Motion No. 32
That Bill C-17 be amended by deleting Clause 26.
Won his last election, in 2011, with 69% of the vote.
Budget Implementation Act May 26th, 1994
Motion No. 32
That Bill C-17 be amended by deleting Clause 26.
Budget Implementation Act May 26th, 1994
Motions Nos. 27, 28, 29 and 30
That Bill C-17 be amended by deleting Clause 22.
That Bill C-17 be amended by deleting Clause 23.
That Bill C-17 be amended by deleting Clause 24.
That Bill C-17 be amended by deleting Clause 25.
Budget Implementation Act May 26th, 1994
Motion No. 23
That Bill C-17 be amended by deleting Clause 21.
Criminal Justice May 24th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, in August 1992, 73-year-old William Dove was lured from his cabin near Whitewood, Saskatchewan and brutally beaten to death by two men and a teenager. Unbelievably, Hubert Ascoose, one of the two men convicted of manslaughter, is already eligible for parole.
The victim's mother has asked to attend the parole hearing scheduled for June. The parole board has advised Mr. Dove's family that they are welcome to attend the parole hearing "but they won't be able to say anything".
Many people in Saskatchewan feel that the three charged in this case got such light sentences that they literally got away with murder. Once again the system bends over backward for the criminal and denies the victim's family a chance to tell the parole board what they think.
When is the government going to correct this gross injustice? When is the government going to make changes to the parole system to put the rights of the victim and the protection of society as its first priority of the criminal justice system?
Canada Student Financial Assistance Act May 24th, 1994
Madam Speaker, this bill is of personal interest to me. Before getting into my present line of work I was a teacher.
I graduated from the University of Saskatchewan. Two of my daughters are presently attending the university and I have two more at home who also plan on going to the university. You can see I have a deep personal interest and understanding of university and for how much an education costs. I know that 25 years ago the cost was high and I know what it costs today. I am deeply concerned about the cost in the future.
I have spent much of my working life preparing students for university. Some of them have chosen to go directly from high school into the work world, but some have gone to other post-secondary institutions, including universities.
Since statistics consistently show that individuals with university degrees have considerably larger lifetime incomes, I tried my best to convince as many of my students as possible to go to university. I often explained to them that for every day they spent in high school they could expect to earn $200 extra in their lifetime. In that way, by getting that higher education I hoped it would provide some incentive for them to continue on with what they were studying. Unfortunately not all of my students wanted to go; they just could not afford it.
Even though this bill will increase the amount of loan money available to students by 57 per cent, the fact remains that the discriminatory aspects of the Canada student loans program still remain.
This bill, as in the past, will require students and their families to take a means test. This means those students whose parents are well off are ineligible for student loans. Even if those students receive no assistance from their parents and have to go it alone, they are ineligible.
Low income taxpayers are especially discriminated against as they are less apt to send their children to university. Yet their taxes are used to pay for post-secondary education, including the government's share of the student loans program which is $479 million this year alone.
By 1990 two-thirds of the adult population did not possess post-secondary credentials. This means that two-thirds of the people are helping to pay the post-secondary education costs of the other third who, as stated before, earn considerably higher incomes. We have the poor subsidizing the rich. To put things in plain English, this bill will perpetuate a problem which has existed since 1964. We always have had this kind of thing, the poor subsidizing the rich for their education.
The most serious area of discrimination is in the repayment of student loans which we find onerous and rigid. The current program discriminates against the poor and unemployed by forcing them to pay back their loans at the same level as those who are gainfully employed and/or those students who end up earning far more money.
The repayment plan is inflexible because it forces former students to begin repaying their loans six or eight months after graduation, irrespective of the borrower's income. This is not only unfair but it also results in unacceptable default rates on the loans and increased collection costs, all of which cost taxpayers more and more money.
Reformers maintain that the government cannot just look at one part of the problem of funding for post-secondary education, namely student loans, without looking at the problem of total government support for post-secondary education in its entirety.
Total university enrolment has grown by 42 per cent between 1980 and 1991. In 1980 the government invested an average of $7,700 per full time student to cover university operating expenses. By 1992 this figure had fallen in constant dollar terms to under $6,700, a 13.5 per cent drop. Some provinces have recently announced some absolute cuts in operating grants for universities.
