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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was debate.

Last in Parliament September 2018, as Conservative MP for York—Simcoe (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Employment Insurance Act February 8th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Party supports the principles set out in this bill.

In supporting the principles of the bill, we look at the fundamental values behind it, the values of fairness. We look at helping those genuinely in need in society. We believe that people should be able to enjoy the fruits of their own labour. We also believe that the best form of employment insurance is a strong economy that creates jobs so people never have to be unemployed.

I thought I would start by first responding to some things that my friend the parliamentary secretary said about why the employment insurance fund was rolled into the consolidated revenues of the government. He pointed to the Auditor General's reference to certain accounting principles.

However, what happened is that the Liberal government then used that technical approach once the fund was rolled into consolidated revenues as a free ticket to raid the employment insurance fund to the tune of some $46 billion over 10 years.

That is $46 billion that the government took from employers and employees who contributed in the hopes of having their work and their future secured. The government used that money, diverting it for other purposes, perhaps including, as my friend pointed out, supporting the sponsorship scandal that has drawn such attention in recent days.

What my friend also failed to mention was the role that the Auditor General played in exposing the inappropriateness of that government diversion of funds from the employment insurance purposes for which they were intended to other purposes. That was condemned by the Auditor General one year after another and in one report after another.

It was not until this government faced a minority situation, where opposition parties could bind together to bring to the fore the importance of this issue, that once and for all the government is being held to account. That theft from workers and employers who paid in that money is hopefully going to be brought to a halt.

Certainly this private member's bill put forward by my friend from Manicouagan is a good example of how we are working on this side of the House, regardless of the party we belong to, to try to bring an end to the theft of those moneys by the Liberal government.

The $46 billion accumulated notional surplus from the employment insurance system reflects what was, over the past decade, a deliberate program of overtaxing workers and employers in order to divert those moneys to fund other government priorities.

As has been mentioned, the Conservative Party worked very hard at committee to have the first eight recommendations of the employment insurance subcommittee approved and adopted. The recommendations were designed to bring the system into fiscal responsibility. We were pleased to see that happen.

Those are only recommendations out of the committee. We are concerned that the government may not respond appropriately. When I hear the comments from the parliamentary secretary, I am concerned that it may not. That is why this private member's bill from the member for Manicouagan is most timely.

The practice of diverting those funds to other purposes, as has occurred with the $46 billion out of employment insurance, is intellectually dishonest. It violates the law. That is exactly what the Auditor General found. That practice has attracted her criticism repeatedly. It also represents, most profoundly, an unfair and regressive form of taxation.

Instead of funding government spending increases out of more progressive forms of taxation such as income taxes, the use of this EI surplus for that purpose takes proportionately more from the working poor and from small businesses. As such, it taxes those who can afford it least, shifting the burden from those who have means.

The reason is simple. When someone pays into employment insurance and they achieve a certain income level there is a cap that they run into. Those who have high incomes and earn far more than the cap stop paying into employment insurance. As a result, the burden falls disproportionately on those with lower incomes.

That may make sense in an employment insurance system where only a certain portion of earnings is insured, but when that money is taken and used instead for the general programs of the government, it represents a replacement of what would otherwise be income taxes, a much more progressive form of taxation, a much fairer way of funding government programs.

For that reason, we find the approach taken by the government in the past 10 years of diverting these employment insurance funds to be an unacceptable, punitive approach that has hurt workers more than anybody else. On the other hand, it could only have happened by having insurance premiums that were too high. That was the other thing the government did over the past decade to achieve the $46 billion surplus. Consistently, illegally, year after year, the premiums were set far above what was necessary to maintain the system as viable, resulting in a surplus. In so doing, what effectively was occurring was that those taxes themselves, those premiums, were too high. That is a job killing payroll tax. It stifled and continues today to stifle the ability of employers to create new jobs and economic growth.

