.

Our manufacturing sector is going through very difficult times because of the heightened competition from new powers, especially China and India, as I said earlier. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives know very well that traditional sectors such as textiles, apparel, furniture, the forest industry and bicycles have been badly hurt by the new economic situation. Yet they have nothing specific to propose to help these industries.

There have been heavy job losses in manufacturing since 2002. Between 2002 and 2005, nearly 149,000 jobs were lost in the manufacturing sector in Canada, two-thirds of them in 2005 alone. In Quebec in the same period, 68,000 jobs were lost in manufacturing.

Action is urgently needed. The riding I have the honour of representing, Berthier—Maskinongé, has a very large manufacturing sector, that of furniture. In this industry in Quebec between 2002 and 2005, the effects of globalization wiped out nearly 5,000 jobs.

We, the Bloc Québécois members, cannot accept the government’s willingness to stand by and do nothing while the manufacturing sector crumbles. What is the government waiting for? Is it waiting for our manufacturing companies to become just the museums of a bygone industrial age?

Several Liberal and Conservative members say that it is up to manufacturers to adapt to the new competition. We agree, but they need time and the means to do so. That is why, in the bicycle sector for example, we supported the advice of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal. It recommended that the federal government impose a temporary surtax on imports of inexpensive bicycles in order to give Quebec and Canadian manufacturers a chance to adapt to the new competition coming mainly from abroad.

Unfortunately, as did the Liberals, the Conservative government decided not to implement these recommendations. What about the Canadian International Trade Tribunal? What means will industries have at their disposal to face this competition from Asia? Nothing is said about that. The government does not make any proposal. It is total abandonment.

By refusing to help Quebec and Canadian bicycle manufacturers, the Harper government shows that it has absolutely no idea of the disastrous effect of its inaction on our manufacturers.

The furniture industry is another traditional sector that is seriously threatened by Chinese imports. To this day, the federal government has not taken any measure to help this industry adapt, even though it plays an important role in Quebec's economy.

The Bloc Quebecois generally supports the statement made in the preamble to the motion. It is true that the rise of certain new economies represents a challenge for several industrial sectors. It is true that the increase in the value of the dollar reduces the ability of Quebec and Canadian businesses to compete. However, the Bloc cannot support a motion that, on one hand, proposes considerable interference in areas under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and that, on the other hand, totally abandons areas that are the federal government's responsibility, such as support for the modernization of the traditional economic sectors that are the most affected by global competition.

Let me say, in closing, that the Conservatives are not really doing any better. For them, it seems that there is no place for government intervention to help industry face its competition. It is total abandonment. They believe that the free market can solve everything.

We, in the Bloc Québécois, believe that the federal government has a role to play in areas under its jurisdiction by fostering the modernization of businesses, by supporting research—which has been the victim of drastic cuts over the last few years—or by using the trade tools at its disposal to give businesses the time they need to adapt.

There is more than Alberta's oil industry; there is also a manufacturing sector that is crying out for help and that needs temporary support measures to meet the new challenges brought about by globalization.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member raised a very important issue, which I think many members of Parliament have addressed. In my riding, I have the same issue with bicycle manufacturers that import and that manufacture their own.

I read the CITT decision recommending the surtax and I respected its analysis. I thought it was extremely well done. Quite frankly, I was very curious that today's government rejected the recommendation of the CITT. It is there do to the analysis and to make appropriate recommendations.

We have the other question to argue it from the other side, and the member may want to comment on this. A lot of employment is related to importation of bicycles and bicycle frames. Barbecues, et cetera from China also face an import surtax.

Maybe the issue is a little bigger and a little more balanced in terms of how we address cheap labour on imports and how we balance the need to sustain jobs in not only the manufacturing but also in the distribution, wholesale and retail of those imported products.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear that my Liberal colleague is concerned about the Canadian International Trade Tribunal ruling on bicycles, given that when he was in power the Bloc Québécois placed tremendous pressure on the government to implement the Tribunal's recommendations. The Liberal government did nothing.

Naturally, now that it is in opposition, the Liberal Party seems to have a renewed interest in the matter and thus shares our disappointment in this regard.