At a time when we need to become more competitive in the international community, when we need to upgrade our skills, when we have to exploit those areas at which we are better at providing well trained people for the workforce, it is not the time to be cutting back on university funding. In fact we should be doing the opposite. We should be trying to take advantage of our global economy.
Suffice it to say with higher budget deficits, with the increasing debt load we are experiencing and a higher and higher percentage of tax revenue needed just to pay the interest on the debt, the budget squeeze for our universities is going to get worse before it gets better.
We need to decide what is important in this country. Higher education is important and we need to preserve that. We need to preserve health care. There are certain priorities we must maintain. We cannot do it all for everyone. This government has to decide what its priorities are and higher education should be one of those.
With declining income from federal and provincial governments, universities have sought other sources of revenue. While revenues from gifts and donations and non-government grants increased an average of 42 per cent during the 1980s, they still account for less than 1 per cent of the general operating income. All of those areas account for less than 1 per cent.
Tuition fees have played a considerably more important role in helping to offset the decline in government revenue. Tuition fees have increased 60 per cent since 1980. In 1980 tuition fees accounted for 13 per cent of general operating revenue for universities and in 1992 they were a source of 22 per cent, a substantial increase.
In 1991 the Smith Commission of Inquiry on Canadian University Education concluded: "A preoccupation with underfunding pervades every campus. The effect is extremely negative". It concluded that: "There is room for increasing tuition fees, provided there is an effective proper student assistance plan"-and here is the key phrase-"with automatic income contingent repayment".
The previous speaker asked for positive suggestions. We are going to give him one of those positive suggestions at this time.
What I would like to explore in more detail is this whole concept of student loans with a built in, automatic income contingent repayment plan. The Reform Party supports a move in this direction for three basic reasons: there would be a reduced cost to the taxpayer if we implemented this; there would be greater flexibility and fairness for students; and the maintenance of high quality educational services would take place. Those are three very strong arguments as to why we should consider income contingent loans.
The reduced cost to the taxpayer is really an important one at this time because we cannot load down our taxpayers with more debt. There is also greater flexibility and greater fairness for our students. They would have more choices. They would have access to funds which they previously did not have. It would allow them to get into fields they would like to pursue. With this increased, or this change in funding, the educational institutions would also have more flexibility.
In fact on April 29, Motion No. 291 was introduced by the leader of the Reform Party which asked the government to consider amending the Canada Student Loans Act to include an income contingent repayment system for the very reasons I have just mentioned. The hon. member for Medicine Hat outlined some of the details of how an automatic income contingent repayment plan would work but I think it bears repeating.
Simply put, an income contingent loan repayment scheme for post-secondary education would allow students to pay back their student loans over a period of time based on their annual income and using the income tax machinery to monitor and collect student loans. That is already in place.
Here in a nutshell is how it would work. All students would be eligible for a student loan. The means test would be eliminated. Upon graduation a student would begin to pay back their student loan. The loan repayment plan would be linked to the student's earnings or the ability to pay. Precisely how much a former student paid back would vary from year to year, depending on his or her salary level. That seems to me to be a very fair way to collect the money. The specific amount would be set as a percentage of income. It would be paid back through the income tax system. We would not have to set up a new collection system. If a person's income did not reach a specified amount, the payment would be deferred until their earnings came up.
This repayment system depends entirely on the supply of accurate income statements long after the individual has left the institution of higher learning. Revenue Canada would have to supply the necessary data automatically. It could be done cheaply through the whole income tax system and through statements those people would supply. This would necessitate the recording of student borrowers with the tax department of course, and the inclusion of social insurance numbers on student loan forms.
With the full details of each student including future incomes and movement within Canada, the income tax authorities would act as the primary monitor of subsequent loan collections. Income tax is already doing this now in the case of defaults on student loans when they apply tax refunds toward the student loan debt. That is a positive suggestion and I hope the government is listening.
Income contingent repayment would save taxpayers money. It would save money by drastically reducing the number of defaulted loans. It would save money between the simple interest paid by student borrowers and the accumulated or compound interest paid by the government. It would dramatically reduce the collection fees on defaulted loans.
