House of Commons Hansard #18 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.


Constitution Act, 2007 (Senate tenure)
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 29 consideration of Bill C-284, An Act to amend the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act (Canada access grants), as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Canada Student Financial Assistance Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful today for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-284. The bill would alter the administration of the government access grants program. I thank the hon. member for Halifax West for proposing the bill. It gives me the opportunity to discuss what the government has done for students. Ours is a record that is worth discussing.

Let me first say that this government recognizes that access to higher education is critical to Canada's economic success and the continued social development of all Canadians. That is why the government has acted to increase funding to the provinces for post-secondary education after a decade of Liberal cuts and inaction.

In fact, it was this government that followed through on its commitment to post-secondary education with a 40% increase in the Canada social transfer, which includes more than $800 million for post-secondary education. Our commitments are followed by action and this is our record.

On the other hand, we have the actions of the previous government, a government that talked a big game about supporting students, about expanding access to post-secondary education, yet it was the previous government that cut $25 billion from the Canada social transfer. That is the sad Liberal record.

The Liberals lacked a comprehensive vision for post-secondary education. They came in with a hodgepodge of proposals on which they never followed through. Under their watch, tuitions skyrocketed, infrastructure crumbled and attendance rates stagnated. Universities were underfunded. Year after year the capacity for universities to take in new students was stretched to the breaking point. That is the Liberal record.

How do they now expect Canadians, and especially students, to believe that they are looking after their best interests. Canadians and students certainly know better.

Canadians do know that it was the present government that has already begun acting to ensure that Canada has the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world. We have done this by implementing a knowledge Canada, which is part of our “Advantage Canada” plan.

Direct support to students, parents and post-secondary institutions is just one of the ways the government will bring about a knowledge advantage. That is why the government has invested over $8.4 billion this fiscal year alone to support post-secondary education through transfers, direct spending and tax measures.

It is why we are providing $1 billion to provincial and territorial governments through the infrastructure trust fund to rebuild and to renovate campuses across the country. It is why we have committed substantial tax relief to help students and parents with the cost of text books. It is why we have exempted scholarships and bursaries from income tax. It is why we committed $35 million over two years as well to expand the Canada graduate scholarship program.

We also recognize that not all parents are able to contribute to the cost of their children's education so the government has cut the amount that parents are expected to contribute to their children's higher education because ability to pay cannot be barrier to access.

This is our record and it is one that stands and head and shoulders above the record of Liberal cuts and inaction.

Many in the House might also be aware that there is currently an extensive review of the Canada student loan program being held and that online consultations for the review have just concluded. I for one look forward to the results of the review being announced in the coming months. For the government, consultations actually mean something.

Unlike my colleagues across the way, with all respect, the government likes to seek the input of the people and groups feeling the effects of the proposed changes. For example, if the sponsor of the bill had consulted with the provinces, which are responsible for administering the program, he would have found that not a single province in the country has supported his bill. In fact, they all oppose it. They have said that they are in no position to administer such an expanded program for the foreseeable future. Therefore, why does my hon. colleague want to pass a bill that the provinces do not want and cannot implement? Is this his idea of how a new program should run?

If my hon. colleague had listened to the provinces that administer programs of their own, most notably Quebec and the territories, he would have found out that the proposals in his bill would strip millions of dollars away from them.

Unlike the previous government, this government cannot support a bill that strips millions of dollars away from post-secondary education.

I understand the problems with this bill were discussed extensively in committee. My colleagues on the human resources committee exposed the fact that instead of providing money for education, this bill would strip it away. It exposed the fact as well that not a single province has come forward in support of this bill. It discussed the fact that the provinces have said that they cannot implement the proposals in this bill, which is why this bill was brought back gutted.

I want to thank the Bloc in this particular case for its help in killing a bad bill. I say again that I find it surprising to see the member for Halifax West trying to resurrect it now, knowing full well all the problems that it would create.

This government aspires to do better for its students. We want to ensure that every person who wants to obtain higher education has the ability to do so and that the cost will never be a barrier. The record of this government is working toward those goals.

I want to thank the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, the Minister of Finance and our Prime Minister for their continued hard work on these important issues.

Unfortunately, this bill just does not inspire me for better. Like so many other bills being proposed by the official opposition, this bill is fatally flawed and there are many reasons why we cannot and will not support it.