In terms of the Asian competition, there are ways to keep our jobs. We must better support our companies. Some years ago, in the 60's and 70's, there was talk of the complete disappearance of the textile sector. At the time, some companies, with support, and modernization of technology and everything else, were able to met the competition head on.

Recently, the lack of support has again led to the loss of several of our textile companies.

We have no other choice than to accept the competition. We are part of the free trade agreement and immersed in globalization. In the end, all that we are asking of the government is to have programs designed to help these companies be competitive.

The refusal of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to help the bicycle manufacturers has an impact on other sectors of activity. For example, a few months ago a request by the furniture industry to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal was rejected because the evaluation criteria were not necessarily suited to its needs. The furniture industry—which wanted to apply to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to obtain safeguards—did not proceed because the efforts of the bicycle manufacturers had cost $100,00 in legal fees. Industry is wary of the expenses attached to making such applications.

I believe that such mechanisms are necessary. They exist within NAFTA and we must be able to resort to them to save our jobs.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, year after year the former Liberal government used to promise an industrial strategy. It promised it in election campaign after election campaign during its 13 years in power, but we never did see one. There was never a strategy overall to deal with the industrial sector in Canada.

Other ideas came from other corners of the House. The NDP came up with a green car industrial strategy that would have helped us keep industrial and auto jobs in Canada and would have helped stop the leakage in auto jobs. It would have helped us meet our Kyoto program.

Could the member comment on why the Liberals promised and promised an industrial strategy, but did not deliver it? Does he have any hope that the Conservatives will come up with an appropriate industrial strategy for Canada?

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé has the floor for a short answer.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague for his question.

We know, of course, that the Liberals abandoned the textile sector. There was a program, namely CANtex, but it was not suited to the new reality of the industry in terms of the emerging Asian competition. We just saw that the Conservative Party does not seem to be putting forward new assistance programs for industries.

Will the Conservatives act? I think that pressure will have to be brought to bear on the government for it to really understand the needs of the manufacturing sector. The government must also understand that the oil industry is not the only successful industry in Alberta.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Beauséjour, and it will be a great delight to do so.

Before I start, I sometimes wonder if the Bloc Québécois has a death wish. Last June it voted against things that Quebeckers believe in intrinsically. They believe in foreign aid, assistance for university students, supporting aboriginal people and the environment. Yet the Bloc voted against Bill C-48.

Then just recently, the Bloc voted for a budget that once again ignored all those things that were detrimental to students, foreign aid to aboriginal people and the environment. It keeps going down in the polls.

Today the Bloc members are suggesting, and hopefully we can change their minds, that they are going to vote against helping students, literacy, which is needed in this modern world, the Kelowna accord and modern research. We know lots of research is being done in Quebec. How can it keep denying Quebeckers the things they want and then expect to go up in the polls?

I want to talk today about building a foundation for a nation. Any party that wants to be in government should build the foundation upon which a nation can grow in this world. If we compare that foundation to the foundation of a house, the cinder bricks under the ground are not that exciting or newsworthy, but they are absolutely essential to a good structure, a solid house and a great nation.

The Liberals put a number of foundations in their platforms over the years. I will go through some of those. Many are lacking at the moment in any vision of the nation and we will be imploring people to take into account the foundations that are so important to building a successful country in today's shifting world.

It is even more important today because the foundations in the world are shifting not only because of the permafrost melting through climate change, but because the knowledge base upon which all employment and learning is based is shifting so quickly.

The very first base is child care, early learning and development at the early stages. Many scientists say that is the most critical stage in a person's life. If the options have been removed to get the development necessary so they can go on to all other stages in life successfully, one of the bricks of the foundation is missing. If one brick is missing, as we know, the house will start to tilt and fall over. To take out the $10 billion that the Liberals put into that foundation of early learning so all children could get an equal chance and parents could have a choice in the development of their children is a critical mistake.

