Tuesday 23 June 1992

Student assistance

Committee business


*Chair / Président: Beer, Charles (York North/-Nord L)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Daigeler, Hans (Nepean L)

Drainville, Dennis (Victoria-Haliburton ND)

Fawcett, Joan M. (Northumberland L)

Martin, Tony (Sault Ste Marie ND)

*Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex ND)

*O'Neill, Yvonne (Ottawa-Rideau L)

Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

*White, Drummond (Durham Centre ND)

*Wilson, Gary (Kingston and The Islands/Kingston et Les Îles ND)

Wilson, Jim (Simcoe West/-Ouest PC)

Witmer, Elizabeth (Waterloo North/-Nord PC)

Substitutions / Membres remplaçants:

*Caplan, Elinor (Oriole L) for Mrs Fawcett

*Ward, Brad (Brantford ND) for Mr Martin

*In attendance / présents

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Martin, Tony (Sault Ste Marie ND)

Clerk / Greffière: Mellor, Lynn

Staff / Personnel: Anderson, Anne, research officer, Legislative

Research Service

The committee met at 1543 in room 228.


Consideration of the designated matter pursuant to standing order 123, relating to student assistance.

The Chair (Mr Charles Beer): I call this meeting of the standing committee on social development to order. Let me at the outset make a couple of comments.

First of all, the Progressive Conservative caucus has told me to go ahead. The problem we have is that Mrs Cunningham, who would be sitting in, is fine but has had to have an operation today which was unexpected. They believe that in general the report is fine. What I have been asked, and I said that I felt this was fair, is that if she has a particular concern or wants to make a suggested change in wording we would permit her to do that and I would bring that to the subcommittee. The subcommittee, if it felt that was something we could all agree to, would then be permitted to okay that in terms of the final report. If the subcommittee didn't agree to it and Mrs Cunningham wanted to make a specific recommendation, she could do that in the context of a minority report. But I just felt, given the time and the difficulty we've had in getting together to complete our work, that we should go ahead.

I have also had an opportunity to speak with Mr Martin from the riding of Sault Ste Marie, who is not able to be here. He perhaps has spoken with the New Democratic members, but he has said that he believes that the report is in order and that the government members would be able to support it.

That being said and if that is agreeable, I would need a motion, the clerk informs me, that subject to any --

Mr Hans Daigeler (Nepean): Just before we go to a motion, should we have some discussion on the report and the recommendations that are before us?

The Chair: Yes, we will do that. Did you need the motion first?

Clerk of the Committee (Ms Lynn Mellor): We can do it now or later.

The Chair: Okay, we can do it later. That's fine.

You have all received a copy of the report plus the recommendations. I would suggest that I just read into the record the recommendations and then I would open up the report and the recommendations for discussion. Is that acceptable?

There are five recommendations that read as follows:

"1. The committee endorses the review of Ontario's student assistance program currently being conducted by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, and all of our recommendations are intended as a contribution to this important process.

"2. The committee recommends that the review should be guided by the principle that changes to the system must protect and improve accessibility. It should pay particular attention to those in our society who, for a variety of reasons, have traditionally been left out of our universities and colleges. This principle should govern access to student aid, as well as to higher education generally; the ministry should consider how to ensure that people who want to pursue a higher education could have access to at least a loan for that purpose.

"3. The committee recommends that the review should also be guided by the principle of affordability, for both the government and the student. Any plan must be fiscally viable, a premise which we are confident from our hearings that the ministry shares. For the student, the system should take into account all financial commitments, not just tuition fees.

"Living expenses, child care for single parents, and extra material costs for disabled students are of particular concern to the committee.

"The review should examine the possibility of coordinating the social assistance and student aid systems, particularly in the areas of assessing living expenses and support for dependants, and enabling recipients of social assistance to pursue higher education.

"The student aid system should be based on actual earnings, savings and needs, and not be solely based on prescribed limits and formulae.

"Finally, the plan must take into account how the student is able to carry and repay their educational debt (debt counselling should be available to students applying for OSAP).

"4. The committee recommends that the ministry fund some pilot projects relevant to an income contingent repayment system. Possible projects could address: students at vocational colleges or particular programs at community colleges, where programs are shorter and the benefits to personal income more immediate; using the concept of a contract between student and the government in the present system.

"5. The committee recommends that any income contingent repayment approach to the student loan system should be guided by the following principles:

"Such a loan system will not be the only possible source of student aid, ie, grants will be retained and directed to people in need;

"Repayment rates, threshold income at which repayment would start, and the time after which the loan would be forgiven should be agreed upon in a contract between the student and the government;

"A form of means test should be retained so that families who can easily finance higher education for their members are not subsidized by the loan fund;

"eligibility for the loan should not depend on the type of program being pursued. Existing restrictions on eligibility for part-time students and on the grant eligibility period counteract the policy, which the committee supports, of encouraging lifelong learning."