From the outset, this bill was poorly conceived and poorly drafted. The provinces were not consulted and they have said that they cannot implement the proposals contained in it.

I would like to thank the Bloc members again for finally listening to the government, which has been warning about how this bill would hurt Quebec. I thank them for listening to how millions would be ripped from the education purse of that province if this bill were to pass. I thank them for voting against this flawed bill because they would have a rough time explaining it to constituents.

I do not know how the sponsor of this bill has explained this program to his few remaining Quebec colleagues but I am sure they will have a rough time explaining this program, a program that would do nothing to improve access, rip millions from their province and hand it to their constituents.

Canada Student Financial Assistance Act
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, before discussing the content of the bill, I want to say how pleased I was when my Conservative Party colleague thanked us for doing our work in committee.

Members of the Bloc Québécois always take our work very seriously and do a thorough job. However, I would point out somewhat ironically that his colleagues from Quebec have not been saying the same thing when they express themselves in French. Our colleague just said that the Bloc was very helpful in amending the bill and ridding it of all substance. Yet his colleagues, when speaking in French, say that the Bloc Québécois is useless. The members of the Conservative Party should come to some agreement on that.

The truth is that the Bloc is constantly working to defend Quebec's interests. When the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats are right, we support them. However, when something is not in Quebec's best interest, we have no problem going it alone if we have to. Therefore I take that as a real compliment concerning the Bloc Québécois' usefulness.

The genesis of this bill is precisely an intrusion, once again, into the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. For the Bloc Québécois, the original grants program ensured the right to opt out with full financial compensation, for Quebec and any provinces that wanted to do so. We were prepared to examine the terms of this bill in committee, provided, of course, that we maintained this right to opt out will full compensation.

Now, the Liberals' schemes in committee and the amendments made to parliamentary procedure meant that, in the end, we were overburdened by the legislative provisions that would allow this opting out with full financial compensation for Quebec. Clearly, we could no longer support this bill as soon as it became a program imposed by the federal government, when the provinces could no longer withdraw that money and use it according to their own needs.

In Quebec, we have a grants and bursaries program that is quite different from programs found elsewhere. It is unique in Canada. Among other things, it is based on need and on a range of criteria. The program is very generous and produces good results. We therefore do not need another similar grants program, but rather more financial resources to improve the existing system.

In light of this, we could not support this bill and we, along with the Conservatives, tried to throw out the entire bill. The motion in amendment before us today is meant precisely to bring it all back to the House. It was not acceptable to the Bloc Québécois in committee and it is still unacceptable to us here in the House.

It is surprising to see yet again the Liberal obsession with interfering in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. Honestly, I have asked myself why, again today, are we debating this issue in the House of Commons, a federal chamber that does not have any constitutional jurisdiction over education? Why do the Liberals still think that “Ottawa knows best” and why do they want to establish a wall to wall Canada-wide program in education? This is unacceptable.

If the hon. member who tabled this bill thought there were improvements to be made to the student loan program in his province, I respectfully submit that he should have run in a provincial election, gotten elected and worked on passing such legislation in his province. Nonetheless, it is certainly not the role of the federal government to do so.

Moreover, even though our discussions in this House revolve more and more frequently around interference in provincial jurisdictions, yet the federal government is not even capable of handling all of its own constitutional duties and responsibilities. If everything were going well in the federal government's jurisdictions and it had nothing better to do, then perhaps it could take care of provincial matters, but that is not the case.

I would like to raise a few points that still have not been resolved and are the responsibility of this House. Earlier today I was talking about the issue of regulating train noise. CN is a federally-chartered company that historically has been a responsibility of the federal government. Furthermore, legislation on transportation is a federal jurisdiction.

Amendments were made in this House and in committee to give the Canada Transportation Act more teeth and to protect our communities from the excessive noise caused by transportation companies, including CN. I am talking about CN because it relates to my riding. This issue was sent to the Senate, which studied it and only called as witnesses people from railway companies who told us we did not need these changes. In the end, the Liberal and Conservative members pathetically caved in to the senators and passed the Senate amendments that consisted essentially in going back to the original version, destroying in a single stroke all our amendments and all the work we had done.

