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January 06, 2006
Supporting Canadian Families: New Support for Families, Caregivers, Canadians with Disabilities and Seniors

Supporting Canadian Families: Prime Minister Announces Measures to Create Opportunity for Canadians


A new Liberal government will support Canadian families in surmounting barriers in education, training and finding a good job, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced today.

To that end we will:

  • increase access to post-secondary education through a new 50/50 Plan under which the government will pay for half of an undergraduate student’s first year tuition, and half of a student’s graduating year tuition;

  • introduce the Lester Pearson Scholarships to be awarded to 25 deserving Canadian students to study abroad and 50 international students to study in Canada each year;

  • work to increase participation in apprenticeships by making employment insurance more accessible and setting a benchmark for the number of apprenticeship graduates; and

  • create a working income tax benefit to help Canadians in getting off social assistance and finding a job.

“Canada was built by supporting Canadian families when they needed help to surmount barriers in education, in training and in finding a good job,” said the Prime Minister.

“Reducing the cost of tuition for Canadian families, improving Canadians’ access to skills training and employment opportunities is about ensuring that all Canadians – and their families – can prosper in the global economy. It is about helping Canadian families be full partners in an innovative, competitive and inclusive workforce in Canada.”

Increasing Access to Post-Secondary Education

The new 50/50 Plan will be open to any student pursuing a first undergraduate degree or diploma from an accredited university, community college or other post-secondary program in Canada. Qualifying students will be those who commence their undergraduate educations beginning in 2007-08. Parents and students will have the choice to either opt in to the new plan, or draw benefits from the existing Tuition Tax Credit and Education Expense Deduction.

“Everyone who is able should have the opportunity to pursue undergraduate studies,” said the Prime Minister. “That’s why we’re going to directly support the families and students who must pay for their post-secondary education.”

Students opting in to the 50/50 Plan will receive direct payments – up to a maximum of $3,000 – for half of their tuition fees, when they most need the support: as they embark on their first year of studies, and as they prepare to graduate.

The new Plan will be delivered through the current Canada Student Loan Program (CSLP). Currently, the governments of Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut do not participate in the CSLP, so our government would work with them to arrange alternative payments.

By providing a first payment at the beginning of a student’s post-secondary education, the 50/50 plan provides families and students with the incentive to begin undergraduate studies. The second payment provides an additional incentive for students to complete their programs.

The 50/50 Plan, for which only students attending Canadian universities or colleges can qualify, also provides Canadians with an incentive to support Canadian schools.

As such, the 50/50 Plan builds on other efforts designed to support Canadian post secondary institutions, namely:

  • the 5-year, $1.2 billion for the Indirect Costs of Research Program;

  • the $1 billion PSE Innovation Fund; and

  • the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The plan, which will cost an estimated $600 million per year when fully phased-in, strengthens the overall commitment of a Liberal government to improving Canadians’ access to skills training.

The 50/50 Plan expands earlier Liberal government efforts to enhance access to post secondary education, such as:

  • the Canada Access Grants for Students from Low-Income Families; and

  • the Canada Access Grants for Students with Permanent Disabilities.

The Canada Access Grants for students from low-income families are currently only available for the first year of post-secondary studies. To ensure access to post-secondary education for low-income Canadians, a Liberal government will expand the Canada Access Grants to cover up to four years of undergraduate study for eligible students, beginning 2006-07. This measure will cost $110 million per year, and will benefit an additional 55,000 students each year.

A Liberal government will also review Canada's system of student financial assistance, together with the provinces, territories and other partners, with the aim of providing lower interest rate costs for students.

The Lester Pearson Scholarships

To commemorate the achievements, the idealism and the global vision of our former prime minister, a Liberal government will establish the Pearson scholarships. Recognizing excellence in academic achievement and reflecting the values of Canada’s only Nobel Peace Laureate, the Pearson Scholarships will send young Canadians abroad to study and bring the world’s finest to learn in Canada.

