Mr. Speaker, I will only be a couple of minutes so I can put something on the record with regard to Alzheimer's being an illness. Members on all sides of the House can understand and appreciate the seriousness of the issue.
From my perspective, and I suspect from the perspective of many, particularly in the Liberal caucus, this is an issue for which we need to develop a national strategy, develop some ideas and witness some leadership from Ottawa in dealing with the issue of Alzheimer's. It is something for which many provinces do not have the types of resources necessary to deal with this very serious illness. As a health care critic in the past, I had the opportunity to work with different stakeholders who recognize the importance of the issue.
With those few words, I suspect there might be some movement to ultimately pass this bill.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of Dementia
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to Motion No. 575 on Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
Dementia is an issue that affects a large number of Canadians, so it is important that we have ample opportunity to debate it in the House and ensure that it receives the attention it deserves. I know my colleague, the hon. member for Huron—Bruce, brought forward this motion with exactly that intention.
Motion No. 575 calls on the government to continue to take the necessary measures, while respecting provincial and territorial jurisdiction, to prevent Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, and to reduce the impact of dementia for those living with this disease, their families and caregivers. The things called for in this motion will ensure that is done.
Dementia is a complex public health challenge that affects thousands of families across Canada. In fact, three out of four Canadians know someone who is affected by dementia, and it is estimated that the number of Canadians living with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, now estimated as high as 15%, will double by 2031.
Dementia is a health condition with important social implications. Its effects are wide-reaching and have a significant impact on those living with the condition, their families and caregivers. These can include the loss of independence, stigma and discrimination, as well as social isolation for those affected.
Dementia has no cure, and as the causes are not precisely known, we do not know whether it is preventable. Possible risk factors include physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, environmental influences, genetic factors and severe brain injury.
While the search for a cure continues, there is a need to develop innovative approaches and new models of care and support to improve the quality of life of those living with dementia today. A significant part of this includes addressing any stigma and incorrect assumptions about what it is like to have dementia or to care for someone who has dementia. Our government is making investments to help improve our understanding of dementia and the full scope of its impact. It is important to understand what dementia is and what it is not.
Dementia is often thought of as a disease affecting memory. While forgetfulness and the fear associated with suddenly not remembering people and places is certainly one aspect, it is important to realize that dementia is a neurological condition that affects the whole brain, and not just the memory. The ability to communicate, changes in mood and behaviour, and the capacity for judgment and reasoning are also affected by dementia. Over time, daily and routine tasks become difficult to perform.
By better understanding how dementia affects the lives of people from its early stages onward, as well as the potential risk factors, we can better support people affected by dementia in maintaining their independence and quality of life.
As symptoms progress, people with dementia generally require increased levels of care. With the increase of the number of people living with dementia, it is important for us to develop innovative solutions that can extend the independence of people living with dementia and improve their quality of life.
Most of the care and support provided to persons living with dementia takes place in the community and comes from informal sources, such as spouses, family and friends. Those who provide care for individuals living with neurological conditions such as dementia tend to provide more hours of support and are twice as likely to experience distress compared to other caregivers.
As dementia becomes more prevalent, it is increasingly important that caregivers also receive the support to respond to the levels of care they need to give and maintain their own well-being.
These social challenges of dementia are being recognized, and our government is investing in efforts to improve the quality of life of those living with dementia, their families and those who care for them.
The motion calls on the government to focus on education and awareness to reduce the stigma associated with dementia, including the implementation of the Dementia Friends Canada initiative.
I am pleased to see that our government has been moving quickly to support those who are working on this project. Just last week, on June 5, our Minister of Health announced the launch of Dementia Friends Canada in collaboration with the Alzheimer Society of Canada. This program is a national public engagement initiative to support the growing number of Canadians living with dementia. It will engage Canadians in understanding what it means to live with dementia and how to better support those affected in our communities.
Through an investment of more than $2 million over two years, the government is supporting the Alzheimer Society of Canada in launching this initiative across the country.
