Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be splitting my time with the very affable and capable member of Mississauga—Streetsville.
I am pleased to respond to the motion put forward by the member for Toronto Centre, as I always welcome an opportunity to compare our record to that of other governments.
For instance, in the 2003-04 year in which the Liberal government was in power, it presided over a 28% default rate for student loans. In the 2009-10 our Conservative government reduced this to a 13.8% rate.
In 1996 the poverty rate was 15.2%. In 2010, under our Conservative government, it was 9%. In 1996, under the previous Liberal government, 18.4% of children lived in poverty. This is a troubling number. In 2010, under our Conservative government, this number has been cut in half to 8.2%. Since 2006, 225,000 less children are in poverty than under the previous government.
It is not about national strategies and glamorous meetings. Rather, it is about getting the job done for Canadians with real action and a real plan.
Here are the facts.
The Liberals gutted transfers to the provinces and territories with staggering, unprecedented cuts, totalling tens of billions of dollars annually in the mid-1990s, downloading that cost and responsibility on to the provinces and the municipalities.
Our Conservative government has increased them back beyond the 1990s levels to record levels. In fact, in my home province, by simply treating this in a principled, fair manner, we are treating all Canadians equally. Per capita funding has actually increased the amount of transfers to Alberta to record levels.
In 2012-13 the federal government will provide provinces and territories an all-time high of $60.9 billion in major transfer support, an increase of a whopping 43% since 2005-06.
As a result of the actions of our government, the typical family in Canada pays $3,100 a year less in taxes than under the previous government. We have increased transfer payments, there is less child poverty and lower taxes.
Unlike previous governments that just needed four more years, we have taken real action for all Canadians, especially middle-class and low-income families.
However, tax cuts and direct financial support can only go so far. We have been clear. The best way to fight poverty is to connect Canadians with jobs. Acquiring skills is crucial to securing a good job and a promising career in today's knowledge-based economy.
A post-secondary education is especially important when it comes to an individual's pocketbook. Research by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada indicates that a university graduate makes up to $1.3 million more over a lifetime compared to a high school graduate.
I am proud to be part of a government that is ensuring more young Canadians can take full advantage of what higher education has to offer for themselves as individuals, but also for our country and our society as a whole.
As all members of the House are aware, job creation and economic recovery continues to be our government's top priority. Thanks to the strong, capable leadership of the Prime Minister, Canada has created 770,000 net new jobs since the worst of the recession.
We have been clear. We are committed to creating more education opportunities for Canadians that will lead to better jobs and a sustainable and competitive economy.
We have invested $10 billion annually in support to students and their families, research and infrastructure funding and transfers to provinces and territories to create post-secondary education opportunities for all Canadians. Much of that money goes directly to supporting students. In 2010-11 over 500,000 students received $2.2 billion in Canada student loans. Since its introduction, 4.7 million students have received $38 billion from the Canada student loan program to achieve their educational goals.
This investment has yielded impressive dividends. In 2011 Canada ranked first in overall post-secondary education attainment among OECD countries, with 50% of adults aged 25 to 64 having some form of higher education. That compares to the OECD average of 30%. Even more remarkable, this share rises to 56% for younger Canadians between the ages of 25 and 34.
In addition to loans, there are the Canada student grants that provide extra non-repayable financial support. The grants reduce the amount students need to borrow, putting a post-secondary education within reach of families that would otherwise struggle to help their children attend college or university.
In my riding, working fathers and mothers realize that education is the key to their children's future and they often tell me they just need a little more help to ensure that every child has the opportunity for an education.
Over 320,000 students from low and middle-income families, along with students with permanent disabilities and those with dependents, have benefited from these grants in 2010 and 2011 alone. That is 25,000 more than benefited from these grants the year before. We also paid out $703 million in Canada education savings grants, which provide a 20% top-up on parents' savings for their children's post-secondary education.
We have worked hard to make these important programs more accessible to all Canadians. We have made numerous improvements to them in recent years. They are helping more students than ever before pursue higher studies.
For example, income thresholds have been raised for part-time student loans. As of the 2012-2013 school year, that means students can earn more money but still qualify for loans and grants. The maximum amount part-time students can receive has recently been increased from $4,000 to $10,000.
It is projected that over 2,500 additional part-time students will be eligible for a Canada student loan in 2012-13, rising to just under 8,000 in year five and on an ongoing basis. Nearly 500 additional part-time students will receive a Canada student grant in year one, rising to about 1,500 in year five and continuing to rise after that.
Another major improvement is our decision to no longer charge interest on part-time loans. While a student is in school, this amounts to roughly $350 in savings each year for the average student. These changes to part-time loans enable people who may be working full-time to achieve their educational goals for themselves and their families.
We have also made it easier to pay off student loans. The repayment assistance plan allows borrowers to make affordable payments based on their family income and family size. In this way we help ensure student loan repayments are kept affordable. One hundred and sixty-five thousand students benefited from the repayment assistance plan just last year.
We also announced earlier this summer that we would be delivering on our commitment to forgive loans for new doctors and nurses who chose to practice in rural areas. In rural communities, such as mine, this is one of the most significant social enhancements we can do to help enable more of our young people to come back to our communities and practice medicine in our communities, and not just doctors, but nurses as well.
Our government has set aside $9 million a year to forgive a portion of Canada student loans for family doctors, residents in family medicine, nurse practitioners and nurses who work in underserved rural or remote areas, such as first nations, Inuit and Métis communities.
From new online services for students to streamlined processes for applications and loan payments, often in partnership with the provinces and territories, we are taking major steps to increase accessibility to higher education.
Our government's mandate is to help the economy grow and create jobs, which means more employment opportunities for students. We are committed to having the most skilled and most educated workforce in the world.
What we need now is not a national strategy to tell us what is important. What we need is to continue with the plan that we have set forward, the plan for economic recovery and economic success.
It is time the opposition do more than just talk about poverty, equality and opportunity. It is one thing to talk about creating hope; it is another thing to actually provide hope and equality for all Canadians.
I urge all members to join our Prime Minister in implementing a real plan, which has already demonstrated impressive results.