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House of Commons Hansard #40 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, the way in which EI claims are currently processed is out of date. In 2007-08, we began to consolidate our EI processing sites for greater efficiency. Over the next three years, EI processing will be consolidated into 22 regional sites. We will ease the transition to a smaller workforce through attrition, reassignment and training. Affected employees will be considered for other positions.

The modernization at Service Canada will give Canadians in every region of the country better access to employment insurance and a host of other Government of Canada services. We will all benefit from this.

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are here tonight to discuss the topic of graduate unemployment and underemployment. Back in September a report was released showing that Canadian university graduates are being shut out of the job market at an alarming rate.

This report showed that a whopping one in five Canadian graduates is employed in a position that pays at the lower end of the income scale. This means that 20% of our university graduates are earning an income of less than the national median of $37,000. This income is not very much. Too many of our Canadian new graduates are living below the poverty line.

These findings mean that Canada has the highest proportion of poor university graduates of any of the OECD countries. While the majority of Canadian graduates do earn more than non-university graduates over the course of their lifetime, this report reveals that for far too many of our graduates, their degree is not worth their investment in both time and money. This is not right. We are talking about our best and brightest here. Instead of helping to strengthen our economy, their degrees and skills are being wasted.

I asked a question on this topic on September 27. Unfortunately, when I asked this question, the minister did not rise and talk about what the government is doing to actually create more jobs and create more opportunities for the most educated in our country. No, instead, the minister stood up and spoke about tax credits.

How do tax credits help graduates find jobs? What good is a tax credit if they do not have jobs? What message are we sending to our university graduates when after spending years and thousands of dollars on earning a degree, they are forced into jobs that are greatly below their education standard?

We know that our university grads are getting jobs at the low end of the income scale. What message are we sending to our youth when the only jobs available to them are part-time or shift work? What hope for tomorrow do we give to these people?

This is a question that I am often asked on the doorsteps in my constituency. My riding is one of the poorest in the GTA, yet many of the families that live there are spending their life savings or incurring extreme amounts of debt to send their children to school, only to then have their children graduate and not be able to find jobs or they find severely underpaying jobs.

While these graduates do not have well-paying jobs, the one thing we know they have for sure is debt. On average, Canadian students are graduating with a debt load of over $25,000, and tuition fees, unfortunately, continue to rise at four times the rate of inflation.

Getting a degree is not getting any cheaper, and now these graduates do not have jobs to look forward to to help them pay back their student loans. The fact that the cost for post-secondary education is rising coupled with low job prospects may in turn deter Canadians from pursuing post-secondary education. Many Canadians may decide that the debt associated with pursuing post-secondary studies is just not worth it.

If the government is as serious as it says it is about securing Canada's economic future, it would make a commitment to education. If it was really concerned with Canada's economic recovery, it would create real jobs and real opportunities for our nation's best and brightest.

Many youth and graduates in my constituency and across the country cannot find work at all. What are we saying to these people who are already marginalized because of their age, ethnicity, status in the country, and their household income? What are we telling them? Are we telling them that they are not worth planning for? Why not provide our graduates and our youth with a sense of importance and value? Why not provide them with opportunities, like jobs and access to post-secondary education?

Why not give them hope? On this side of the House, that is what we believe in. Our university graduates need jobs. They need real jobs that will help them make ends meet, that will help them support their families, that will help them and their children lead better lives. This is what we have been fighting for on this side of the House. We have been asking the government for a real economic recovery plan. We have been asking the government for real action on unemployment and underemployment.

I will ask my question again tonight, when will the government stop the inaction and come forward with a real jobs plan, with real opportunities for Canadian graduates?

6:30 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to discuss Canada's economy and outline our Conservative government's record in helping create jobs and supporting Canadian students.

First and foremost, our Conservative government is squarely focused on what matters to Canadians, helping create jobs and promoting economic growth.

As Statistics Canada announced today, Canada's economy grew yet again in August. That is positive news, along with the fact that approximately 650,000 net new jobs have been created since July 2009. It is an encouraging sign that our government is on the right track for the economy and hard-working families.