An important aspect of Dementia Friends Canada is that we seek to engage workplaces and individuals in a dialogue that will help everyone understand what it means to have dementia and what kinds of steps can be taken to make Canada more dementia friendly. By becoming aware of the actions that can be taken, Canadians can help people affected by dementia feel connected and supported. Larger organizations, workplaces, and communities may find other innovative ways in which they can meet the needs of those affected by dementia. I am very impressed with this program.
The health minister also undertook to raise awareness of it just last night through an open house to encourage all parliamentarians to sign up as dementia friends, learn about what they can do, and commit to making a difference.
People with dementia need our support, kindness, patience, and understanding. Dementia Friends Canada encourages people to make communities and workplaces across Canada more welcoming to those living with dementia, their families, and their caregivers.
The goal is to reach one million Canadians participating in Dementia Friends Canada within the next two years. There is some precedent for success already. Dementia Friends Canada is in fact modelled after similar programs in Japan and the United Kingdom that have helped advance support for those living with dementia in those countries.
Dementia is about people. How we treat those living with dementia can make a difference. Simple, everyday actions can help people living with dementia feel supported, stay connected in their communities, and improve their overall quality of life. Initiatives such as Dementia Friends Canada represent a call to action to work together to make life better for the growing number of Canadians who are living with dementia.
While we are making inroads in addressing the challenges presented by dementia, we are by no means done yet. By working in partnership with other sectors, including the provinces and territories, workplaces, not-for-profit organizations, the private sector, other countries, international organizations, and people living in communities across Canada, we will continue to advance our progress in addressing dementia.
I encourage all my colleagues to visit the Dementia Friends Canada website and register as dementia friends. It is through initiatives like these collective and individual actions that we can help to make a positive change today.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of Dementia
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today and speak on Motion No. 575, which I think is one of the most important motions that has come before the House in some time. This motion would create a pan-Canadian strategy for dementia.
Alzheimer's and other dementia diseases are a major health care, social and economic issue with enormous negative consequences for seniors, the baby boom generation and younger Canadians who are either living with the disease or living with family members and perhaps working as their caregiver. Some 15% of those affected by this suite of diseases are younger people. The number of Canadians with dementia is expected to double by 2031.
To date, the government has only supported a national research strategy. As important as research is, we on this side of the House believe that there is not the same comprehensive approach in this motion that the bill introduced in the House by my hon. colleague from Nickel Belt would have obligated the government to pursue. That would have been a national strategy to broadly help patients, support caregivers, help the dementia workforce, provide a strategy for early diagnosis and prevention, and provide a continuum of care for people in their homes, the community and formal care.
We in the New Democratic Party believe that respecting provincial and territorial jurisdiction is important in health care delivery and any other matter of provincial jurisdiction. We believe that the federal government needs to lead a pan-Canadian dementia strategy than can immediately help the millions of Canadians who are affected by Alzheimer's and related dementias, including the patients, families, caregivers, the dementia workforce and so on. We believe that this will have the additional benefit of freeing up scarce acute care beds in hospitals and helping caregivers who often must give up work to care for loved ones, as well. There is a very important economic and health care resource aspect to this motion.
I will not belabour this point, but it is important for Canadians to know that the Conservatives voted down a bill that would have required the Canadian government by law to implement a national dementia strategy just weeks ago. Instead, we are tabling a private member's bill by the Conservative member that would not obligate the government, because a motion is not obligatory on the government at all. We have replaced a New Democrat proposal that would have provided a mandatory legislative framework for a national dementia strategy, which was voted down by the Conservatives, with a discretionary motion that obligates the government to do nothing, only weeks ahead.
The member for Nickel Belt's bill, Bill C-356, would have gone much further than the present motion to guarantee Canadians that the federal government would finally take action to help their loved ones who are suffering from dementia. Despite being disappointed that the Conservatives rejected that opportunity to take decisive action, as the New Democrats' bill would have done, we will support this motion because we support all efforts to move on this important issue, even if they are not all that is needed.