“There is perhaps no name in the world that is more symbolic of the values, independent voice and global vision of Canada than Lester Bowles Pearson,” said Prime Minister Paul Martin. “These scholarships will connect our country to the next generation of leaders from developing nations and enable young Canadians to help forge the values of the future. It is fitting that our commitment to Canada at work in the world should bear Lester Pearson’s name.”

The government’s plan will mean that:

  • Fifty scholarships will be awarded each year to attract the very best of international scholars from Canada’s 25 development partner countries at either the under-graduate or the graduate level; and

  • Twenty-five scholarships will be awarded each year to allow outstanding Canadian scholars to study abroad in such fields as multilateralism, international development and human rights – areas in which our former prime minister expressed such interest and left such a legacy.

At a cost of roughly $60 million over five years, the Pearson Scholarships will cover the costs of tuition, lodging and study.

Improving Access to Skills Training for Canadians

In addition to its commitment to post secondary education, a Liberal government will work to increase participation in apprenticeships.

We will ensure that Canadians collecting EI while away from work on a National Red Seal Apprenticeship Program will no longer be subject to a two-week waiting period before becoming eligible for EI benefits, providing the course is successfully completed.

This measure is expected to cost $15 million per year once it is fully phased in, and it will complement initiatives already announced by the Liberals in the Fiscal and Economic Update.

As part of our pan-Canadian apprenticeship strategy, we will work with the provinces and territories to increase, within the next 10 years, the number of annual apprenticeship graduates to 75,000 annually from the current 37,000 annually.

As an interim goal, we will increase the number of apprenticeship graduates to 50,000 by 2012.

Funding to support this goal will come from the commitment made in the Fiscal and Economic Update to invest $3.5 billion to fund a wide-ranging agreement that saw the federal, provincial and territorial governments approve six priority areas for new funding in skills training:

  • Apprenticeships - Expand access to apprenticeships; improve apprenticeship completion rates; increase employer participation; foster high-quality learning; increase mobility; and reduce barriers to apprenticeships.

  • Immigrants - Improve access to employment opportunities; fill gaps in areas such as the recognition of foreign credentials; expand bridge-to-work programs such as work placements, mentoring and skills upgrading.

  • Literacy and Essential Skills - Improve strategies for those with low literacy and essential skills; enhance access to academic upgrading and trade-specific literacy and numeracy training; increase training for youth at risk; and community partnerships.

  • Workplace Skills Development - Provide incentives and supports for employers (including small- and medium-sized businesses) to upgrade skills of new and existing employees; and explore sector-specific strategies to leverage employer investments.

  • Aboriginal Peoples - Improve labour market participation rates by developing initiatives to take advantage of economic development opportunities in Aboriginal communities and by improving delivery of existing programs - by Aboriginals, for Aboriginals.

  • Others facing barriers to labour market access - Develop flexible and integrated initiatives (grants, internships or incentives, for example) for individuals such as persons with disabilities, older workers, low-income earners and youth at risk.

Creating Employment Opportunity

A person receiving social assistance will typically have his or her benefits reduced if their income increases. This can be a strong disincentive to taking a job since the loss of benefits – both cash and services – can offset, or even more than offset, the new income.

This “welfare wall” is an inherent problem with all income-tested assistance programs and it has the effect of trapping people on social assistance when it would be better for them, and for society, if they were able to re-enter the workforce.

That is why a Liberal government will create a working income tax benefit (WITB) to supplement the earnings of low-income workers to help “make work pay”. The effect of a WITB is to encourage individuals to move from social assistance to the labour force by allowing them to keep more of the money they earn.

Benefits under a WITB will be determined as a percentage of an individual’s earnings (to a maximum benefit amount). The precise structure of a WITB would be the subject of consultation to ensure that provincially-administered programs and benefits are compatible.

Canada operates in an intensely competitive global environment. As such, post secondary education, advanced skills training and access to employment opportunities are the linchpins to the prosperity of Canadian families and Canadian workers, now and for the foreseeable future.

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Supporting Canadian Families: Creating Opportunity for Canadians