Between 1985 and 1990, $44 million in student loans were written off for a total write-off proportion of nearly 5 per cent. The value of the defaults accumulated on the federal books since 1984 is rapidly approaching $1 billion. Collection agencies are now being hired to collect the money which in itself involves substantial costs.
With the total value of default now over $900 million the potential earnings for the collection agencies is estimated to range from $135 million to $170 million. Those are the fees just to collect these. Income contingent repayment could be imple-
mented immediately at far less cost, thereby improving the collection success rate with less frustration and aggravation for students and for government.
In 1993 the Association for Universities and Colleges of Canada developed a proposal called "A New Student Assistance Plan" based on a concept of income contingent repayment. It recently made a presentation to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development as part of the phase one consultations the minister has on his review of social programs.
The materials provided by the association list the benefits of its proposed student loan income contingent plan. I want to go through three areas of benefits that it lists. I hope the government is listening because this is a key group that has put these forth.
First of all, there are the benefits for students. Students would have increased accessibility and increased availability. It would not depend on many factors that are now put into this whole system. They would have increased access. It would be for all students. That is a very key advantage.
Second, there would be a more fair method of repayment. The student loan would emphasize the student's ability to pay. It would not automatically come into effect six or eight months after they graduated from university. It would depend on their income level. That is a much more fair method.
It would provide student assistance to individuals who do not currently qualify for means tested student assistance. It would be available for everyone. It would provide improved benefits for students in the face of rising educational costs. That is a reality. We must face the fact that costs are increasing.
The second area explained as being of benefit is a benefit for the universities. It would allow universities more flexibility in setting tuition fees, including differential fees by programs. For example, someone in medicine who could expect a higher return after graduation could have higher tuition fees. Another benefit for the university is that it would assist universities in maintaining accessibility in the face of declining government funding. Government funding continues to go down. It would help the universities in that area. It would help universities to meet their mission of providing high quality education for all qualified students.
Of course the third broad area of benefit would be the benefit for government. It explains it this way. It would provide an avenue for the federal government to continue to invest in higher education and to support equality of opportunity across Canada.
Second, it would largely eliminate the problem of loan defaults since students repay only when they reach a specified income level. Right now 70 per cent of loan defaults occur within 12 to 18 months of the students completing their studies. It would address that problem.
It would eliminate the need for and the cost of collection agencies to collect delinquent student loans by using the income tax system to collect loan payments.
It would also be of benefit to government in that it would help the government meet its objectives of encouraging life long learning.
Finally, it would permit more fairness in the way governments provide student assistance.
There are those who oppose income contingent repayment, but I do not think their arguments hold up under serious examination. For example, the Canadian Association of University Teachers made a submission to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. It dismissed income contingent repayment without even attempting to compare it to the status quo. It said that under income contingent repayment, the total cost of education will be greatest for those who take the longest time to pay and that wealthy students will pay the least. It failed to consider that both of these statements are also true under the present system.
Another complaint is that income contingent repayment would serve as a disincentive for the federal and provincial governments to maintain their grant levels once tuition fees begin to rise. This assertion completely ignores the reality of the past 15 years during which students have assumed a greater and greater share of their education costs as a result of financial constraints imposed by both the federal and provincial governments on these institutions. That is reality. That is the status quo.
These increases in tuition have taken place in the absence of a single income contingent repayment plan and for reasons which have nothing to do with student loan programs. With increasing enrolments the government deficit, debt crisis and declining financial support from both levels of government, it is obvious we cannot just bury our heads in the sand and hope that the money genie is going to appear and save our schools of higher education. Let us face reality.
The problem is serious and the problem has to be addressed now. This bill does not really address the problem. I call on the government to embark on a complete overhaul of the financial support system now serving post-secondary institutions and students.
This government continues to tinker with programs. We need a complete overhaul. We cannot continue to just make small adjustments. I believe the federal government's established programs financing should be completely replaced with the voucher system as described by the hon. member for Medicine Hat. The student loans legislation should be amended as moved by the hon. member for Calgary Southwest to provide for automatic income contingent repayment. We do not need another pilot project, we need an income contingent repayment plan for students now.