Indeed, on the job creation front, Canada has an enviable record when compared to other G7 countries. Canada has posted the strongest employment growth in the G7 since mid-2009, and of those approximately 650,000 net new jobs created since July 2009, over 90% have been full-time and nearly 80% have been in the private sector.

For the benefit of the NDP member, I draw her attention to the September 2011 OECD employment outlook for an independent assessment of Canada's job market. The report states:

--the labour market is recovering faster in Canada than in many OECD countries...Canada’s long-term unemployment is among the lowest in the OECD, suggesting that job prospects have remained fairly positive--

Nevertheless, we recognize the global recovery is fragile, especially in the United States and Europe, and equally as important, too many Canadians, especially our young people, are still looking for work.

That is why we are working and focused on implementing the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, including its key steps to help Canadian students and youth succeed in the global economy with the help of the best education possible.

The next phase of Canada's economic action plan includes several smart and targeted steps to help students and youth in their education and support as they need it, such as: the student loan forgiveness for doctors and nurses working in rural and remote areas; extending tax relief for skills certification exams, to make all occupational, trade and professional exam fees eligible for tax relief through the tuition tax credit; doubling the in-study income exemption from $50 per week to $100 per week, benefiting over 100,000 students by allowing them to work more without negatively affecting their income; reducing the in-study interest rate for part-time Canadian student loan recipients; increasing the family income threshold for part-time Canada loans and Canada student grant recipients, bringing the eligibility thresholds in line with the thresholds for full-time students; and providing $20 million to help the Canadian Youth Business Foundation to support young entrepreneurs.

The next phase of Canada's economic action plan is working. I encourage the NDP to support the next phase of Canada's action plan and these significant initiatives for students.

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government can talk all it wants about legislation it has passed, tax credits it has implemented, and making more debt available for students, but at the end of the day, the government has not really helped our graduates. How does a tax credit actually help an individual find a job? It does not.

We have our best and brightest working at jobs that are significantly lower than their education level. This is not because these people are not looking hard enough. This is because these jobs just do not exist, and the creation of more precarious part-time jobs are not the types of jobs that our university graduates are looking for.

What does the government not understand about this? I do not understand what the government does not understand. We need real jobs for our graduates and for all Canadians. We need good jobs. We need full-time permanent jobs, not more precarious ones.

Why will the government not act to support our nation's graduates and why will it not create a real job plan with tangible opportunities for Canada's graduates?

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

As I mentioned before, Mr. Speaker, the next phase of Canada's economic action plan contains many positive measures for Canadian youth, measures that the NDP and the member opposite unfortunately voted against.

I suggest the NDP members talk to important groups about their assessment of the plan and reconsider their opposition. They should talk to organizations like the National Association of Career Colleges who said about the plan:

Students were hoping for positive news from the government, and this government has delivered. The government’s proposal will allow more students to access post-secondary education training.

While our Conservative government has focused on jobs, economic growth and helping youth, the NDP is disappointingly opposed to our plan, and instead is focused on tax increases on families and employers.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I posed a question back on October 5 to the President of the Treasury Board. He has not risen to answer any questions with respect to G8 spending.

Fifty million dollars was spent out of the border infrastructure fund. The money that was spent in the minister's riding really had nothing to do with the border infrastructure fund, so that money should not really have been spent in the minister's riding. That $50 million was spent on projects that did not qualify to come out of that particular fund. I have to question the government's priorities when it spent $50 million from the border infrastructure fund and cut $56 million from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The Auditor General said that “rules were broken” with respect to how that $50 million was spent. When the Minister of Foreign Affairs stands to defend the President of the Treasury Board, he always responds by saying that the government is paying attention to what the Auditor General had to say. It is all well and good for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to say that, but in reality $50 million was spent on projects for which the money was not intended.

When I look at what the government is doing in terms of cutting $56 million from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, all I can do is shake my head and think that the government has it all wrong. It is spending money from the border infrastructure fund on projects that should never have been approved under that fund, while at the same time it is cutting $56 million from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, thereby cutting services and safety. That is such an important department in terms of a renewable resource. As an example, cutting the marine sub-centres in St. John's and Quebec will impact on the safety of anyone who goes on the ocean, not just fishers.

