Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill. I would like to thank all of my hon. colleagues who have participated in the debate today.
My colleague from Prince Edward—Hastings spent a fair amount of time during his discussion talking about the government's record of achievement in the post-secondary field. It is certainly a record to be proud of, especially when compared to the records of cuts and inaction by the previous Liberal government.
I will get into how this government is getting results for students, getting things done for students and Canadian parents in a little more detail, but first I want to discuss why this bill simply will not work, and the reasons that I and my colleagues will be voting against it.
It has become clear in the hours of debate and committee study of the bill that have already taken place that it is the responsibility of the provinces and territories that want to take part in the Canadian access grants program to do the groundwork, to implement the program and to deliver it to the students. Yet in the drafting of the bill, the hon. member for Halifax West consulted with exactly zero provinces. In effect, he was flying on one wing, and that does not get one very far. Not only were the provinces not consulted on the drafting of the bill, they do not even support it after the fact.
During the committee process, not a single province came forward in support of the proposals outlined in this bill, not one province. The provinces that have provided statements on this bill have said they would not be in a position for several years to participate in this bill. The provinces have been asked if they support the bill and they have answered with a resounding no.
This government was elected on a pledge to do business in Ottawa differently. That is just what we are doing. The age of Liberal federalism, that big brother will look after the whole country including the provinces, of forcing the provinces to bend to the will of the federal government, is over. Mr. Speaker, you know that and I know that.
The Prime Minister and this Conservative government have pledged to work with the provinces, not against them, and not overriding them on a continuous basis like the previous Liberal government did.
We were elected to be government based on that pledge, because the people in the provinces and the provincial leaders like that pledge. That is why we are here.
This government can only support proposals that are brought before the House if they have the support of the provinces, that is for sure, especially when it would be the provinces that would do all the work. The provinces have to be consulted, and in this case, they simply were not.
No longer will the federal government impose its will on provinces and territories. That was our pledge during the January 2006 election. The Canadian people liked that. The provinces liked that and they still like it, especially in areas of provincial jurisdiction. We are not the previous Liberal government. We are the new Conservative government that respects the provincial jurisdiction of the provinces and territories. That is the truth.
This bill seeks to impose the federal government will on the provinces, and we simply will not support it. As I mentioned before, provinces that want to take part in this program are responsible for the implementation and delivery of this program. However, some provinces, most provinces, and most notably Quebec, have a similar program already under way in their province. It is of their own and they are receiving alternative payments in order to run those programs.
The proposals outlined in this bill, of course, would remove the right of provinces to receive these alternative payments. It would be like telling the province of Quebec that it cannot have its own program and that it cannot keep receiving the funding from the federal government to run its own program because the federal government will impose its program on the province.
Once again, this is no longer the former Liberal government. This is the new Conservative government and we are committed to working with the provinces.
I have been told that this bill would strip millions of dollars from some provinces and territories, money that low income and disabled students use now to pay for university and college. I am searching for a reason why the sponsor of this bill would continue to support it knowing that it would strip all these millions of dollars from existing students under other programs.
I have a hard time imagining what his remaining Quebec colleagues, for example, would have to tell their constituents if this bill were to pass, that no longer are the students in Quebec going to be eligible for the assistance they are getting through the provincial program, moneys provided by the federal government.
I have to guess that taking money out of education, taking money out of the pockets of students and the parents of students is old hat for the former Liberal government, but this government will not support that. It never will. This is the new Conservative government. We do things a new way and we do it with respect for the provinces and territories in this country. We will only support initiatives that provide for education, not take away the funding.
Ignoring the provinces and taking millions away from Quebec are not the only problems with this bill. These are the biggest problems, but not the only ones. Adopting the proposals of this bill would severely limit the flexibility of the government to make timely changes to the program when those changes need to be made. It is important that the specifics of this program remain within the regulatory framework rather than be enshrined in some tight legislation that would impede its flexibility dramatically.
The future of Canadian students is too important to be hindered and delayed by the politics of this place, especially given the delay and stall tactics used by the opposition to slow down meaningful changes to a wide variety of programs in this minority Parliament.
I know that some Liberal members across the way are amazed that they are being reminded of how they participate in this Parliament, but unfortunately, that is the truth. It comes as no surprise to Canadian students that it is this government that has reversed the Liberal cutbacks made to post-secondary education, the cuts that were made during more than a decade that the Liberals were in power.
They know it was the Prime Minister and the finance minister that brought in our plan called Advantage Canada, a great plan, a plan that will ensure that we will turn this ship around now and into the future. That is why this government in just 22 short months has moved to support Canadian students in so many ways.
We have committed substantial tax relief to help students and parents with the high cost of textbooks. It is why we have exempted scholarships and bursaries from income tax, because the government should reward academic achievement and not profit from it. That is why we have committed over $35 million to expand the Canada graduate scholarship program to help an additional 1,100 students every year move on to graduate level studies. This is our record and it is worth talking about.
I thank the members from the Bloc who have finally listened to members on this side of the House, this Conservative government, and realized that the proposals in this bill are bad for the province of Quebec, bad for the other provinces and territories, and bad for Canadian students. I thank the Bloc members for voting against this bill because they realize it is just not worth their support.