Those are the five recommendations that have been put forward. I open discussion on the body of the report itself and the recommendations, reminding members that we have -- if I can find my clock -- one hour and 42 minutes, starting about five minutes ago. I'm not saying we have to use that time up, but it's 10 minutes to 4 and that would take us to almost 5:30 would be the max. Any comments or suggestions?


Mr Daigeler: It would be my impression that we don't need to take the full two hours unless we hear some very different things from the government.

I thought the recommendations that were put together by the researcher reflected quite well the general indications that the subcommittee gave to the researcher, for which I was present. I'm quite satisfied with the recommendations. I think they reflect a deep concern that has been expressed at the committee hearings about access to higher education by people who presently have difficulty accessing it. I think that's most important.

I think it also points out well the difficulties that are associated with the possibility of an income contingent repayment plan. It doesn't totally shut the door on it, but I think it does indicate the complexities of that question in terms of the high debt load, the impact on the financial capability of the student, and it points out the strains on the government resources as well.

While the recommendations may perhaps not be the final answer to the issue, I think they point out faithfully the range of opinions we've heard and I think put forward a reasonable balance between what may have been two contradictory positions that were coming forward at various times at the committee level. Generally I'm quite pleased with what I see here; Ms O'Neill may want to comment as well. I would be prepared to support the recommendations as they're written right now.

With regard to Mrs Cunningham, I'm prepared to meet in terms of subcommittee and if she has further comments to let the subcommittee make a final decision. One thing's for certain: There was some indication at the subcommittee that the third party wanted to have a stronger support for the income contingent repayment plan, and already at this point I want to indicate that I would not be prepared to make that part stronger, but I can accept what's here now.

The Chair: Thank you. Any other comments?

Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): Because I wasn't part of the subcommittee, I'm wondering about the first bullet under point 3: "extra material costs for disabled students." I'm not sure that's the best way to describe the extra costs, and I don't really know what that means. I guess what I'm concerned about is that not only are there appliances and equipment, but there are also costs often for things like attendant care. If you were part of the discussions --

The Chair: The way that was worded it says "are of particular concern to the committee," so I think the idea was simply that those would be taken into account by the --

Mr Daigeler: Perhaps we could drop the word "material."

Mrs O'Neill: That would help.

The Chair: So it would read "living expenses, child care for single parents and extra costs for disabled" --

Mr Daigeler: I'm sure nobody would have difficulty with that.

The Chair: Does that sound all right to other members? We just take out the word "material" and simply say "extra costs" which would --

Mr Gary Wilson (Kingston and The Islands): I was wondering whether we couldn't put a couple of examples in there. When I read "extra material" it didn't say anything to me and I was going to raise that.

The Chair: If it says "extra costs," presumably that's a more open direction to the colleges and universities committee. If we start to get into a lot of examples --

Mr Gary Wilson: Okay.

The Chair: So are we agreed to take out "material" then?

Mrs O'Neill: That's fine. It'll satisfy my needs.

On the third bullet point under 3, again I would like some explanation of what you mean. Are there time lines on the "actual earnings, savings and needs"? I certainly agree with the thrust of that bullet point, but if I were asked to explain it I wouldn't be able to, because I don't know whether you mean starting the day of graduation -- I mean, there are all kinds of ways in which this can be interpreted, and if we're going to make recommendations they should be helpful and we should be able to explain them. Maybe that's novel, but I'd like to try that.

The Chair: The idea of shedding light.

Mrs O'Neill: So would someone who was on the subcommittee like to say what they were actually thinking there?

Mr Daigeler: I'm the only one who was at that subcommittee meeting other than Lynn. We didn't go into any detailed recommendations. We had a document in front of us that spelled out some general ideas but we didn't speak about the specific formulation. However, I think this formulation was taken from some report; if you look at the content of the report, this recommendation appears somewhere. Frankly, I had put a question mark as well next to it, but then I thought probably what we mean here is that the system shouldn't be too bureaucratic and that in the application of the rules and regulations -- here they use the words "limits and formulae" -- there should be a fair consideration of the actual individual's circumstances. That is my reading of this.

The Chair: Given the way these are framed as bullets under the sort of preambular comment at the top, I wonder whether these are really there as considerations for the committee reviewing the whole system and that "should be based on actual earnings, savings and needs, and not be solely based on prescribed limits and formulae" is simply to provide for some flexibility as to, for example, would the repayment begin a year after graduation, or at some point after you start a job. Mr White is going to clarify this perfectly for us.

Mr Drummond White (Durham Centre): No, it's on another point.

Mrs O'Neill: On this point, I think if we are going to be helpful -- and Mr Daigeler is the one who was there -- if it's financial circumstances, "all aspects of an individual's financial circumstances" would make it easier for me.

The Chair: Where would you put that?