Unemployment Insurance Act May 11th, 1994
Madam Speaker, the purpose of this private member's bill is to change the rules of the unemployment insurance program to allow claimants to collect UI benefits while they are on jury duty. That is the intent.
The guidelines used by claims adjudicators in unemployment insurance state: "As a general rule a UI claimant who is on jury duty is not considered to be available for work during a trial. The unemployment insurance plan was not designed to provide compensation for lost wages in such circumstances".
The guidelines also state that a person serving as a juror may not be disqualified from receiving benefits if the jury duty is only for one or two days. Rare exceptions have also been made for those jurors or claimants who can prove that they would be released from their obligations and report for work within 24 hours.
The policy experts at unemployment insurance comment that the problem is not with the UI rules on availability but rather the poor compensation provided for jurors. That is what the people at UI are saying and the Reform Party agrees. It is not a problem with the UI rules, it is a problem with compensation for jurors. That is the problem that needs to be addressed in this.
The Reform Party supports the return of unemployment insurance to its original function: an employer-employee funded and administered program to provide temporary income in the event of unexpected job loss. This has been our policy since 1988.
If the employers and the employees who pay for the UI program had a say in how their money was spent, I do not think they would agree to provide benefits to claimants while they are serving on a jury.
It does not seem reasonable to compromise fundamental insurance principles regarding availability for work in order to provide additional compensation to UI claimants who serve as jurors.
The law is simple. If UI claimants are serving on a jury they are not available for work. If they are not available for work they are not entitled to unemployment insurance. For years now fundamental insurance principles have been compromised so that unemployment insurance is now seen more like a form of welfare than a form of insurance.
Unemployment insurance is not a right. It is an insurable program that workers are entitled to, provided they qualify and meet certain obligations. One of the obligations they must meet is that they are ready, able and willing to work immediately.
If we can compromise our principles of availability to allow jurors to collect, then who is the next group deserving of special treatment and special status? Who next would claim that right?
The UI program has to be returned to a true insurance program. We have to keep our focus in this regard. In order to do this all of the special programs, exemptions and exceptions including the discriminatory elements such as variable entrance requirements and regionally extended benefits, have to be eliminated.
This private member's bill would take us in the opposite direction to where the Reform Party wants to take unemployment insurance. This is the main reason why we cannot support the bill.
While this is our main reason it is not the only reason. If this bill were to be adopted, even the principle of equality is jeopardized. Let me explain. An employed person is expected to take time off work for jury duty and often they are not compensated for their lost pay if they have a job. How would a worker feel sitting with a person on a jury knowing that he was losing money to do his public duty and a UI claimant that was sitting next to him was getting paid by the government to do the same job? He would not regard that as being fair.
The hon. member raises the point that often employers pay their employees while they are serving on a jury and that it is unfair to the UI claimant to have his benefits cut off. If this change were allowed to pass and employers found out that their employees could get UI benefits for serving on a jury, how long would it take before employers started laying off workers who have to serve on juries? It opens up the system to abuse. This would undoubtedly lead to an increase in UI claims for people serving of juries and therefore an increase in costs to the UI program which is already $6 billion in debt. It is something to consider.
While there may be a problem of fair compensation to all persons who serve on a jury regardless of their employment status, we do not believe that tinkering with the Unemployment Insurance Act will solve it. We propose a simpler solution. Judges should use their discretion to excuse UI claimants from jury duty as has been done in the past.
The hon. member for Restigouche-Chaleur even provided me with a copy of an article from the Moncton Times-Transcript which reported on a judge in Sydney, Nova Scotia who did just that. Maybe that is what has to be done in this circumstance.
In February 1991 a Supreme Court justice excused nine UI claimants from jury duty. I appreciate very much the information that the hon. member has given me in regard to this. It has provided valuable background information.
This leads me to my final point. It is obvious that jurors are not fairly compensated. On this point my hon. friend and I agree. Everyone else involved in the trial is fairly compensated: the judge, the lawyers, the court workers, the police and the janitor who cleans the courtroom floor. It is inexcusable that jurors are asked to work for days, weeks and in some cases even months for $15 or $20 a day.