Supporting the environment is absolutely fundamental. There cannot be an economy if people cannot go to work because of smog. If their time is spent in hospitals and the hospital costs are so high that the government has to increase taxes, we are then not competitive and there are no jobs. The mass cancelling of the environmental programs, which happened almost by stealth by the letting them expire on March 31, is going to show in the long run damage to the economy and to the health of the nation. Hopefully that will be before the next election,

In the foundation of a house, no brick is more important than any other brick. Even the weakest bricks have to be strong. It is like a chain is only as strong as the weakest link. We have to help everyone wherever they are in the foundation. That includes aboriginal people. As people know, for years aboriginal people have been below the general population in many determinants such as deaths in child birth, levels of education, incarceration and health.

Governments over the years have constantly put large investments into both basic services, the ultimate solution of self-government in land claims and healing with the residential schools agreement, so that base will not be another weakness, a foundation block that will crumble, causing the house to crumble. These determinants have been going up over the years with these investments. They have been improving, but there is still a great disparity.

When a historic agreement is made between the Government of Canada and the first nations people, where everyone worked together, the premiers, the first nations leaders who came up with the solutions and identified the problems, and it is broken, it breaks the great faith of the nation of Canada. It would have been so easy to have kept this historic agreement. That is going to be a very dangerous weakness in the foundation blocks of this nation.

I also want to talk about the labour market partnership agreements. The educational system, the training, the apprentices, everything is far more important today. Probably more pressure is put on today's students than ever before because the knowledge base keeps changing. They need more and more. We need to have lifelong learning, workplace training and all kinds of skills. In particular in Canada, unlike some European nations, we need special emphasis on skills. While we are doing quite well in university training, although I will mention some assistance problems in that area, we are lacking tens of thousands of tradespeople. We need investment in that area so we can catch up with the workforce.

The answer is not just to bring people from somewhere else to fill these jobs. It is not like 100% of Canadians are already employed. The first solution is to ensure that Canadians are skilled and trained for these roles. For people with disabilities, we have made great advances over the years by providing money for these them to be trained to get into the workplace.

The biggest opportunities in our country are for young unemployed aboriginal people. The Liberals were putting in place a special program to train them so they could fill that huge gap in the workforce. It would have taken a burden off any other programs.

Also when new immigrants come to Canada, they are not always job ready. They need advancement in skills or at least a coordination of skills with existing skills and language. We certainly need investment in those areas.

We need lifelong learning. It is no longer like the old days where we learned a trade in high school or trade school and then we were set for the rest of our life. We need constant learning and upgrading and we need some of that training in the workplace.

For all these things, we had set aside $3.5 billion, a huge amount of money, to strengthen these skills, to get job readiness and to have successful workplace participation for first nations people, Métis, Inuit, aboriginal people and for older workers as well. We were working on a strategy for them. I know other parties agree that this is a very important dynamic.

For the indirect of costs of research, we need to keep up research in this knowledge based and changing world. We need to fund the increased costs of research, the three major granting councils, to keep our leading spot in the world. If we do not do this, we will fall behind. We need to accelerate commercialization, and we made great investments in that area.

We were going to invest $550 million in education for students so 55,000 more low income students could get into the system. For regular students, $6,000 would have gone toward their tuition. For low income students, $12,000 would have gone toward their tuition. As well, there was money for graduates, for students studying abroad and general improvements of the student funding systems.

In my last minute I will talk about the poor. Once again, for low income people, we have another potential weakness in the foundation of our house, a brick that could crumble and the whole house could fall. How are we going to strengthen a weakened block by increasing their income tax from 15% to 15.%, by lowering their personal deduction $200, by taking away the basic low income young child tax credit and by taking away the EnerGuide program that would help them improve their houses so they would not have to pay the huge energy bills?

I am hoping that members will support this motion. It demonstrates that there are building blocks and foundations of a nation that need to be supported for people at all levels, from the highest education to the poorest and the most vulnerable.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague and I was intrigued with his early comments about the Bloc members and how he was very upset and could not believe that they were going to support the budget.