As I have said, the best form of employment insurance is the creation of new jobs. That has been harmed consistently by the $46 billion in overtaxation through EI premiums in the past decade, something that has yet to stop. Even in the new premium which has been set, any basic math tells us that a surplus will continue to be generated. Our priority is to stop the unfair practice which hurts working families and the businesses that have had their money taken by the government under false pretences. The theft must stop and the money must be returned.

Some items trouble us about the proposed legislation. It is the commission with its 17 members and a potential policy-making role.

We feel that the fundamental structure of employment insurance as a program should remain primarily a matter of government policy. The number of 17 commissioners perhaps seems to us an unwieldy and large number. For that reason, I am somewhat encouraged by the Speaker's ruling and would encourage my friend from Manicouagan to consider shutting that portion of the legislation which stands as a barrier to its passage. This would make it possible for us to embrace the bill with a full enthusiasm completely.

There are other problems with the employment insurance system as it works today. One of the biggest problem is that people fall through the cracks. Increasingly the government in an effort again to shift that burden out of their own revenues has layered program after program, what are essentially social programs, on to the employment insurance mechanism as a vehicle to deliver those social services, whether they be maternity leave or extended maternity leave, compassionate care leave and the like.

The problem is that increasingly more and more Canadians are not part of the employment insurance system or, if they are, they are not eligible in the special, unique circumstances that arise. People fall through the cracks. This increasing reliance on employment insurance to deliver things like maternity care, compassionate care and sickness leave and the like results in a discriminatory situation where many Canadians simply do not have the support they need. That has to be addressed in the long term.

Similarly, the reliance on using employment insurance as the vehicle to deliver training means we are delivering training that often is not aimed at increasing the productivity of society or ensuring that people actually are better off after the training and better equipped to get a job. Rather, it treats it as an extension of the employment insurance system. Decisions are made on what training to pursue based on length of eligibility and whether we can extend our eligibility, rather than will this help us to contribute more to the economy. Will this mean we end up with a more productive workforce? Will this mean we will have overall economic growth?

Those issues have to be addressed in the long term. While they may not be addressed in this bill, these are things I think are important priorities and they certainly are for the Conservative Party. I am not sure they are for the government yet, but we will continue to press them to make it so.

Finally, I wanted to address the issue of long term viability of the employment insurance system. We think it is important that the management of the system, the premiums, the rate setting mechanism which has been politicized in the past decade be restored to accountability. This has to be the number one priority. Before we start looking at major changes to the system, we have to ensure we have corrected the mismanagement, the fiscal theft that this government has engaged in for years. We have to ensure that the new structure of it can be viable.

Before we tinker with it massively, we have to ensure it is viable and works and can be sustainable. Our concern is that if one makes too many changes too quickly, we may face a situation where the long term viability of the system is in jeopardy.

I am confident that the proposed legislation before us in Bill C-280 does not do that. I am confident the legislation would help to contribute to restoring fiscal accountability in the system, putting an end to the consistent theft of workers' and employers' contributions to employment insurance and their diversion to other purposes by this government.

Finance January 31st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, seniors are people who are looking for better direction from the government and, in my riding, so are young families. In particular I want to draw attention to the struggles of young families.

A typical profile in York--Simcoe is a husband and wife with kids. Both parents are working hard, trying to get ahead and make a better living for their family so their children can participate in hockey and other community activities, such as dance lessons or soccer in the summer, but they find it increasingly challenging to make that happen. One of the biggest reasons for that challenge is the punitive level of taxation that continues to apply to working families.

It is worth noting that in our province of Ontario in recent years hundreds of thousands of modest income families have been taken off the income tax rolls because the provincial Progressive Conservative government took them off the tax rolls so that working families would not have to pay taxes, but those hundreds of thousands of people are still paying federal income tax.

Therefore when I hear the Liberals talk about their concern for people who are facing economic challenges, it is quite clear that from the Liberal government's perspective they are far more willing to hit hard-working, low income families with taxes than we certainly have seen from the Conservative Party.

