Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for London North Centre for bringing forth the bill. Obviously it would be an improvement to the student loan system of today. However, I have fully concur and agree with the member from British Columbia who just spoke. Oftentimes the Liberal government takes away so much and gives back a tiny bit in its place, which does not solve the problem at all.
The real problem with post-secondary education is the cash transfers under the Canadian Health and Social Transfer Act. In 1995-96, $16.6 billion were transferred to the provinces to give social services and in particular post-secondary educational services to all young people. In 1997-98 Canadian health and social transfers to the provinces were $10.4 billion, or a loss of $6.2 billion to the provinces primarily in a fund directed toward social services and in particular post-secondary education.
If we combine that problem with tremendous cuts in transfer payments to the provinces, a tremendously high unemployment rate for young people, twice the national average consistently for the last 10 years, we realize the problem that many of our young students face.
The bill we are discussing is a good one. It is an improvement. Giving a tax break or a tax incentive to somebody who is heavily in debt, to the tune of $50,000 or $60,000 after getting an education, is good, but it is not the solution that young Canadians want when they cannot find jobs. Allowing students to write off some of their interest under student debt is good, but again it is not the solution that young Canadians want.
First and foremost young Canadians want an opportunity to access a good education at a reasonable cost. That is not happening in Canada today with tuition increases of over 200% in the last seven or eight years. Education is becoming almost impossible for many of our young people to access at any cost. Tuition increases are prohibitive. They are encouraging some of our young people not to become educated and as a result they will be faced with tremendous unemployment problems as they go through their lives.
The bankruptcy problems of young students and the change the government made to make it more difficult for students to declare bankruptcy is shameful. It does not serve young Canadians well. It does not serve students well. It is almost discriminatory against young people who have worked hard to obtain an education. If we combine that with some of the out-migration because there are no job opportunities in Canada, we begin to see a fuller picture of the problems facing post-secondary students.
Bill C-316 is an improvement. Our caucus will be voting for this improvement. If nothing else, it at least acknowledges the fact that an investment in education is an investment for the benefit of the country. As such students should get a tax break because they have invested in many ways as businesses do in their education, which makes Canada a stronger, better and more productive country.
The bill will allow all students to be treated fairly, those who can access the Canadian student loan program and those who have to go through private sources of lending such as banks or other sources. If they are attending school and require a loan from a private source, a bank or whatever, at least now students involved in the post-secondary system will be treated fairly.
In conclusion, we in our caucus will be supporting the bill. It shows that the government is at least beginning to think in the right way and look in the direction of post-secondary students, education and its value into the next millennium.
We do not agree with some of the other government programs, but in this case the member for London North Centre and his caucus colleagues have brought forward a bill that makes some sense to students and will make their lives a bit easier. It will get the full support of the Conservative caucus.