The last budget was a phenomenal budget. It was one that Canadians have really embraced. Even the latest polls show that over 70% of Canadians think this is a great budget. But it is more than that. This is a budget that this individual supported a few days ago and this House supported unanimously. I find it a little disturbing to see this kind of lecture coming from my hon. colleague who just spoke. I wonder if he would describe the contradiction.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, that was a very humorous remark. As everyone knows, there was a mixup in the House of Commons when one of the Conservatives unknowingly, and we are not blaming anyone, did not speak in the appointed speaking order and the budget was passed.

As the member knows, the Liberals voted strenuously against the budget and for very good reason. That is why I was so shocked that a party that is progressive like the Bloc would support it.

How could anyone vote for a budget that would take $12,000 away from low income students and give them $78 for school books? I asked our college library and was told that every book is on average over $100.

In fact, a Conservative member, when asked what we could do for low income people said that they could go back to school with the book subsidy.

How could anyone support a budget that took away greenhouse gas funding programs? The Conservatives cancelled a whole slew of them. We had 22 programs related to transit, wind energy, renewable resources, car emissions, and large final emitters. They took all that away when the world is in such crisis.

As the NDP leader said today, it is raining in Antarctica. In the north the permafrost is melting, the roads we depend on for business are melting, and there are climatic challenges around the world.

Finally, how could anyone vote for a budget when we had the greatest surpluses in Canadian history that could be shared equally among everyone? Instead of giving the tax breaks equally to everyone, and I have no problem giving them to everyone, the Conservatives took them away from the poor, increasing their tax rate from 15% to 15.5%, reducing the basic deduction by $200, taking away the child tax credit, and taking away the assistance to help poor people make their houses more inefficient. That is shameful, and that is why I would have voted against the budget.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my Liberal friend criticize us for not supporting Bill C-48, the budget implementation bill.

I wonder where he has been for the past 13 years. During his 13 years as a member of the ruling party, he never recognized the fiscal imbalance. He never agreed to protect the aircraft industry on which Quebec relies heavily. All he has done is protect the automotive industry in Ontario. As a government member, he never tried to save our industries in the manufacturing sector, including those in the Eastern Townships, where 5,200 jobs were lost in a single year.

The member is really in no position to lecture me today.

He did not lift a finger either when we asked that the government unconditionally transfer the $800 million for day care, since we have our own system which is working very well.

The Bloc Québécois will be opposing this motion. I would like to ask the member this. How will the motion put forward by the Liberal Party today prevent the centralizing government from interfering in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction? I would like an answer.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is no secret that we gave millions of dollars to the manufacturing industry in Quebec for various programs over the years.

However, if the only reason the Bloc would support the budget is the fiscal imbalance, what was in the budget on the fiscal imbalance? There was a promise to study it in the future. That is a great promise on which to support a budget.

In fact, the Conservatives aggravated the fiscal imbalance by taking away hundreds of millions of dollars from Quebec for the child care program that it would have received without this budget.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, this is my first opportunity to deliver a speech in this chamber with yourself in the chair. Therefore permit me to congratulate you on the honour you have been granted by the House.

I would also like to begin by congratulating and thanking the hon. member for Halifax West who has seen fit to table this important motion in the House today. Particularly because it is a personal interest of mine, I would like to thank him for the outstanding work he is doing on behalf of post-secondary students and institutions in Canada. As spokesperson for the Liberal Party, the hon. member for Halifax West has worked very hard to improve students’ access to post-secondary education in Canada. Therefore I congratulate him and thank him for having tabled this important motion in the House of Commons today.

I believe that this is an important discussion. I have listened to the speeches of other hon. members today. This is an important moment for the House of Commons, because it is discussing an issue like the importance of a competitive economy in dealing with the new markets developing in the world, but also an issue that is close to me—as I was saying earlier—namely the role of the national government in helping students gain access to higher education in Canada.

I have always thought that Canada’s future is in the hands of our educational institutions, whether elementary or secondary, which obviously lie within provincial jurisdiction, or post-secondary, for example, the colleges. Close to my riding, the New Brunswick Community Colleges do extraordinary work. As the member for Beauséjour, I am very lucky to represent the community of Sackville where Mount Allison University is located. The hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe and I share the major region of Dieppe, Moncton, Riverview, and it is my personal honour to specifically represent the Dieppe section and therefore the many students attending the Université de Moncton.