Seniors as well is another group that has been neglected. I think in particular of seniors who are on fixed incomes. In the past year or two, although they have had virtually no change in the benefits that they have received, notwithstanding years and generations of investment in this country, they have been hit with increases in hydro, in natural gas and in insurance, all of them fixed costs and costs they cannot escape but all of them making it tougher to survive and live with dignity and with the kind of life they deserve after years of contributing.

I want to see from the government, in the next budget, action for those working families and also for seniors. The one way I think we can see that is by seeing some action to address the incredible waste, mismanagement and growth in government. It has been growing at about 10% a year. I want to know if there is any willingness to get on top of that wasteful spending and get it under control, because I can tell members that most of those families that are struggling to get ahead are not seeing their budgets grow by 10% a year.

Will the government move ahead on tax relief for families that are working? Will it move ahead on the kind of support that seniors need? Will it get serious for once about pulling back on the increasing size of government and addressing the tremendous waste in management we see that is taking money away from those hard-working families and spending it on things that simply are not their priorities?

Employment Insurance Act December 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about unemployment and the employment insurance program, it is important to remember that the most important priority has to be the creation of jobs so that people do not have to claim employment insurance and that they do not have to stay on employment insurance for a long time. I am not sure that the bill in front of us addresses that; in fact, I believe it may have the opposite effect of hurting it.

The real problem in the employment insurance system for basically over a decade has been an overtaxation of the workers who are paying employment insurance premiums and an overtaxation of the employers who pay matching contributions, in fact a larger proportion of it. Over the past decade that has produced a surplus of some $46 billion.

That is $46 billion more that has been taken in by the system than has been paid out. It is far in excess of anything that would be possibly required to sustain a system. What it constitutes is a theft under the guise of employment insurance of tax dollars in order to help the government with its general revenue issues. That is where the money has been diverted. It is a theft from the workers and employers under the guise of employment insurance.

The worst part about it is for the people for whom the impact is greatest, the people from whom it takes the most. It is unlike income tax which is quite progressive, and unlike the goods and services tax which is related to spending and has a progressive element. This is the most regressive. In fact, after a person's income tops a certain level, the person stops paying employment insurance premiums. The overtaxation and the surplus hits most of all the people who earn the least. That is the real problem.

We have to stop adding to the $46 billion surplus. We have to return that money to the people who paid it. If we look at that money, $46 billion in 10 years has been taken from employers and employees. That money could have been used to create more jobs. That money, had it been in businesses, might have kept many of them from going bankrupt. In the hands of individuals, that $46 billion could have been used to pay mortgages, to buy skates for their kids and to live better lives.

Simply put, the premiums have been too high for the past decade, far in excess of what was necessary to pay the system. We need to change it to solve that. I am not sure this bill does it.

In fact there was an announcement recently by the minister about a drop in the rate. Employees have been paying $1.98 on $100 of earnings. That is going to drop to $1.95. Under those numbers, based on the performance we have seen in the past, the employment insurance system shall again generate a significant surplus. That is demonstrated based on the performance year after year.

In making that decision, obviously the government has decided to continue this process of overtaxation of workers and employers. Through that overtaxation it will continue to generate a surplus and turn it over to general revenues. It will continue that process which is a very regressive and unfair taxation that hurts workers.

There is only one other alternative if that is not the case. The numbers show clearly in black and white, and we do not have to be sophisticated accountants to understand, that it would have taken $1.88 or $1.82 in premiums, depending on to whom we listen, to be balanced in the past year. Therefore, $1.95 is going to be too much and will continue to produce a surplus.

What is the only other option? It is that the government is expecting a massive economic downturn, that it is expecting job losses to grow significantly. If that is the policy position of the government, if that is the pronouncement, and I believe that is the projection of the minister in making that declaration, I think that is something that is very grim. I hope the people of Canada will take note of the pessimistic view held by the government toward the future job environment.