The statistics and the real face of dementia are sobering. According to the benchmark Rising Tide study by the Alzheimer Society of Canada, the number of Canadians living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias now stands at 750,000 people and will double to 1.4 million by 2031. Canada's health care system is presently under-equipped to deal with that staggering number and the costs associated with it. The combined direct medical and indirect costs, including lost earnings, of dementia total some $33 billion per year. By 2040, this figure is expected to skyrocket to an almost unbelievable $293 billion per year.
Pressures on family caregivers, however, are mounting today. In 2011, family caregivers spent 444 million unpaid hours per year looking after someone with dementia, representing some $11 billion in lost income and 227,000 lost full-time equivalent employees in the workforce. By 2040, they will be devoting a staggering 1.2 billion unpaid hours per year.
Lost in these numbers, perhaps, is the human face of this disease, the moms, the dads, the brothers, the sisters, the friends, the neighbours, the work colleagues, the grandfathers and the grandmothers who are involved in this disease.
While an elderly face typifies most people dealing with dementia, as I said, 15% of those people living with Alzheimer's or related dementia diseases are under 60, so it is important to note that dementia is not an issue that only affects people in their aging years.
The Canadian Medical Association estimates that patients who should be elsewhere occupy about 15% of the acute care hospital beds across Canada, one-third of them suffering from dementia, so we can see that not dealing with this disease in an appropriate national strategic sense is extremely expensive because it is causing us to spend unnecessary health dollars when we could be dealing with it in a better way.
The NDP history on this issue is well documented. At the 2012 NDP convention, delegates from across this country passed a resolution calling for a national dementia strategy. I want to pause and say that this shows the health of our Canadian political party structure. I can speak particularly of the New Democratic Party, whose delegates come to a convention every two years and put forward ideas from their communities that then make their way into the New Democratic caucus and into this House. I want to congratulate the New Democratic delegates from across the country who played such an important and visionary role in this issue here today.
We have also found strong support, however, among labour members, among seniors, and in all aspects of civil society. Inevitably, the interest is personal. It comes from the direct knowledge or experience of someone living with the disease or burdened and often economically suffering from caring for a loved one with the disease. It comes from personal experience. I think that informs this issue in a very real and direct way.
Internationally, many countries are moving forward with their own national strategies. The Paris declaration in 2006 lists among the political priorities of the European Alzheimer movement the call for national governments to recognize Alzheimer's disease as a major public health challenge and develop national action programs.
It is interesting that this was in 2006. Here we are, nine years later. The current government was first elected in 2006, and nine years after international calls for a national dementia strategy, the government has yet to act.
We are here in the dying days of the 41st Parliament with a backbench motion coming forward that does not obligate the government to do anything. To me, that does not speak of a responsible governmental response on an extremely important medical issue facing our population at this time.
There was also a G8 summit on dementia in the United Kingdom in December of 2013. The call for a national dementia strategy was made there as well. It is clear that Canada today has no national plan and has been lagging behind our closest economic partners—the United States, the U.K., France, and Australia—all of whom have national dementia plans.
Here is what the New Democrats propose. We want Canada to develop a national dementia strategy with leadership from Ottawa. We want a national plan that can and must respect provincial and territorial health care jurisdictions. We want one plan to be developed, a plan that coordinates all of the provincial priorities and is tailored to meet the needs of each province or territory. We think that would be far better than 13 separate plans carried out in isolation from one another. We want a national dementia strategy that includes but goes beyond research to help those now living with the disease, their caregivers, and the dementia workforce.
Quoting some of the many people who work with this issue every day is the best way to close my remarks today.