Here perhaps is an entirely appropriate example of the federal government’s role in higher education, in that it can really touch the lives of students and families. For example, the children of francophone families outside Quebec have the possibility of going to the Université de Moncton. Over the years, the federal government has contributed a huge amount of money to the Université de Moncton in support of the official languages programs. Often in the same year it has contributed tens of millions of dollars so that the Université de Moncton and other francophone communities outside Quebec may have quality institutions of higher learning.

We worked appropriately with provincial authorities to support institutions, such as the Université de Moncton and Mount Allison University in my riding. Not only did we try to support these institutions, but we also decided that it was important to support students. In the past, we gave money to some provinces, for post-secondary education, for example. Then some provinces—not just provinces run by Conservative governments—decided to reduce their income taxes. Right before an election, that is probably the kind of thing that would get some attention. So the provinces took the money the federal government gave them for education programs, for example, and reduced taxes.

I have always found such measures disappointing, because I have always thought that the federal government had an important role to play. I am one of the members of this House who will encourage the government to expand its role and increase its involvement in post-secondary education. This is not about interfering with provincial jurisdiction. That is not the issue. However, we do have to work with the provinces. For example, we have to help them financially so that our educational institutions, which are so important for our future economy, will be among the best in the world.

As I said, and as the hon. member for Halifax West pointed out in his speech earlier today, the former Liberal government decided to support students for very important reasons.

Even in my riding, when I attend graduation ceremonies at a number of post-secondary institutions—as I will be doing two weekends from now—I meet young people and I ask them what they plan to do next year. Far too often, a young person will say to me that they would have liked to go to college or university, but it is too expensive. They decide to work for a year or two, thinking they might go back to school the following year. Sadly, and far too often, young people do not go back. They enter the workforce with the potential and desire to pursue higher education, but their family does not have the means. Young people are not able to save enough money from well paying summer jobs. For all sorts of reasons, they do not go to college or university.

The motion before the House today encourages the government and hon. members to support the idea of a federal government commitment to reducing the barriers to higher education.

For the first time ever, students are facing a barrier to access post-secondary education. In the past, a lot of the discussion centred around financing of provincial governments in terms of education. I am one who believes the Government of Canada needs to get much more involved in directly supporting students with the cost of their post-secondary education. The motion speaks to that very well today.

It is no longer enough to offer students loans. The Liberal government had proposed major increases in student loan programs, but we also advocated a contribution, a grant, or a bursary that would help low income students. I hope to apply that program to other students because increasingly even for families with middle incomes, the cost of post-secondary education is now a barrier.

I mentioned a moment ago that there is nothing more disturbing to me as a member of Parliament than to attend a high school graduation in my riding and meet young people who have the ability and the desire to go to university or college, and decide that they cannot because of the cost, or they may decide that they do not want to graduate with a debt load that can be absolutely excessive. That is why the Government of Canada has a key role to play in directly transferring money to students to reduce the barriers to access.

For the first time in generations, I have grandparents talking to me about the cost of education for their grandchildren. It is very worrisome in an economy of increasing global competitiveness, when we are facing European countries with a very high level of education, that Canadians in many cases are not receiving the education that they desire and the education that they are able to achieve because of financial needs.

I would like talk about my own province in terms of some of the demographics. The member for Fredericton, for example, knows very well and has worked very long and hard on an issue in New Brunswick that was designed to lift up the young people of our province, and to lift up the economic future.

At a time when the nation's population is growing, the population of New Brunswick is shrinking. At a time when the average number of years of education is increasing, it is decreasing in New Brunswick, and the average age of the population is also advancing.

In my province if a person is getting older and less educated, it represents a very serious economic challenge. One that is faced by some of the global competition and the emerging markets that colleagues spoke about very well earlier today.

The member for Fredericton and members of Parliament of the Liberal Party from New Brunswick had worked on a plan in partnership with the provincial government to invest in education, to invest in training, and to make our province a living lab of interesting social policies and innovations. This opportunity was lost by a Conservative government that is more intent on cutting taxes for rich people than helping students. I find that distressing.