The real answer and the real priority is to stop the theft of those dollars from the system, to make employment insurance work as a real fund so it does not generate excessive surpluses that are turned over to general revenues. The bill, however, does not represent a solution to that problem.

In fact, what we expect would happen with this bill would be a huge increase in the cost of the employment insurance program and as a result, a huge increase in the required premiums. That would mean huge tax increases for ordinary workers and employers who are trying to create jobs. In the end, all that happens when we put taxes on job creation, and that is what employment insurance premiums are to some extent, and when we increase them, it becomes more punitive. We would be limiting the job creation that occurs and taking money out of the pockets of workers.

There are significant problems. Let us take one example only from this particular proposal. That is the proposal to increase the maximum insurable earnings to $41,500 a year. If we did that, the net impact under the current rate of employment insurance would be more money would be taken out of the pockets of employers and employees than would actually be returned to workers through the benefits that result from the increased allowable annual earnings.

Essentially, the proposal from the Bloc would result in a grab of taxes from workers that would then produce a surplus that would be turned over to general revenues. That does not solve the problem. It makes the problem that we have right now even worse. It effectively is an increase in taxation on workers again. Why that is being proposed in this legislation I do not understand.

As well, when one looks at the problems in the system, the private member's bill does not address in any balanced way the nature of the problem. All it speaks to is one side of the equation.

In fact, employers have been very hard done by under the current operation of the employment insurance system. A principle has been established for some time that 58% of the premiums was paid for by employers and 42% by employees, a 1.4:1 ratio, whatever the rate is set at every year. The principle was that employers had some greater measure of control over whether an employee kept or lost a job. That was the justification for it.

Since that principle was established, the employment insurance system has been changed dramatically. No longer is it simply straightforward insurance for those who lose their jobs, but there is a significant social component that has been added. Compassionate care leave has been added, and extended maternity leave has been added, all funded through employment insurance.

In the normal case, there is very little that an employer has to do with an employee's decision on whether or not to have a child. Effectively, that justification for the higher burden on the employers has altered significantly over time as the program has been expanded. Fairness would dictate that the burden should also be shifted to a more even balance, perhaps fifty-fifty sharing. That principle is not established here.

In addition, we have a problem with overpayments. Many people who work multiple jobs or who go from one job to another and change jobs within a year pay into employment insurance in one job and then in another and the employee ends up having an overpayment. When it comes time for those people to file their tax returns, because they have paid too much into the system, more than their insurable earnings allowed, they get a rebate for an overpayment into the system.

Millions and millions of dollars are returned every year to employees, but the employers who made the matching contributions do not have the benefit of that return. They do not get the same compensation. That is unfair and it is an imbalance. We do not see any element to address that in this legislation.

I would suggest that the bill before us is one which is unfair to workers and to the taxpayers who are funding the system, the employees who are trying to make better lives for themselves. It is a system that results in huge increases to them without, in many cases, any perceptible benefit. It is going to kill job creation. It is going to have a drag on the economy. It is not a positive result. For that reason, I find it difficult to support the bill before us.

Canada Education Savings Act December 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the hon. member has forgotten the state of affairs in which his government, when he was a part of it with Bob Rae, left Ontario, with a significant debt running at $1 million or more than it could take it. The NDP so bankrupted the province that there was no longer any means to finance education or health. It was that government that provoked the crisis. I am not going to listen to the crocodile tears from that side.

It was his successors who then managed to restore a balanced budget and invest more in education and health care. They had the single biggest building project on post-secondary campuses across Ontario in terms of accommodating incoming students in new buildings that we had seen since the Bill Davis era when he was the minister of education. We also saw the greatest growth in the health care system ever in the history of the province.

The Conservatives in Ontario have absolutely nothing to apologize for what it provided in Ontario. More important, it provided growth and prosperity, increasing incomes and the standard of living for Ontario families, which, of course, led to more people seeking higher education and improving their own lives. At the end of the day that is what it is all about.

It is not about the institutions. It is not about the government. It is not about the lobby groups. It is about the people and the families and their efforts to make better lives for themselves. Education is an important part of it, but so is that fundamental standard of living.