The Canadian Association of Retired Persons said this about the NDP's Bill C-356:
[The NDP plan] calls for a national strategy that includes increasing funding for research into all aspects of dementia, promoting earlier diagnosis and intervention, strengthening the integration of primary, home, and community care, followed by enhancing skills and training of the dementia workforce and recognizing the needs and improving supports for caregivers, all of which CARP advocates for and supports.
The Alzheimer Society of Canada has said that “83% of Canadians reported they believe Canada needs a national dementia plan.”
The society stated:
As our population ages, Canadians will be at an increased risk of developing dementia or caring for someone with it.
“Everyone owns this disease.”
The approach we're proposing has worked for the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and the Mental Health Commission of Canada. It can work for dementia and ensure that we get the best return on investment and available resources.
The Canadian Medical Association, every single major group across the country that works with seniors, and the medical profession support the cause of a national dementia strategy. The New Democrats support that, and when we are the government in 2015, after October, that is exactly what our government will deliver for Canadians.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of Dementia
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss private member Motion No. 575 on Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. I would like to thank the member for Huron—Bruce for raising this very important issue in the House. I know there has been much debate on this important issue so far, so I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to how we can continue to help Canadians living with dementia.
As members have said previously, this is not a partisan issue. I hope that today's debate will be a way to bring us together so that Parliament can speak with one voice in calling for a continued focus on helping Canadians.
Motion No. 575 calls on the government to continue taking the necessary measures, while respecting provincial and territorial jurisdiction, to prevent Alzheimer's disease and other dementias and to reduce the impact of dementia on those living with this disease and on their families and caregivers.
One section of the motion focuses on dementia research in the areas of primary prevention, secondary prevention or treatment, and quality of life. I could not agree more that research plays a pivotal role in improving health outcomes for all Canadians, especially those suffering from dementia. I am proud to say that the government has made significant investments toward dementia research. As a result, Canada is considered a world leader in this area.
What is leading this focus on research is the Government of Canada's health research funding agency, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, otherwise known as CIHR. The government, through CIHR, has already been working to organize our efforts through a dementia research strategy. The strategy supports research on all aspects of the preventive, diagnostic, and treatment approaches to Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. It consists of both an international and a national component.
Last fall, the Minister of Health announced the creation of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging. This consortium is a key part of the strategy. It is our premier research hub for diseases associated with aging, including Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. The CCNA brings together 20 research teams involving 340 top Canadian researchers in the field of neurodegenerative diseases that affect how the brain functions as it ages.
Research within the consortium is organized around three research themes: prevention, treatment, and quality of life. This approach is key. We are focused on research toward a cure but also on research that is working to improve the quality of life of Canadians today.
As part of this effort, the Minister of Health announced that the consortium is working with the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom to share large amounts of health and health care data and research expertise. This will help us better understand, treat, and prevent dementia here at home using the latest international evidence. This data will also provide dementia researchers with useful health and lifestyle information from various settings, including nursing homes, which will help researchers address scientific questions over a broader range of dementia-related issues.
As we can see already, the CIHR dementia research strategy supports both domestic and international research on Alzheimer's disease and dementia through a variety of activities.
Today I would like to describe how the government will continue to maintain a strong focus on both domestic and international dementia research in the three vital areas of prevention, treatment, and quality of life.
First, the government is supporting research on prevention. This theme is focused on preventing or stopping the disease from developing. We know that Alzheimer's disease, like many chronic conditions, may develop as a result of complex interacting factors such as age, genetics, environment, lifestyle, and other existing medical conditions. If we can identify which of these risk factors can be changed, we may uncover ways to prevent or delay dementia from occurring.
Prevention is a vital theme for dementia research, and our government has funded many researchers in this area. To illustrate our commitment to this theme of prevention, the government is funding the work of Dr. Sandra Black, from the University of Toronto, and Dr. Vladimir Hachinski, from Western University. Their research is leading to a new approach to dementia treatment that is focused on early prevention based on addressing risk factors for vascular health, such as hypertension, diabetes, and smoking.