There is a great deal that could be done. The House has an important role to play and today's motion gives us an opportunity to reflect on these matters.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member for Beauséjour about a particular program. This afternoon my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster, who is the NDP spokesperson for people with disabilities, and today's motion mentions people with disabilities, mentioned an initiative by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, a national wheelchair strategy initiative, which is intended to back up its belief that a wheelchair is a basic need for Canadians who require them.

Right now there is a real patchwork of different programs across the country. In some provinces, and I think the member's own home province, it is very difficult for people who require wheelchairs to obtain them. Before the province will help, they have to rely on their own resources and all of their own savings, go to charities, or even hold a bake sale to obtain a wheelchair. We know how limiting that is in their ability to participate in the labour force and in the community.

The national wheelchair strategy that is being proposed would ask for national standards to ensure that the levels of service and funding provided to those in need of a wheelchair are consistent across the provinces and that there be federal transfer payments to enable all provinces to provide full funding for their residents' wheelchair needs.

I wonder if the member for Beauséjour, given the needs of people particularly in New Brunswick, might be able to support that kind of program as a way of ensuring the full participation of people with disabilities in our workforce and in our communities.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, at the outset let me say that I share very much the hon. member's view that the Government of Canada needs to do more to help Canadians with disabilities reach their full potential. Whether it is as participants in the workforce, in other social activities or in their own families, there are huge barriers in our society that persons with disabilities face.

I have thought for a long time that this probably should be the next major social policy innovation in our country, to reconcile ourselves with Canadians with disabilities.

Provincial governments have a patchwork of programs. My impression, as the member for Burnaby—Douglas said, is that my province of New Brunswick lags behind many others. It is certainly something that as a New Brunswicker I am not proud of at all.

The hon. member described a program where the federal government would directly assist, for example, in providing wheelchairs or other services.

A big issue in my constituency is access to community centres. Some little rural communities have one basic community infrastructure, a Lions Club, a golden age club, a senior citizens club, a Knights of Columbus hall that is not accessible to persons with disabilities. We do not have a federal program that could provide $20,000 or $30,000 to make it accessible, to work in partnership with the community to put a lift or an elevator in the local centre. It is a huge weakness in federal policy. I am not one who thinks we should hide behind jurisdictions. We should work with provinces and put up federal dollars. These Canadians in many respects are among the most disadvantaged in our communities, particularly in small rural communities like the ones I represent.

I find the idea of the member for Burnaby—Douglas very interesting. It is certainly one that I would be interested in supporting. I would hope that all members of the House would accept that we could do more to support these very worthy Canadians at a time when society could look at doing more.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my colleague and neighbour two questions on perhaps gaps in his commentary.

Since we now know that the tax credit for buses was really designed as an economic development plan to send Atlantic Canadians to Fort McMurray, would he comment on that?

Perhaps he would also comment on something that dovetails with his support of post-secondary education and that is the growing gap between provinces on literacy. He knows well that regions of our province are suffering with 50% to 60% literacy rates when the national average is 73%. It obviously ties into economic development. I would be interested in his comments.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The member has half a minute.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, half a minute to respond to the two very, very important points of the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe is not enough. Like him, I was appalled by the Conservative position that economic development should be found in a one way bus ticket or a one way U-Haul to western Canada or to some other economic region. It is an unacceptable policy that a member would suggest that today in a committee. I share the member's deep concern about that.

I think the Conservative government is intending to evacuate federal support for literacy programs. There is one in my community for a group that is looking at dyslexia in Kent County. We cannot even get an approval. It has been on the minister's desk for weeks. It is a very, very frustrating time. The Conservative government has no intention of supporting these worthy programs.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Edmonton Centre.

I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to this important issue. The motion talks about something that is very near and dear to me and my constituents. There is no question that the number one issue in my riding at the present time is the lack of a labour force because of what is happening in Alberta.

My colleague was just explaining that a tremendous number of individuals from Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada are moving to Alberta to take the opportunity of having a great future in the oil patch. We like that. It is not necessarily that anyone has to come. The opportunity is there for people to come and we wish for them to exercise that because the need is great and the opportunity is equally as great.