We now find ourselves in an odd situation. The Conservatives argued that they did not have the time to return the bill to the Senate, even though the latter was saying that, if we persisted, they would give in. It said in its own discussions that it did not have the time to look after that. Why do we always have the time, in this chamber, at least in the case of the federalist parties, to interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction? But when the time comes to look at a real issue that truly has to do with federal jurisdiction, it is not important enough and there are other things going on? There is something wrong here and it is a real problem with Canadian federalism.

This could also apply to the situation of aboriginals in Canada. We frequently see in the news and media reports, or if we have the opportunity to visit Indian reserves, the difficult conditions in which these individuals live. We see that the federal government is moving at a snail's pace, that no progress is made, that it hesitates, doubles back and looks after a lot of other things whereas that is clearly a responsibility within its jurisdiction. If it would at least look after that issue first.

This is also the case for international trade. Companies are waiting for the federal government to intervene, to defend them, to stand up for them and to ensure that international agreements and the decisions of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal are upheld. It does not have the time for that, it is not glamorous enough for federalist members. However, they always find the time to meddle in education when that is not at all their job.

I would like to conclude by giving another example of the fiscal imbalance, which still has not been corrected. Why has it not been corrected? What is the best proof that it still exists? The government is still able to spend money in provincial jurisdictions. Is the fact that the federal government has to spend money in the provinces' jurisdictions not the best illustration that it has too much money for its own jurisdictions and responsibilities?

If the government really wanted to correct the fiscal imbalance, it would transfer a portion of the tax base, such as the GST, from Ottawa to Quebec and the provinces. This would give Ottawa and the provinces the resources they need to look after their jurisdictions. We would have all the time we need to address the issues that come under our jurisdiction. Perhaps we would have a federation that worked better and there would be people in the provinces to look after health and education. We could look after aboriginal peoples, noise caused by trains, international trade and foreign affairs, as provided for in the Constitution.

It is slightly ironic that only the Bloc Québécois is calling for compliance with the Constitution.

Canada Student Financial Assistance Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin with a comment directed to my Bloc colleague. He should know that, despite his comments that this bill interferes in an area under provincial jurisdiction, his colleague on the committee was prepared to support the bill, until departmental staff made it clear that it would have negative effects. I will discuss that later on.

I would add that financial aid for students does fall under federal jurisdiction even though we agree that education is a provincial responsibility. We have to respect that.

Since this bill comes back empty, today's debate allows me to speak to the NDP's approach to students' financial assistance, which differs significantly from other national parties.

We believe that post-secondary education is a public good and that is the key to Canada's social and economic future. It is through education that we will ensure a cohesive, peaceful and high functioning civil society and it is through education that Canadians will be able to compete in a globalized knowledge economy.

However, to meet those two objectives, we need an effective system of financial assistance for students that ensures equitable access for Canadians from every province and territory.

In our society, it is vitally important for every person capable of post-secondary education to be there and to finish. Ireland is a good example of a country that has recognized the principle of equitable access for everyone. Ten years ago, it decided to abolish undergraduate fees resulting in dramatic increases in post-secondary enrolment and retention rates and a booming economy.

This idea is the precise opposite of the Liberal-Conservative approach which was best defined perhaps in the Bob Rae report that advocated keeping tuitions high and helping only the most needy with a token handout. Half a year's tuition for only the first year and for only the lowest income students would be laughable if it were not so appallingly inadequate.

For years, the NDP has argued for a national system of needs based grants to replace our inefficient and inadequate patchwork of student assistance. Such a grants system would tackle Canada's crisis of student debt for all students from low and middle income families in every year of study. This is what is missing now. It would be complemented with an adequate core funding to the provinces so that soaring student debt could be brought back to earth and everyday families could once again afford higher education for their children without the fear of overwhelming debt. It would ease the tremendous burden on Canada's broken down student loans system and enable fixes to make loans more flexible and responsive to students' needs and circumstances.

I believe that Bill C-284 could have been a tiny step in that direction. Unfortunately, it was fatally flawed, as I suggested earlier. It became clear to committee members that for technical reasons, Bill C-284 would exclude students from Quebec, thereby depriving them of $5.4 million in subsidies. That is unfortunate, because after 15 years, the Liberal Party had finally decided to give students up-front money for each year of study, not just the first year.