These results have been instrumental to the development of the first dementia screening protocol, which assesses stroke, dementia, and overall vascular health.
We are also proud of the fact that six research teams of the consortium will be focusing their work on prevention. For example, one team will study nutrition, lifestyle, and prevention of Alzheimer's disease.
The government, through CIHR, is also supporting research under the second vital area of dementia treatment, also known as secondary prevention. Secondary preventions are efforts to reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life until a cure is available. Right now there are some drug treatments that may temporarily relieve symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
While we are committed to researching a cure, these efforts will also help to support Canadians who need help now. For example, the government has funded Dr. Manuel Montero Odasso, of Western University, who studied walking speed and fluctuations as a predictor of dementia's progression. His team studied 150 seniors with mild cognitive impairment, a pre-dementia syndrome, in order to detect an early predictor of cognitive and mobility decline, and progression to dementia.
This research team discovered that walking speed changes were more noticeable in pre-dementia individuals with the worst signs of cognitive decline. These changes may serve as an effective way to predict the onset of dementia, and may eventually help diagnose and treat dementia earlier.
We are also very content to see that seven consortium teams will focus their research on treatment. For example, one of these teams will be looking at cognitive therapy and its effect on the brain.
On the international front, Canada continues to support research on treatment. A good example of this is through the international Network of Centres of Excellence in Neurodegeneration. Under this network, we have partnered with five other countries to develop common standards and efficient methods to validate findings in studies. This partnership resulted in seven international grants being funded by CIHR for a total of $1.2 million.
Our government plans to continue its work with this international network to better understand how the disease works and provide new avenues for therapeutic development.
Last, I would like to describe the work related to research on the quality of life of people living with dementia and their caregivers. As we all know, as dementia progresses, Canadians have to live with enormous challenges and changes to their everyday way of life. Research in this area is critically important. If we learn how to adapt to these changing abilities, a person will be more likely to have a high quality of life, even with a dementia diagnosis.
The topic of quality of life is essential for improving the lives of people affected by dementia. This is why, in 2014, our government collaborated with the Alzheimer Society of Canada and Parkinson Society Canada to host a high-level meeting on the topic of life with dementia. This event brought together experts and people with first-hand experience to answer questions and share insights on how to move beyond the diagnosis and improve the quality of life of people with dementia and their caregivers.
This event provided the critical perspective of Canadians living with the issue, and has helped to inform research as well as the dementia friends Canada program that our Minister of Health has been working to bring in.
Working under this motion, I know that we will continue to engage with Canadians to ensure our efforts are focused in the right direction. Before I close, I must address what is really at the heart of today's motion. My colleague from Huron—Bruce has done an excellent job of respecting provincial jurisdiction while at the same time calling for real progress to be made on the development of a pan-Canadian strategy for dementia. I fully support this call, and I am pleased that our government will be working to implement exactly that.
I know that all members will have their own ideas about the best way to accomplish the strategy, but the key part for me is that we get this done for Canadians. That is why I was pleased to see that economic action plan 2015 clearly commits to working with the provinces to develop a national plan.
Supporting today's motion is yet another way that we can ensure this important work is done and that we can build on the good progress that our Minister of Health has already been able to secure with the provinces.
I would like to again thank the member for Huron—Bruce for bringing forward today's motion. I hope all members can come together to support this and have Parliament speak with one voice about the importance of further actions on dementia.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of Dementia
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House again and talk about Motion No. M-575. I would like to thank members from all sides of the House who have spoken to the motion and to what its intents are.
There was a comment in one of the member's speeches about the power of emotion. If we remember just a few months ago there was a motion in the House on thalidomide and we were able to take action collectively as a Parliament and deliver real results for the victims of that terrible issue. There are lots of cases where motions can move and I think this is one of them.
Another example I would like to mention is something that happened last night. We had the Dementia Friends Canada event here to kick off awareness of this campaign to reach one million friends. I checked the website today and there are about 2,400, so there are a few more to go, but that will be our jobs as parliamentarians this summer to help get the word out about what we are trying to do and what the Alzheimer's Society is trying to do as well.
