Mr. Doug Fee (Red Deer):
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the topic before us today. As a preface to my comments, I would like to compliment members of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition for picking this topic and for devoting two opposition days to its discussion.
In his comments this morning, the Minister said that this was a topic plagued by misunderstanding. Hopefully, through our discussions today and the subsequent ones on Monday, we can help to educate the people in the House and in the country a bit better, and this topic will be a bit better understood by everyone.
I am very concerned about the perception that some Hon. Members opposite are trying to establish, either by rhetoric or in some cases by volume, that they are the only ones who are concerned about aboriginal post-secondary education. We on this side of the House are every bit as committed to improving the economic situation of aboriginal peoples as anyone on the opposite side. However, we recognize that we have another responsibility, a responsibility to ensure that the moneys we spend on behalf of all Canadians are spent as effectively as possible.
This morning, the Minister also reflected on a view that is well shared by his colleagues on this side of the House. He said that we are as proud of this program as are the Indians of their graduates. I think that is a very profound statement and it does reflect our feelings.
The funding level of this program has increased significantly under this Government. This has resulted in significant progress on behalf of the Indian and Inuit people. The Government, through the Minister, has reinforced its commitment to the program and to supporting reasonable levels of funding based on consultation and negotiations with representatives of the native community.
It is not enough to say simply that because a program is good it should have open-ended funding. This program is a good program. It should be continued. The program is a fair and a generous one because the Government believes in the importance of the post-secondary needs of Indian students, and we are prepared to support them.
April 21, 1989
I would like to take a moment to put the current funding levels for native post-secondary student assistance into perspective. In terms of financial support to Indian students, this program is one of the most generous in the entire world. The student assistance program in Canada provides a significantly greater level of support than similar programs in other countries.
Let us compare it to the United States. Last year, the federal Government post-secondary grants to American Indians totalled $32.9 million. That supported 15,000 students. This represented 25 per cent of the funding that is provided in Canada to support for an equal number of students.
Our new policy is generous. It is fair and it can be administered by Indian authorities. It can be administered by Indian authorities in ways which best meet the needs of their students.
The Government assists Indian and Inuit students this generously because it believes in making an investment in Canada's future. Educated people prosper. Economic development opportunities open up and welfare rolls decrease.
Assistance for post-secondary education is one of the most successful programs the federal Government has ever undertaken. Since the introduction of the previous policy, the E-12 guidelines, the numbers of post-secondary students has increased from around 3,500 in 1977-78 to some 15,000 in 1988-89. In the same period, the budget for the program has grown from $9 million to close to $130 million.
The policy has been successful. Every member of the House appears to recognize its value. Nevertheless, we recognize that even the most successful policies must be updated and revised to meet changing needs and emerging trends. In the case of post-secondary education, there was a clear requirement to produce more graduates to ensure that there would be more Indian students who entered colleges and universities to complete their studies and then help make self-government and economic independence a reality for all Indian peoples. The objective of this policy is to help Indians gain access to a post-secondary education so they can pursue individual careers and contribute to the achievement of Indian self-government and economic self-reliance.
I would like now to take a couple of minutes to explain some of the benefits available to eligible students. To begin with, complete tuition assistance is provided to eligible full-time and part-time students. This category of benefits includes student fees for registration, tuition, and the cost of books and supplies required for a particular course of study. A simple example is that if a student in nursing requires a stethoscope, it is an eligible expense and it would be covered.
Full-time students who are required to live away from their permanent places of residence may receive a wide range of benefits. For example, they may qualify for a travel grant back to their homes once every semester for themselves and for any dependant who lives with them. These students will also be eligible to receive allowances to help cover their living expenses including food, rent, heat and electricity. In areas where rental costs are higher than normal, Indian students may receive a special rent supplement.
Let me cite some examples of the level of assistance. Beginning the next academic year, a single student may receive a maximum monthly living allowance of $675. A married student with an employed spouse and three dependants may receive a maximum of $1,205 per month. A single parent with three dependants will receive a maximum of $1,355 per month, plus a rental supplement where applicable.
Students will be eligible to receive funding at three levels. To complete community college diplomas or certificates, undergraduate degrees, and Masters' or professional degrees. Students allowances will be provided for the official length of the student's program, three years for a three-year program, four years for a four-year program, and so on. When required, an additional year may be provided for a student to complete a degree or diploma program at each of the three levels.
Let me put those rates into perspective. A single mother with two children in her first year of a Master's of Psychology program at the University of Regina will receive a grant of $1,205 per month to support herself and her family. Her tuition, books and supplies are paid for. She is also eligible to obtain a scholarship of up to $1,500 for the year. Expenses for travel between Regina and her normal place of residence, if it is outside Regina, will be provided once each term for her and her dependants.
April 21, 1989
A single student from a reserve in Ontario in his second year of a Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University of Ottawa would receive funding to pay his tuition, his books and supplies, and his travel from the reserve to Ottawa once each semester. In addition he is eligible to receive a grant of $675 per month from the Post-secondary Student Assistance Program to defray living expenses. If this student in his first year maintained a grade average of B-plus, he would also be eligible to receive a scholarship of $1,000 per year.
A married student with three children whose wife and children are dependent upon him for support, in his first year of studies at a Montreal CEGEP where he is hoping to complete the required courses in Business Administration, would receive a grant of $1,355 per month from the Post-secondary Student Assistance Program, above and beyond the funding he receives for tuition, books and supplies. He would also receive an allowance to enable him and his family to travel to and from his normal place of residence once every semester. If he maintains a grade average of B or better during the year, he may also be eligible to receive a scholarship of $1,000 for his next year of study.
These students may not be millionaires, but it is a significant level of support. Grants for single students living away from home are equivalent to a full-time job paying $4.96 per hour. Grants paid to single-parent students with three dependants would be equivalent to a full-time job paying $12.14 per hour.
Successful students will experience no difficulty in obtaining support to the conclusion of a professional degree like a law degree, or a graduate program such as a Master's degree or a Ph.D.
Under the terms of the new program, administering organizations such as bands, tribal councils, education authorities, or other organizations, will have an even greater opportunity to directly participate in the post-secondary education process. The new policy is sufficiently flexible to allow administering organizations to establish their own operating procedures, provided these are consistent with the policy and reflect the maximum rates and limits of assistance.
The Post-secondary Student Assistance Program is designed to encourage improvements in the level of academic achievement, resulting in a generation of Indians and Inuit who are better equipped to face the future.
I would like to assure you, Mr. Speaker, and hon. colleagues, that the only "cap" Indian students will see in this program is a mortar-board.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: ALLOTTED DAY, S. O. 81-POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION FUNDING-NATIVE PEOPLES