There is no point having a higher education, a higher income and a higher standard of living if then the government takes it all away, which is what my friend would like it to do.

If an individual is taxed to death, there is no incentive, and it is that incentive that is so important. It is that incentive that is part of the Canada learning bond. It is that incentive to build a better life and a better future. It is a question of hope, which is what the Conservative Party has always been, the party of hope, the party that is looking to build better lives for people's families. That is why we are happy to see this Canada learning bond put in place.

Canada Education Savings Act December 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I know my friend was a provincial member and I believe he served with Bob Rae. I will answer him by reading from one of Bob Rae's papers from a current study in which he indicated quite clearly that “Canada is spending willy-nilly on post-secondary education”. The problem is not with the amount we are spending but with how we are spending it.

We are spending more as a percentage of public spending on higher education. Canada, at 4.6%, is spending more than Australia, Ireland, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S. In fact, we are spending close to double the mean in the OECD as a proportion of our public spending on education. Therefore the problem is not the amount because we certainly are spending more than enough. The problem obviously is that it is not being as well spent.

One of the things we see with the Canada learning bond is that it is targeted spending that is done intelligently and leverages. I know leveraging is a principle familiar to many who do business in the private sector, and that it may be foreign to those in the NDP, but leveraging seeks to maximize the return for the investment made. The Canada learning bond would do exactly that. It may be an investment that perhaps is modest in the view of my friend but I believe it is an investment that is significant.

Others will also make an effort to invest. Everybody is contributing. Individuals themselves are contributing toward their own education. In that sense, a greater return is achieved rather than if the government were simply providing the money. The total amount in the pot to finance a child's education at the end of the exercise is far in excess of the money that the government has contributed. Other matching grants do get triggered along the way.

Overall, the Canada learning bond is a positive way of targeting investment that achieves greater returns. It targets investment in a way that has secondary effects of increasing ambition, aspiration and the desire to achieve higher education.

This is a very positive initiative and it should be viewed that way on all sides of the House. The problem is not, as Bob Rae has indicated, that we are not spending enough. We are spending more than all those other jurisdictions as a percentage of our public spending on higher education. I am only relying on what the member's old colleague, Bob Rae, said. The problem is how we spend it and whether we are getting the right returns for it.

Canada Education Savings Act December 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, education is very much the gateway to achieving one's hopes and dreams and achieving a better life. In Canada, education has played a very important role in this.

It has been said that there is no greater drive in mankind, in all people, than the desire to improve our condition in life as it relates to our standard of living. There is no better route and no better way to do that than through higher education. When we look at our society and look at the difference that education makes, we see that it makes a profound difference. Indeed, it is what makes a civilized society.

Whether it comes down to the simple bread and butter issues for a family, the evidence demonstrates that the higher one's education, the higher one's income and the greater one's ability to live a better life and provide better for one's family. For most Canadians, that is their most important priority: day to day, what kind of living can I give to myself, to my family and to my children? What kind of future can we provide for them? Can we have a good standard of living? Can we be secure and safe?

Education plays a tremendous role in this. It has been demonstrated in studies again and again that higher income jobs and higher prosperity are strongly related to the education of individuals and society at large.

Education makes a tremendous difference in our society in terms of the richness of the lives we live and the culture we share. Whether it is the arts, the literature or all kinds of day to day and community entertainments, education plays a tremendous role in contributing to that richness in our lives. Indeed, it is an important part of living the good life, of contributing to one's community, of enjoying all that life has to offer here in Canada. Education plays an important role in all of this.

It was Plato who said, “The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life”. That is one of the reasons why we support the Canada learning bond and why we think it is so important.