The Reform Party was founded on the principles of equality, fairness and common sense and we find that this is an area that needs to be addressed. To this end I pledge to my hon. friend that I will start work immediately to research the issue of fair compensation for jurors whether they be employed, unemployed, on unemployment insurance or not. If the appropriate action can be taken at the federal level I will ensure that a private member's bill is introduced.
I hope my hon. friend will agree to work co-operatively with me and my staff in this initiative.
In summary, the intent of this bill may be very good but the justice system needs fixing. We do not need to tinker with the unemployment insurance system. We need to fix it where it is broke. That is why I feel this is the approach we need to follow. I offer that I will work together with the rest of my colleagues on this. I feel that if we can work together on this maybe we can get somewhere.
Agriculture May 10th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure of everything that the member is speaking about but I think we should put this money put back where farmers have control over it. Put this Crow subsidy money into a fund that is administered. We have proposed three of them. I am just going to briefly explain what I mean by this.
We could take these over a dozen consolidated, unco-ordinated support programs and put them into three major programs and use the funds that are now presently in the Crow subsidy and gradually eroding. We could put these into funds that would protect producers from unfair trade subsidies that other countries have, natural hazards and income fluctuations beyond their control. They would be effective and farmers would begin to be able to make some choices that would really make farming a profitable enterprise once again.
I think that is the kind of thing we would like to see happen in agriculture.
Agriculture May 10th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, the recommendations of the committee with regard to that are sufficient.
In regard to something else, there is no incentive built into the system now for many of these bureaucrats to really get at some of the problems that underlie the whole grain handling system.
When one has over a dozen support programs and all the bureaucracies saying that they are trying to help the farmer and in effect working at cross purposes, it does not help. This is where I get back to what the Reform Party is saying.
We are saying that you should take all of these 11 departments of agriculture and get them to start working together. The best way you could do that is with the Canadian Wheat Board. Give farmers some control. Let them get involved. Right now it is run from the top down. We find this totally unacceptable. We are a populace party and we would like to see a lot more of the grassroots farmers supported and represented in these agencies.
Agriculture May 10th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, during the last six months the grain handling and transportation system in the west has been in crisis. Tonight I want to take part of my time to discuss the recommendations made by the subcommittee on grain transportation which has reported to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food. I also wish to address some of the long term solutions offered by the Reform Party for grain transportation in the west.
The subcommittee on grain transportation has been examining the current problems over the last few weeks and even held public hearings with the major participants in the grain handling and transportation sector.
The subcommittee reported to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Minister of Transport on Friday, May 6. In the report the members of the subcommittee describe the current situation as a crisis. They estimated that in this crop year alone the grain car shortage in the west would cost producers at least $35 million in demurrage charges for ships waiting at the west coast ports. They also estimated that two million tonnes of grain sales would be lost or at least deferred which could cost producers between $100 million and $200 million.
The report prepared for the subcommittee on the St. Lawrence seaway by the Library of Parliament also felt that there was an even far more serious long term consequence if this transportation crisis is not solved on an urgent basis. It was felt Canada's reputation as a reliable supplier of grain to the world would be jeopardized.
The report said: "If Canada cannot meet its delivery commitments on time sales will be deferred, cancelled, and customers will go elsewhere".
The subcommittee determined that the current grain transportation crisis was caused by a number of circumstances including, first, a sharp increase in the movements of grain to the U.S.A. resulting in a doubling of turnaround times for rail cars from 20 days to 40 days; second, a tight lease market in the U.S.A. for grain cars because of the flooding of the Mississippi needed to replace barges; third, an increase in the movement of non-board speciality grains which are handling intensive, resulting in longer car cycles; fourth, a very severe winter which slowed rail traffic; and, fifth, a 13-day strike at the west coast by grain handlers.
The Reform Party supports the recommendations made by the subcommittee on grain transportation and the subcommittee on the St. Lawrence seaway. If I had the time, I would like to outline all nine of the recommendations made to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and to the Minister of Transport in response to this crisis. However I think at this point in the debate everyone in the House is fairly clear on the content of these recommendations.
In addition to the subcommittee's report to the ministers, Reformers have two other recommendations which we believe will help address the crisis. First, farmers should be allowed greater choices as to how their grain is shipped to market. In times of backlogs and strikes alternative ports including U.S. ports should be used to export Canadian grain.