The motion obviously focuses on a number of different issues, a number of different objectives, but the main thing, to boil this down for people at home is that this government is on the world stage working together to try to find a solution to this terrible illness. We are there globally.
At the national level, since 2006, there has been over $1 billion invested in neuroscience. That is an important number. Since day one of this government, we have recognized this huge issue that is facing this country in specific demographics and we have made those investments. We are there locally and on the world stage for research. In Canada we have invested in research with Dementia Friends Canada and other programs like that and are working to break down the stigma. We are working to help other Canadians understand the issues. We are helping not only the person with the diagnosis but the immediate loved ones, extended families, neighbours and friends, possibly co-workers, understand what this disease is and how all the different dementias affect individuals differently.
We are there on the awareness piece as well as on surveillance. In order to really understand if we are making improvements and further understand how we are changing the issue, we need to be able to properly take the information and have a proper surveillance program. That is what we are doing. We are respecting provincial jurisdictions, which is vitally important.
The motion takes a number of different steps. I want to thank all members for taking the time to listen and read about the motion. The motion will likely be one of the last pieces of business we deal with next week before our four-year mandate comes to a close and hopefully for many more years.
Since 2006, the government has taken tremendous actions on the file of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. We are at the table. We are going to continue to push forward. Once again, on behalf of all members of Parliament, our hearts go out to Canadians who have been affected by this terrible disease.
The numbers that are important that Canadians need to remember are: there are 750,000 Canadians who currently have it and nearly 1.4 million Canadians who will have it in a few years. There are over 40 million people worldwide who have the disease. It costs the Canadian economy. It costs Canadians in general $33 billion a year in direct and indirect costs. If this disease is not dealt with, it is going to cost Canadians over $200 billion in the next few decades. We need to take action. We have taken action. We need to continue to push the bar forward. We look forward to the vote next week.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Alzheimer's Disease and Other Forms of Dementia
Mr. Speaker, decades of poor public policy in the post-secondary sector has created a generation of debt slaves and perpetuated inequality in our society. The Conservative approach to funding higher education has created a lost generation of students with high tuition fees, saddled with lots of debt, unable to buy a house, unpaid internships and a bad job market. What a combination. Skyrocketing tuition fees and loan-based financial assistance have pushed student debt to historic levels. Education costs continue to grow faster than inflation. The economy is a lot weaker than it was in the early 2000s. The capacity of graduates to repay their loans has quickly diminished.
When our finance minister was in university, the average price of tuition was about $500, and adjusted for inflation that would be about $3,000 today. In stark contrast, the average Canadian student pays over $6,000 dollars per year now, and students in Ontario pay $7,500 a year. This skyrocketing cost of tuition has outpaced inflation by a wide margin, more than double.
By September 2010, the total amount of student loans owed to the government reached $15 billion, the legislated ceiling set by the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act. This figure does not even include provincial or personal loans, lines of credit, or education-related credit card debt. The government altered the definition of “student loan” to exclude over $1.5 billion in federal student loan debt, and still it surpassed that $15 billion limit. Therefore, in response, our government amended the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act again in order to increase that limit to $19 billion, while at the same time dramatically reduced parliamentary oversight of the program.
This past year almost a half a million students were forced to borrow funds in order to finance their education, resulting in student debt increasing by $1 million per day. The Treasury Board's proposal to write off nearly $300 million in unrecoverable student loans brings the total spent on writing off unpaid student debt to more than $1 billion in only four years. Clearly, financing higher education through tuition fees and debt is unsustainable and irresponsible.
In the past 15 years, tuition fees for students in Thunder Bay—Superior North and across Canada have grown to become the single largest expense for students. The dramatic tuition fee increases during this period were the direct result of cuts to public funding for post-secondary education, and to a somewhat lesser extent by provincial governments as well.