The bill was a lot better than the Liberal promise to pay half of students' tuition fees for the first and last years of study. That would have meant $600 million for children of millionaires as well as children from low and middle income families. Fortunately, the Liberals changed course with this bill, in which they proposed giving up-front funds to students in need.

That said, Bill C-284 has the same flaws as does the current Canada access grants program. First, the bill excludes middle-income families by making those whose gross income exceeds $36,000 ineligible. Second, it is based on income, rather than on a needs assessment. Third, it excludes adult students who go back to school after more than four years out of school. Finally, it does not target the specific needs of aboriginal students or of students living in rural areas.

Yet, by providing unconditional grants for all years of study, this bill would have helped keep students in school, while also dealing with the growing student debt crisis.

Unfortunately, the delay in Liberal action after a decade of funding cuts has left us to deal with a Conservative government that sees tax cuts as the solution to all problems.

The Conservative government is like some kind of free market cyborg that reduces everything into economic terms. When those members look at a university campus, they see student widgets that need to be moulded to fit into the cogs of the economy.

The Conservatives have delayed replacing the expiring millennium foundation with a real public system of upfront federal student grants. Their most recent reports on the millennium fund reveal the flaws in the old Liberal piecemeal approach to student aid. The seemingly preordained Conservative conclusions reflect an ideological bias toward more loans to students instead of non-repayable grants.

The fundamental problem with this bias toward student loans is that it creates two classes of students in Canada: one class that can afford to pay upfront the soaring student fees and other education costs; and, a second class who are forced to borrow and therefore end up paying substantially more for their education through loan interest. To make matters worse, interest rates charged on student loans are crushingly high.

Not only do we charge low and middle income students more for their education than we do wealthy families, but the federal government actually makes $300 million a year on those student borrowers. That is a shame.

In a petition I have been collecting from across Canada to fix student aid, students and their families are calling on the minister to go beyond mere administrative fixes of the Canada student loan program. They are calling for a comprehensive change to the student aid system.

In addition to a single grant system, they want a reduction in the federal student loan interest rate, a student loan ombudsperson to ensure that students are treated with fairness and respect, and better relief programs during repayment of student loans for those in financial hardship.

A few months ago, the Liberals offered a partial fix to this problem through Bill C-284. This would have helped to catch up to the needs and realities of today's students. It was regrettable to discover from a departmental legal expert that the bill was flawed beyond repair from the outset. In its current form, the bill would strip $5.4 million in grants from Quebec students. That is unacceptable by any measure.

I will end by appealing to Canada's students who are listening today, or their families, to stand up and join our campaign for a comprehensive student aid system that includes upfront student grants. Students need and deserve a public system of upfront student grants that ensures equitable access for everyone.

I urge Canada's student leaders to be bold and to demand nothing less from the government, from the NDP and any other national party.

Canada Student Financial Assistance Act
Private Members' Business

November 16th, 2007 / 1:55 p.m.


Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the benefits of Bill C-284.

My mother was a janitoress and I was the first one in our family ever to go to university. I could not have done it without a student loan. Perhaps that is why I have spent so much time listening to student leaders about their concerns.

When I see so many earnest young Canadians working to convince the government that their concerns are valid, I am frustrated by the government's refusal to respond to such a legitimate and well-documented case.

In Thunder Bay, Confederation College student union president, Jon Hendel, has forwarded the document “Sleepwalking Towards the Precipice”, which was researched in partnership with many provincial and national student alliances.

One of their main concerns is the looming $350 million cut to financial aid. The mandate of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, which distributes $350 million in student aid annually, is set to expire in 2009. The foundation was established in 1998 by the Liberal Government of Canada with the mandate of improving access to post-secondary education.

Eliminating $350 million from the Canadian financial aid system will have a disastrous impact on the accessibility and affordability of a post-secondary education. Currently, the foundation provides assistance to over 100,000 students annually, making it responsible for about 30% of all non-repayable grants awarded in Canada.

To avert disaster requires immediate action. The federal government must continue to provide a commitment equal to or greater than the foundation's original endowment in non-repayable student financial assistance. This would require the government to provide, at a minimum, a $2.5 billion base endowment to the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. The endowment must also be indexed annually, starting from 1999, to account for inflation and enrolment growth.