The second recommendation we would like to put forth is that there is an excessive amount of overregulation and the rail transportation system is unable to respond effectively to market demands. The rail car allocation system needs to be less centralized and less regulated.
Personally I would like the ministers responsible to seriously consider the port of Churchill. It could be used to help alleviate the immediate crisis. I would like to also encourage the minister to develop a long term strategy for grain transportation using all ports: Vancouver, Thunder Bay, Churchill and the U.S.A.
On the longer term the Reform Party believes that permanent reforms are necessary to ensure that politics are removed from the transportation of grain. I emphasize the Reform Party believes that agricultural commodities should move to markets by any expeditious mode, by any route, and in any form or state of processing. Such decisions should be based exclusively on the principle of cost effectiveness and with the best interest of the customer in mind.
To this end the Reform Party makes the following recommendations. First, the Western Grain Transportation Act should be repealed and all transportations subsidies should be redirected to the Reform Party's proposed comprehensive safety nets
programs which will defend Canada's food producers against matters over which they have little or no control.
Second, in order to create a genuinely competitive transportation environment the Reform Party recommends the deregulation of the rail transportation system, turning control of the allocation of rail cars back to railways and the grain companies and eventually privatization of all rail cars. This would mean the end of the grain transportation agency and the senior grain transportation committee.
There are about 21,000 grain hopper cars in the system today and 18,500 are owned by the government. Reformers see no reason for the grain companies and the railways not to own their own rail cars. The free market should determine how many rail cars are needed and when and where they are needed in the system. The turnaround time for a rail car in the grain transportation system is between 20 and 25 days, and this turnaround time has not improved since 1908. By comparison, the potash industry in my riding has a turnaround time of between 7 and 8 days to the same ports. The potash industry leases its own rail cars and the grain industry should do the same.
As our final recommendation, during periods of labour disputes the Reform Party recommends the alternate use of shipping points, including U.S. ports. Should that not prove sufficient in maintaining shipment levels and customer satisfaction then they should legislate the grain handlers as an essential service.
A final point is in regard to the strategic use of the port of Churchill. The Hudson Bay Route Association has its office in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. For years this association has been effectively promoting the use of the port of Churchill as an alternate port for grain shipments. If the shipment of agricultural products is based exclusively on the principle of cost effectiveness and with the best interests of the customer in mind as the Reform Party proposes, the port of Churchill will be successful in attracting its fair share of the transportation market.
For example, and this is important, if CN will provide the boxcars this summer to an agricultural commodity broker he will move at least one and possibly two shiploads, that is 80,000 tonnes of pulse crops, through the port of Churchill to Europe at a saving of 60 cents per bushel. The Hudson Bay Route Association also maintains that if elevators are plugged and the grain bins are full then the boxcars designed for the Churchill run should be moving grain to Churchill and customers could be advised of the availability of grain at that port.
The Hudson Bay Route Association has also learned that the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, gives away 750,000 tonnes of grain handling. It asks, if we are going to give that grain away, why we cannot direct those ships to pick up their grain at Churchill. It is a question that deserves an answer.
Even the Minister of Human Resources Development publicly supports greater utilization of the port of Churchill. The ministers of agriculture in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba publicly support greater use of the port of Churchill. The federal and provincial politicians agree that now is the time to actively promote the port of Churchill to grain customers throughout the world.
In closing I would like to point out that I was raised on a farm. I farmed myself for seven years just outside Yorkton. Farming is part of me. Farming is in my blood. Farming is my culture and my heritage. Farming is very special to me, so special that I do not want the government running it. The government is too involved in trying to solve the farmers' problems when farmers are quite capable of solving their own problems; if only the government would get out of the way.
I encourage members of the House to support the subcommittee's recommendations to help get the grain moving in the west. I also ask for support of the Reform Party's longer term solutions to our grain transportation system.
Aboriginal Self-Government May 4th, 1994
Mr. Speaker, it has been reported that many aboriginal people are afraid of self-government because they do not know if or how their individual rights will be protected.
With regard to the self-government agreement now being negotiated in Manitoba, can the minister explain if and how these individual rights will be protected and how aboriginal leaders will be held accountable by the people they purport to represent?