Public funding currently accounts for an average of approximately 57% of university and college operating funding, down from 80% just two decades ago. During that same period, tuition fees have grown from 14% of operating funding to over 35%, more than double. This constitutes a huge shift in Canada's post-secondary education system away from a publicly funded model toward a privatized user fee system favouring the rich. Rapidly increasing tuition fees have caused post-secondary education to become unaffordable for many low-income Canadians.
The Conservative government is writing off nearly $300 million in unrecoverable student debts this year, but, according to the IMF, it has also subsidized big oil to the tune of $34 billion this year. Ottawa must change its approach. The Conservatives must change.
When will the government learn that investing in young Canadians, the future of our country, is a better investment than the corporate welfare cheques the Conservatives are handing out to their friends to big oil, gas and coal?
Mr. Andrew Saxton (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the hon. member that we understand, as a government, the importance of investing in our young people. That is why we are doing precisely that.
I invite the hon. member to take a look at the numbers. I think he will find that the evidence is clear and overwhelmingly supports the actions our government is taking.
Although I hope the hon. member is aware of the difference between federal and provincial jurisdiction, if he had done his research, he would understand that tuition rates are in fact a provincial issue. If he would like to discuss high tuition rates and bigger taxes, I suggest he speak to his premier, Kathleen Wynne.
I am happy to say that Canada's economic action plan is working for students.
Consider the following. Economic action plan 2015 proposes to provide $184 million over four years, starting in 2016, to expand eligibility for Canada student grants to students in short duration programs. The Prime Minister made that announcement in my riding of North Vancouver. Expanded eligibility for the low- and middle-income Canada student grant is expected to help approximately 42,000 additional students per year.
Economic action plan 2015 proposes to provide $119 million over four years, starting in 2016, to reduce the expected parental contribution under the Canada student loans program needs assessment process, making it easier for students to get those loans. The reduction of the parental contribution in the Canada student loans needs assessment is expected to provide increased support to approximately 92,000 students.
Economic action plan 2015 proposes to provide $116 million over four years, starting in 2016, to eliminate in-study student income from the Canada student loans program needs assessment process. We were asked by students to do this, and we are now doing it. The elimination of the in-study income from the needs assessment is expected to increase loan amounts for an estimated 87,000 students.
In case the member opposite was not listening, let me repeat those three important points. First, expanded eligibility for the low- and middle-income Canada student grants is expected to help approximately 42,000 additional students per year. Second, the reduction of the parental contribution in the Canada student loans needs assessment is expected to provide increased support for approximately 92,000 students. Third, the elimination of in-study income from the needs assessment is expected to increase loan amounts for an estimated 87,000 students.
No government has done more than ours to help students. At the same time, we have shown that we can do this in a fiscally responsible manner. We have balanced the federal budget, and we want to help students balance theirs. That means staying true to our commitment to keeping taxes low and supporting families, as we have done year after year since taking office.
Now that our fiscal house is in order, our new challenge is to ensure that the gains we are seeing are truly long-term and sustainable. We need to stay the course to protect the economic interests of Canadians and the security of Canada. Through a series of specifically targeted measures, we are laying the underpinnings of a strong and robust economy.
In case the member was wondering, we are not just helping students short term, either. We will help students stay on top of labour market information to find jobs that are aligned with their particular skills and abilities. We will spend $14 million a year on a new survey that will provide accurate information on demand and wages by occupation and region.
The worst thing we could do for students is follow the NDP/Liberal plan to increase taxes. Our low-tax plan is working and creates jobs for students through trades, training, and tax cuts.
Here is our record. We ended the Liberal practice of taxing scholarships and replaced it with a tax credit for textbooks. Student loan debt has declined by 10% in real terms. We created apprenticeship grants and loans, and over 500,000 have been given out.
Those are just some of the things we have done for students. There are many more I could list, but I see that my time is up.