It is not a secret that because of the growth in the oil sector we have outstripped the rest of the country within the last 12 months as far as job creation is concerned. What we are seeing in the oil patch is something that we have never seen in Alberta either. We saw a boom in the oil patch in the 1970s but it was really a shadow of what we are seeing right now. When I go back to my riding and talk to people who have worked in the oil patch they explain how accelerated the demand is and what the opportunities for work are.

This is good news and bad news. We know that we need professional jobs not only in the oil patch, but in science and in technical services as well. We also need people in entry level jobs. In all those sectors we need to match the individuals who come to look for work with the opportunities that are there. That becomes the magic that would be the best result for everyone on both sides of this situation.

Alberta faces a significant shortage. How do we deal with it for the future of Alberta? Are we going through a bubble in the oil patch or is it something that is going to be there for a considerable amount of time?

When I look at Alberta's wealth and the opportunities there, it has nothing to do with Alberta. These are natural resources that have been there for many years and will be there for many more years. It is not only the 100 years of projected levels of extraction from the oil sands, but we are also looking at coal bed methane which is just starting and the projection is 635 years in that industry and another 800 years in coal.

Are they finite resources? Absolutely they are. Do they need to be managed properly? Absolutely. We need to make sure that we maximize our benefits and broaden the economic and social horizons in Alberta and across the country. All of Canada gains when provinces are strong. People in Atlantic Canada, Saskatchewan, British Columbia or any of the other provinces where people are looking for opportunities can come and work and then go back to their respective homes after being fulfilled in the job. The wealth is really quite significant.

In Alberta and Canada in general we are facing a serious shortage of tradespeople. We cannot get them just from going to Atlantic Canada, Saskatchewan or any other place. We are going to have to do more. We cannot build a nation by just looking at our own national labour force. We have to go further than that. We have to make sure that we increase skilled labour from all sides. That is what we intend to do.

To excel in the global economy Canada needs a competitive edge. We need to create a climate that encourages investment and innovation. We also need to improve the skills of Canadian workers and promote lifelong learning. We also want to encourage more people to pursue a career in the trades by reducing the cost of apprenticeship programs. We have seen that in our budget. We are going to be talking about some of the things in the budget that address the problems. We have to take action to increase apprenticeship support and apprenticeship programs. We will consult with the provinces, the territories, employers and unions on new measures to promote the careers in skilled trades.

This is graduation season and many members of Parliament go to a lot of ceremonies to address the graduates. I have had the opportunity to address graduates right across my riding. I take note of what their plans are in the fall. Those plans have progressively changed over the last three or four years. More and more individuals are coming out of high school and deciding not to go on to post-secondary school. University has become a much less coveted place for them to go. Many are going into the trades. This concerns me to some degree because I am a great advocate of education, but I am also a great advocate of the right education for individuals so that they can provide for their families in the future.

Apprenticeship jobs in my riding and in Alberta in general likely outstrip most university graduate jobs. We have to look at how we are going to deal with this. We have dealt with this in our budget by allowing a tax credit of 10% for apprenticeship wages up to a maximum of $2,000 per apprenticeship per year. The apprenticeship incentive grant is a cash grant of $1,000 a year for the first two years of an apprenticeship program in one of the red seal trades. We are providing $500 million over the next two years to boost the ranks of skilled trades in Canada. This will benefit about 100,000 new apprentices across Canada.

We know that the cost of tools is a barrier for many of those in a trade or those who are considering entering a trade. Our budget provides a tool tax deduction of $500 a year.

Those are some of the things we need to do in order to deal with the massive shortage of skilled labour not only in Alberta but right across Canada.

Our government wants to increase access to post-secondary education as well. We know that in order to compete in the 21st century education has to be a strong component. The Conservative government is providing $370 million of new investment to foster excellence and accessibility to colleges and universities. We are also eliminating the federal income tax on income from scholarships, bursaries and fellowships. This will benefit 100,000 students at a cost of $95 million over two years.

We are also providing a textbook tax credit which will benefit about 1.9 million Canadian students at a cost of $260 million over two years.

