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House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

7:10 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to participate in the adjournment debate because it gives me the opportunity to go over in more detail questions I have asked the Conservative government.

In this case, the question was about the new horizons program. I said that the Conservative government had learned nothing from the summer career placement program, because it planned on using a similar tactic for the new horizons program that would centralize decision-making somewhere other than the regional centres, which are perfectly competent.

As we know, the new horizons for seniors program is a fascinating example of the propensity of governments to turn a very useful initiative into a way to centralize decision-making, which is, at best, very irritating for anyone involved.

This program encourages seniors to participate in their community and offers three types of funding: for upgrading equipment, for promoting awareness among the public about elder abuse, and for helping seniors use their life experience to benefit the community.

In theory, that will meet the needs expressed by these people. In practice, however, something major is missing to enable them to take control of their own situation. In my region, there are dynamic groups of seniors, such as the Lower St. Lawrence seniors round table and 50-plus forum. These people bring a lot to the community, and they know the Service Canada officers in Rimouski. They would like to propose their own projects to people who know them, who know their community and who understand local dynamics.

Instead, the government is trying to alienate seniors by making decisions far away in Montreal and Ottawa rather than close to home. Instead of working with people in their community, seniors have to go along with decisions made by people who are very far away.

Service Canada officers in major centres have a lot of experience and they mean well, but they are not close to home and they do not understand our dynamics or our community. The government should enable competent public servants in Rimouski—people who know what is going on and who know how to hold consultations in their community—to do these things close to home to better serve our seniors.

As I said, it started this spring with the move to centralize the summer work experience program, and it is still happening. I would certainly like to know the real reason the government wants to distance people from the decision-making process. Why does it not trust its regional public servants, who are very competent and dedicated? Why does the government not want seniors to have access to services that really are close to home? What is the government's true motivation?

I hope that I will get an answer this time without having to ask my follow-up question in English.

7:15 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I know the member, like this government, cares about seniors issues. I am thankful her for the opportunity to address the subject of the new horizons for seniors program.

This government takes the well-being of Canadian seniors very seriously. This is why in budget 2007 we committed $10 million per year for the expansion of this program. This new funding will provide capital assistance to non-profit organizations to help maintain programs and activities for seniors as well as assist national and regional non-profits to help reduce the incidence of elder abuse.

Since its inception in 2004 this program has funded community based organizations for projects led by seniors. It is a grassroots approach. The purpose is to encourage older persons to continue with their invaluable contributions to society and to enhance their well-being in the community by sharing their skills, their wisdom and their experience.

A key principle of this program is our belief that decisions about funding for seniors should be made by people who are knowledgeable about the needs of seniors. This is why we put in place a review committee in each province and territory whose members are active in seniors and community issues

Provincial and federal representatives are normally part of these committees. These committees are responsible for setting funding priorities as well as reviewing and recommending projects for funding.

An essential part of their responsibilities is to ensure that funding decisions do reflect local needs. Each committee recognizes and supports unique needs of seniors in its province or territory. They help to ensure that funding decisions are fair, that they are open and that they are transparent.

Our government partners with the Government of Quebec through a formal protocol. It ensures that our respective programs for seniors complement each other. Under this protocol Quebec's network of regional advisory committees on seniors provides a community perspective. Their input ensures that the principles of the new horizons for seniors program are respected.

This approach is consistent with that taken across the country. In this way people active in seniors issues are part of the decision making process of reviewing and recommending projects for funding.

In the past year human resources and social development's Quebec region has established a dedicated team working out of one office to handle administrative functions. This practice is normally followed in other regions.

Community engagement, such as program promotion and support to applicants, is still done by the local program staff. As a result, the Quebec region expects to maintain the community focus of program promotions but ensure better administrative quality.

The new horizons for seniors program helps seniors benefit from and contribute to the quality of life in their community.

This government takes great pride in our record of providing streamlined benefits and better government programming to Canada's seniors.

7:20 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that I have a very hard time swallowing the word “pride” every time I hear it, which they say as though they themselves invented it. During an adjournment debate, instead of expanding on a question that was sincerely raised on behalf of an important segment of the population, that is, our seniors, if the representatives of the Conservative government in this House want to give us a lesson on pride, we could play with words for some time.

The question I had asked, which I will ask again here this evening and to which I hope to receive a response, wondered why this responsibility is not being handed over to the people who are closest to our seniors—if committees are needed, let us strike committees—people who know the field very well?

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, if the member does not like the word “pride”, then I will say that the hon. member cares deeply about administrative costs. She put forward Motion No. 383, which called on the government to reduce administrative costs in the old age security program and give the benefit of those savings directly to the seniors.

This government also cares deeply--we have a new word now, “cares”--about overhead and bureaucratic costs. This is one of the factors behind this decision to go the route we have gone on the issue and use a single committee comprised of community leaders and experts on seniors issues to make funding decisions, which was the member's question. It was about who makes decisions on funding issues.

We do not need hundreds of employees across the country administering these programs. These decisions are not made in the minister's office. They are not centralized as the hon. member has suggested. They are made by a panel of experts in each region so that the seniors receive the greatest benefit.

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:22 p.m.)