This bill contains what we think is the best combination of Conservative values. On the one hand, there is help for those genuinely in need. The Canada learning bond is not money that is given to everyone. It is a form of assistance that is targeted to those who are genuinely in need. That is what we believe the role of the government, the role of the state, is: to look out for those in our society who are less able, to give them that hand up to be able to aspire to do better, to achieve more, to protect them from whatever vicissitudes of life may have made things difficult for them in the past, and to help those who are genuinely in need. The bill does that by targeting the Canada learning bond to those individuals.

Yet at the same time it also reflects that other important Conservative value, that of responsibility and self-reliance, of rewarding people for their own work and their own efforts. The entire principle of RESPs and Canada learning bonds reflects the notion of matching grants, of rewarding people when they make their own efforts to save for their children's education and future. That expectation of self-reliance, that rewarding of people's own contribution and effort, is also indeed a tremendous Conservative value.

As well, it reflects another Conservative value, the reflection that we do believe people should be given the opportunity to aspire to better, to achieve higher education, and to make their lives and the lives of their families better.

The Canada learning bond will also help to stimulate among people that aspiration to a better life and to improve themselves. It will also, by virtue of encouraging more families to establish registered education savings plans, encourage in the children of those families the expectation that indeed they are expected by their parents, their families, their loved ones, to achieve a higher education, to go to university or to go to college, to advance themselves, in many cases beyond the state in life and the education level of their own parents and grandparents. We know that this expectation is an important factor in the decisions of children as they grow up as to whether or not they will pursue an education.

When I was about four years old my mother took me down to the University of Toronto and said that one day I would have to go there. It made an impression on me at age four. I looked at those august walls around me and said to myself that there was an expectation, that I had better do something and I had better get there. I think that expectation is an important part in every child's decision on where they will go with their education.

I am also pleased that at committee our side had an opportunity through me to propose a number of amendments that I think improved the bill significantly. The first one is what I call the “grandparent amendment”. It was an amendment to make it easier and cut the red tape and barriers for grandparents wanting to make contributions to children's RESPs, which would trigger matching grants. No longer will grandparents have to set up their own separate RESP plans. They can simply contribute to another person's plan. In my view that amendment is a significant improvement to the way this system will work and I am pleased that it was accepted by all parties.

Another amendment that I thought was even more profound was that of permitting the use of Canada learning bond RESPs for part time study. Part time study is an increasingly important part of how people pursue their education. I have said it before in the House. I know many who have done this themselves, in large part and particularly because some do not have the means to commit themselves full time to study. There can be financial reasons or family reasons. They have to focus on other things.

At the same time that we are putting forward a bill to encourage folks in those challenged conditions to aspire to university, the opportunity to make it available for part time study was only logical and consistent. I believe it will make a great difference in the lives of many. I am very pleased that once again it ultimately was supported by all parties. I think it is a significant improvement to this bill. I am very proud of having had a hand in it.

There is no doubt that there is a need for a bill like this. Some of our friends in the New Democratic Party suggest that the real issue is that money just should be transferred willy-nilly to education in an indiscriminate fashion through lower tuition, free tuition or otherwise. We do not agree with that perspective. We believe that people should be expected to make some effort to save for their own education. We believe in support for those who need it, but there should also be an effort to save.

The suggestion was made that it is not that people are not aware of RESPs, it is that they do not have the means. In fact, even those of modest means are willing and happy to save, but there is a real problem in that many are not aware of RESPs. Research shows that of those with incomes greater than $80,000 a year, over 60% of the population knows about RESPs and how they work, yet if incomes are under $30,000 that figure falls by half to just over 30%.

This tells us that perhaps one of the reasons many of those lower income families are not taking advantage of the potential to save and trigger matching grants is that they simply are not aware of the opportunity. The Canada learning bond, by providing that initial seed money and matching grants, which basically is free money from the outset, whether families choose to contribute or not, will help to trigger that awareness of RESPs. I am confident that it will result in greater savings over time. That indeed will be a very productive outcome.