This government is expanding eligibility to the Canada student loans program by reducing the parental contribution requirements. This means another 30,000 Canadian students will benefit from this proven program.

These measures alone will not solve our skills shortage. Alberta faces a potential shortfall of 100,000 workers over the next decade. Forty per cent of manufacturers surveyed in Alberta are facing crippling production difficulties because of the lack of labour.

The Conservative government is going to make sure that our young people have better access to education. We are going to push for students in Canada to get an education, but we have to go farther than that.

Immigration also plays a part. When people from around the world come to Canada we have to match their abilities to the jobs we are asking them to do. We are going to make sure that their credentials are good not only for them but for Canada. If an individual is trained in another country and we do not accept that training, we are not doing that individual and our country any favours. We have to understand that they have the ability. We have to recognize their credentials as soon as we possibly can so that new Canadian citizens can enter our labour force and become productive members of our society.

It is no wonder that this House voted unanimously for this budget because it is exciting. This is the most exciting budget we have seen in this House for many years, at least in the last five that I have been here. I am proud to be part of a government that has introduced a budget like this one, which deals with issues in a concrete way. These are not pie in the sky ideas. These are concrete ideas that will help Canadians, that will help our labour force. They will certainly help ridings like mine and in fact all the provinces to become stronger which will make a country that will be very strong into the 21st century and beyond.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I share the member's interest in the issue of skills training and it is good to encourage apprenticeship. However, the idea of giving employers a tax credit to solve the problem of skills is one that I am not convinced will do the job.

The previous government had signed labour market partnership agreements with the provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario to help people facing obstacles to employment. However, a lot of unemployed Canadians cannot simply walk into the workforce and be ready for apprenticeship.

In fact, the new president of the Nova Scotia Community College, Joan McArthur-Blair, gave a speech in Halifax recently and said that the number one problem the community college faced in Nova Scotia was literacy. With those labour market partnership agreements, the previous government had committed $3.5 billion over five years, which the new government has cancelled entirely.

What would those agreements have done? They would have promoted skills development in and for the workplace. They would have improved literacy and essential skills. They would have enhanced the workforce participation of aboriginal people, another group that definitely faces obstacles. They would have helped people with disabilities. They would have helped new immigrants. All of those groups face obstacles entering the workforce and what did the new government do? It took away the funding that would have assisted those people in getting ready for the workforce.

There is no guarantee or certainty in my mind that employers will hire these people and give them apprenticeships if we do not give them other assistance to help them prepare for that and help remove the roadblocks they face.

Does my hon. colleague not agree with me that supporting those labour market partnership agreements would have been a good idea? Should the government not look at doing this sort of thing in the future?

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right in the sense that we need to do everything we can to reduce the barriers to higher learning for our young Canadians. I think those were the nuts and bolts of his question. However, on how we get there I think he is suggesting that this one vehicle should make that happen.

Illiteracy is something we have to fight. Every nation in this world has to fight it. An illiterate population serves no one. Education is mainly a provincial jurisdiction but we can do some things to help that out.

I had the opportunity to meet with a first nations group in my riding just recently and was excited to hear that it had taken the Alberta curriculum and designed a program through e-learning off their reserve and connected 17 other reserves to it. The result is that their program has a 75% completion rate. I would challenge any reserve population in this country to match that stat.

It is exciting to see that some of those ideas are out there and we are looking very seriously at them. That kind of innovation will help.

More than that, in the budget we made sure that immigrants coming to this country would get through the red tape and that the barriers to the labour force would be reduced. Do members realize that there are 13 different jurisdictions, 15 different regulatory professions and 400 different regulatory bodies that an individual faces when they come into Canada to get them from there into the labour force? We set up an agency to sit down with these individuals, catch them when they come into the borders and address their needs so they can get into the labour force as soon as they possibly can and become productive Canadians.

Those are some of the specifics that are in the budget, which is why the member likely voted for the budget. I applaud him for that. He did the right thing then and he should continue to do that, and we will have a great country.

Opposition Motion—The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The honourable member from Shefford for a brief question.