Andrew Kane, the manager of financial aid at Confederation College, tells me that over $5 million has been directed to the college since the program began. This is quite a significant amount. He is deeply saddened that this program will be cancelled since it is a direct investment in the students who need it most.

I have received a diploma myself from Confederation College, as well as a master's from York and a B.A. from Lakehead University, and I am proud to have those as my alma maters.

Thunder Bay's Lakehead University student union president, Richard Longtin, confirmed in a recent meeting some amazing statistics. Since 1999, 5,832 Lakehead University students have received $17,528,482 in scholarships and bursaries. In this past academic year alone, 926 students received $2.745 million. Those obviously are a significant set of numbers.

Lakehead University's financial aid administrator wrote to me and said:

It is easy to see that the impact of this program on students at Lakehead University is immense. I have no doubt that these programs have provided the opportunity for many students to attend Lakehead University who otherwise might not have been able to afford a post-secondary education.

The College Student Alliance adds strength to the debate for inclusion. It recommends investment in more non-repayable grants targeted at unrepresented students from low income families, aboriginal communities, first generation and persons with disabilities.

The Canadian Federation of Students met with me regarding the need for a national system of needs based grants. Just yesterday, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, CASA, articulated its issues in its education policy brief entitled, Strengthening Canada's Future: Real Solutions From Canada's Students.

It is very inspiring to meet with such intelligent and motivated young leaders, especially those who so thoughtfully propose reasonable and workable solutions. Of note, they advise that the government must ensure that post-secondary funding is truly dedicated funding. The government must work with the provinces to develop objectives for post-secondary education funding as well as mechanisms to ensure funding is directed toward meeting those goals.

Additional federal transfer funding for post-secondary education must not displace existing funding. Federal transfer funding for post-secondary education should be increased to a minimum level of $4 billion in annual cash transfers and increased annually according to inflation and demographic growth.

The Vancouver based Coalition for Student Loan Fairness has prepared a comprehensive report, entitled “An Eight-Point Plan for Reform”. This reform addresses all levels of concern that constituents have discussed with me.

Point one recommends that the federal government significantly reduce or eliminate the interest rate on student loans. With interest rates of 8.75% to 11.25%, borrowers end up paying interest of over 35% over the lifetime of the loan.

Point two calls for improved access to grants, interest relief and debt reduction. This would include promotion to ensure that all borrowers who need this are aware of it.

Point three calls for the creation of a student loan ombudsman's office which would have the power to prescribe resolutions to service providers, including banks and credit reporting offices.

Points four, five and six speak to creating efficiencies with the recording and payment of student loans. Graduates would be able to expect one integrated loan and one payment with real-time access to statements.

Often, bad things happen to good people through no fault of their own. Points seven and eight address some of those remedies, including the provision of hardship relief.

How serious is student debt? Currently, Canadian students owe the federal government about $800 million in defaulted student loans. The coalition says that nearly $98 million of that amount is interest.

Under an access to information request, the group has also determined that Ottawa is spending more money collecting defaulted loans than in ensuring its interest relief and debt reduction programs are accessible to students. Clearly, changes are needed.

The goal of Bill C-284 is to break down barriers to higher education.

The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation study on Canada's tuition and education tax credits is clear proof that providing an $80 tax break on books is bad policy. The incompetence that took us billions of dollars into debt in the early 1990s and late 1980s, and that the Liberal Party dug us out of, continues. As an example, the move last year to kill thousands of jobs created under the summer career placement program has ended up being nothing short of a disaster for students.

I strongly support CASA's support of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. We know that 95% of the money goes to targeted needs. All provinces and territories belong. It operates with a very efficient 4% overhead compared to 28% for the Canada student loans program.

Let us stand up for our students and tell the government that it should be listening to our student leaders and implementing these proposals immediately.

Canada Student Financial Assistance Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

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.

Canada Student Financial Assistance Act
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is the House ready for the question?

Canada Student Financial Assistance Act
Private Members' Business

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The question is on Motion No. 1. The vote on the motion will also apply to Motions Nos. 2 and 3. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members



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The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada Student Financial Assistance Act
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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Student Financial Assistance Act
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2:15 p.m.

Some hon. members