Post-secondary education is crucial to the challenges this country faces and we have to encourage and stimulate it. Unfortunately, Canada has serious problems, which the government is not addressing and which need to be addressed. Post-secondary education is part of that. The greatest of all is the increasing productivity and prosperity gap we see between Canada and our most direct competitors, our neighbours the United States, and other countries in the G-7 and the OECD. The fact is that Canada is falling behind.

That is harming the standard of living of all Canadians. It is harming our entire economy. This is a matter of increasing concern. We have not seen, in the 11 years that this government has been in power, significant efforts to address in any way the productivity gap and improve our economy and our standard of living. This bill is perhaps one step, with a Canada learning bond and RESPs, to address in a small way part of that productivity gap, because post-secondary education makes up for a significant part of it.

We can see in this productivity gap that our educational standing is part of the reason for it. We have fewer M.A. and Ph.D. graduates than the United States. We simply are not producing the number of graduates per capita that we should at this important, superior, critical research level.

I have to disagree with my friend the parliamentary secretary who said we have the highest percentage of people involved in post-secondary education. In fact, right now former premier Bob Rae is undertaking a study. If we look at his work, we can see him demonstrating quite clearly that our participation is far from the highest. We are falling behind many of our OECD competitors in terms of participation of youth enrolled in higher education. We were at 39.3% of youths aged 20 to 24, yet France is at 53%, Denmark at 55%, Finland at 56%, and on it goes. The fact is that Canada is sliding. Our productivity is sliding and this government has not taken that seriously. We have to see that happen.

The other aspect and the other problem we have to address, which is addressed to some degree, is the poverty in Canada and the condition of those in need. In one way, that is best addressed by the opportunity for higher education. That is the way in which people are able to elevate themselves out of poverty to advance themselves. No one will rise out of poverty because the government gives them the money to do it. They will rise out of poverty by their own means and by their desire to advance. The role of the government is to help them, to provide that helping hand, the hand up for them to be able to advance themselves. That is very much what the Canada learning bond does. I am hopeful that to some extent it will help to address this problem in society.

For many years I have had the pleasure of teaching in addition to my other job of practising law. I was teaching. I was in the classroom at the University of Toronto. I can tell members that one of the reasons I do it or have done it for so many years is the great joy and satisfaction in seeing that light come on, in seeing the students learning and seeing their advancement.

However, there is something greater than that. That is the greater satisfaction of then seeing those same individuals five or six years later down the road making their way in life, making use of that education and advancing themselves. For me personally, that outcome, that result of the post-secondary education they have attained, that advancement in life, is something in which I take great pride. I know their families do and I know they do. I know that it makes a great difference to this country and to all their lives.

In conclusion, we are very pleased to support the bill. It was something that the Conservative Party advocated in the last election. It was in our policy platform. We are pleased that the government has moved on it. We are pleased that we had the opportunity to make amendments to significantly improve it. We are confident that with the Canada learning bond in place many more Canadians will have the opportunity to achieve higher education and build better lives and futures for their families.

Citizenship and Immigration December 2nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, what is the compelling hold that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has over the Prime Minister? What makes him willing to fully expose his government in a clumsy effort at damage control?

First, it was the immigration minister and her parliamentary secretary. Then it was the PM who got in the act. Then he conscripted the Deputy Prime Minister to help out. Now the human resources minister is getting involved with the damage control.

How many more ministers will have to put their bodies on the line to save that minister? How big will the cabinet's special committee on stripper damage control have to get before the ministers will be allowed to get back and focus on their real priorities, instead of trying to save this minister?

Citizenship and Immigration December 2nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal volunteer stripper affair is beginning to entangle the entire government in a web of damage control.

The immigration minister said that it was a good program. Then the parliamentary secretary said that there was no stripper policy. The Prime Minister told us that it was under review. The Deputy Prime Minister told us that it was cancelled. Today we discover that the human resources minister was happy he cancelled the program. However, apparently under government policy, strip club owners can still make a business case for skilled strippers.

Do not tease the House with half the picture. Is the government still in the business of importing strippers, yes or no?