The government is also making cuts to the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council , the very body that takes science into account, that takes the input of fishers--the people with the experience--into account, and takes the industry into account. The government is cutting from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans something that is vitally important to the future of our country. It is extremely important to the future of people not just in Newfoundland and Labrador, but the entire country. We are talking about a renewable resource.

Because the government had spent this money without any approval and because there was some suggestion that the RCMP was investigating the legality of how that money had been spent, I put my question to the minister. I asked him if he or any of his former staff had been approached by the RCMP. I raise the question now to the parliamentary secretary, because I did not get an answer: has the minister and/or his former staff been approached by the RCMP about the legality of how the money out of the border infrastructure fund was spent?

6:40 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, this is like the movie Groundhog Day: I am back again. Hopefully, I am getting better at this. I thank the member for her question.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to respond to the question posed by the hon. member for Random—Burin—St. George's. The G8 legacy fund was an investment in public infrastructure that has benefited the region and its communities while supporting the G8 summit. The fund improved tourism and recreational facilities; upgraded sidewalks, parks and lighting; and ensured safer highways for residents in the region. Residents and visitors to the region will be able to take advantage of these improvements well into the future.

As well as leaving a legacy to the region, these projects also contributed to Canada's successful hosting of the G8 summit in Huntsville. The Muskoka region was responsible for hosting the 2010 summit and needed to be ready to showcase Canada to international guests and media, such as heads of state, senior dignitaries and countless delegates from the world's leading countries.

While supporting Canada's hosting role, the intent of the fund was also to provide a legacy to the communities and the people in the region. This has traditionally been the case when Canada hosts such high-profile international events. Similar events were completed in Vancouver, Kananaskis, Quebec City, Moncton and Halifax. Hosting an international event of this scale in the Muskoka-Parry Sound region was important for Canada. The G8 legacy fund helped the region prepare for and host the international delegations, showcasing our beautiful country to the world.

The Auditor General reported that Infrastructure Canada worked to ensure that every G8 legacy project met the program's conditions. All of these projects were identified by municipalities and the province as a local priority. They provided lasting benefits to their communities and contributed to a successfully hosted G8 summit. Every dollar was spent on eligible costs for approved public infrastructure projects. The Auditor General reviewed this program and made a number of important observations and recommendations for improvement. We have been clear that we have accepted this report and its findings.

Hosting the G8 summit put Canada on the world stage, and the G8 legacy fund helped in making it successful.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, it would appear that I am not going to get the answer from the parliamentary secretary any more than I got an answer from the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The reality is, rules were broken. That is the problem I have with how this money from the border infrastructure fund was spent. It certainly was not meant to be spent in Muskoka, and it certainly was not meant to be spent without the approval of Parliament, which is exactly what happened.

The problem I have with all of this is that the government can stand and talk about how the money was spent, acknowledge that the Auditor General said that rules were broken, and then turn around and treat areas of this country with such total lack of respect in terms of what needs to be done to keep the country going and to make viable options. For instance, through an agency like the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, we know that cutting to the tune of $56 million will have a devastating impact on the people who make a living from the fishery. Why in the name of Heaven the government would cut the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council and at the same time turn around and invest money in things like a fake lighthouse and fake lakes is beyond me. It does not make sense. Why is the government not recognizing the importance of putting money where it counts, instead of doing things that the Auditor General says was breaking the rules?

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, the G8 legacy fund helped the region prepare for hosting the 2010 G8 summit and provided a legacy to the region. Tourism infrastructure was renovated, a new University of Waterloo Summit Centre for the Environment was constructed, roads were upgraded and community infrastructure was improved in towns throughout the region. These projects meant a successful hosting of the summit, and residents as well as visitors to the region continue to benefit from these projects.

The Auditor General found that all 32 projects met the program's terms and conditions. She found that officials maintained project records and established frameworks to deliver the programs with due diligence. Every dollar was spent on eligible costs for eligible projects.

The summit, like other previous international meetings held in Canada, was an important occasion for our country to present itself to the world. Every project was completed in time for the summit, contributing to this great opportunity for our country.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

(The House adjourned at 6:45 p.m.)