Canada Education Savings Act November 30th, 2004

Madam Speaker, the amendment put in front of us by the member for Halifax is one that we, with respect, do not support because we believe in the purpose of this bill. We believe in the value of higher education. We believe in this proposal that uniquely combines the genuine compassion for those in need and the support they need, as well as encouraging self-reliance for people to advance and improve their lives.

We take a different view from that of members of the New Democratic Party who, if they do not think it is perfect, throw out the baby with the bathwater. Nothing in this world is perfect but we think the bill achieves very important purposes. As I said, those two purposes, compassion and support for those genuinely in need, are part of the role of the state. That is what we look to a government to do.

In this case the bill proposes through the establishment of the Canada learning bond an opportunity to encourage savings and to provide grants for young families with children that do not have the means to start saving immediately for their children's education. It gives them the opportunity to do that from the beginning. At the same time, due to the matching grants and registered education savings plans, once started, there is an encouragement for the family to save and contribute, to aspire to a better life and a better future and to improve the family's conditions through subsequent generations.

That aspiration to live a better life and to achieve a higher education is something which I believe really defines the values we on this side of the House hold as very important. They are the principles of what education can do for people, such as, higher incomes, a higher standard of living, better communities and a better quality of life all around. An educated society helps contribute to that. That is why we support this bill.

As the minister indicated in his comments, when we were dealing with this at committee, we came up with some very practical and constructive amendments to improve the operation of the bill. I am proud to have put forward two of those.

One amendment I call the grandparent amendment. It makes it easier for people other than parents who have set up an RESP, perhaps grandparents or others, to make contributions to those RESPs and help support for children's education. That amendment eliminates red tape and bureaucracy and will encourage more saving. As a result of that amendment, we will see more young individuals going to university than before with the financial support they need to make that happen.

Another amendment which was very important to me was one to allow the Canada learning bonds and registered education savings plans to be utilized for part time learning. Some people think they should only be for full time learning, but our economy and society are changing. Particularly for families of modest means, often a full time education is not an easy option because money is tight and there is a fundamental need to work at the same time as pursuing an education.

The quintessential example in my own life is my assistant of many years who herself came from modest means and was able to achieve a university education only on a part time basis, the first in her family ever to do that. Had this program been in place when she was growing up, it would have been much easier for her.

That opportunity is a very tangible improvement we have seen made here. It improves the legislation. It helps to achieve the purpose of the bill of encouraging the use of registered education savings plans particularly by those families of modest means.

Simply put, we cannot agree that the bill does not do that. It is targeted and tested for those who are genuinely in need. That is what we want when we look for intervention and support from the government, that there is not willy-nilly a blank cheque for anybody regardless of his or her means, but that we are targeting our assistance to those who need it most. I believe that is what this does and for that reason the purpose in the legislation is a good one.

We are pleased on this side of the House to support the bill, in particular to have been able to put forward some amendments. I believe they have made it a much more constructive and stronger bill. It will help children many generations from now achieve a higher education, contribute to better lives for their families and communities. It will make this country more competitive economically, a richer place to live and a place where people can achieve their dreams and aspirations.

2004 Grey Cup November 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the Grey Cup holds a special place in the hearts of Canadians. An entirely Canadian championship in an exclusively Canadian league is a unifying and defining part of our identity.

Yesterday we were thrilled as two teams battled on the gridiron to the final minute to determine who would take home Lord Grey's gift to Canada.

An outstanding B.C. Lions team moved to an early lead with pinpoint passes and rugged running, showing us they truly belonged in the big game. But the Toronto Argonauts, led by a disciplined defence, super special team members, and outstanding play of Damon Allen's commanding presence, methodically marched ahead to achieve victory in Canada's great national game.

Today we congratulate both teams for a superb show. We pay special tribute to President Keith Pelley and the entire Toronto Argonauts franchise, the 2004 Grey Cup champions. They demonstrated that with hard work and superior leadership, the underdog team in blue can prevail to surprise the pundits and come out on top in Canada.