Mrs O'Neill: This bullet point, instead of "actual earnings." The reason I'm having trouble with this is that this is such a controversial part of some of the possible directions, particularly the income contingency plan. I guess I've got an ear for students at this moment and I particularly don't want them to get worried, at the moment they read this, to read into it something that isn't our consideration.

The Chair: So what words could --

Mrs O'Neill: Mr Daigeler suggested that really we're talking here about financial circumstances, and maybe we want to say "all aspects of an individual's financial circumstances." If that's what we mean, then I think it's better than having "actual earnings, savings," because then, as you know, people get all concerned about equity and the OSAP. These words all have a meaning in reference to student loans and student grants.

The Chair: So if we said "the student aid system should be based on all aspects of an individual's financial circumstances."

Mrs O'Neill: I think it would give the committee flexibility but it wouldn't tie them or put their ideas into a context that maybe we don't want it in.

The Chair: Let me read that out for everybody. The third bullet under number 3 would read: "The student aid system should be based on all aspects of an individual's financial circumstances." That certainly is clear to me and may express that thought more simply. Thank you, Mrs O'Neill; I think that is clearer.

Mr White, you had a point?


Mr White: Yes, I had a couple of concerns in regard to recommendation 2. It is an excellent recommendation, but I would like to suggest that it be strengthened in a couple of ways.

As with recommendation 3, I think there are several points that should be highlighted, perhaps bulleted. The emphasis on accessibility, particularly as it comes as number 2, I think is important. I would suggest that after the end of the first sentence we have a bulleted point which talks about the additional funding for equity of access to universities, whether that is for women, aboriginal people -- people who are not, as this describes, easily or traditionally included in the college and universities system. There should be a bullet which describes these kinds of access programs, access funding.

I think, however, there is also the point that was made during our hearings about the kind of people who are now making use of the post-secondary education system: many more women than in the past, many more people of an older age group, people returning time and again for different degrees -- the whole idea of lifetime learning. People who are in their 30s and 40s, people who have children, people who are single parents etc have different issues, of course, than do youngsters.

So for those reasons, I think we need to have a separate bullet point to describe their particular needs, whether that's a life-cycle access -- these are people who would be to some degree ruled out because of the stage in their life cycle, because they are in their 30s with two children, because of other issues and not simply because of who they are as women or as aboriginal people. So this would be something which reflects the changing role education has and allows for access to those other people.

Are those instructions adequate? Is it agreeable?

The Chair: Can I ask you a question? When this was being drafted, one of the questions that came up was around whether we should specify. One of the issues was, would it be better to have it general so that in effect you can cover -- perhaps the more obvious groups that come to mind are different age groups. That also leads to flexibility in that if there are ones you don't think of, you could do it. I don't think there is necessarily a problem with having some sort of a bullet.

Mr White: If I could review that again, I would suggest that we're looking at not just non-traditional students because of ethnic or other reasons but also improving access relative to post-secondary education as a life-long pursuit and to ensuring that people, regardless of where they are in their family life cycle or their individual life cycle could have access. So there actually are three bullet points in regard to accessibility.

I realize that's perhaps more specific than is here, but the first point you have mentioned or that the subcommittee mentioned is significant, because that is certainly the creative, affirmative action kind of program and it speaks to those kind of equality-seeking groups, but also the others I think speak to the trends we've seen.

The Chair: I think your point is clear, but I suggest that, subject to other thoughts specifically on that, perhaps what we could do is have two bullets, maybe three, beneath the paragraph that's there that would, if you like, make those points clearer. I think you're quite right that it's the same principle but a different focus that you're placing. We could recast that in that light, obviously, and bring it back and show it to people, but we could set it up similar to 3.

Mr White: Thank you.

Ms Anne Anderson: Could I just check the three groups I thought I heard you talk of? One is the ones who have traditionally been excluded, the ethnic groups and others. Another one is to get improved access for life-long learning throughout your life. The third one is to ensure that people, regardless of their family situation or their age, can have access to universities, so it doesn't matter whether they have families or whether they're straight out of high school.

Mr White: And those people in that third situation may have special difficulties relative to having, say, young children at home.

Mr Daigeler: I wouldn't want to formulate it, though, in such a way as to be in any way, shape or form delimiting. I think it should be used as examples, "such as." My point is that we have to be in an ongoing way concerned as to who may be at any particular time excluded from the process. If we have a clear category that "You fall into this," we may easily overlook others that develop as the situation changes; in fact, the fact that we have these part-timers and the groups he has just mentioned is really a relatively new phenomenon. So I wouldn't want to have these as isolated categories, but to limit some of them as examples I think would be quite appropriate.

The Chair: I think we could word it that way so that it would meet Mr White's point and also ensure that we don't delimit.

Mr White: I had one further concern, if I might; this is a point my colleague Mr Wilson brought up. Item 5, the third bullet point down: "A form of means test should be retained so that families who can easily finance higher education for their dependent members" -- should be inserted; obviously one's not necessarily responsible for one's cousins or mothers or whatever -- "are not subsidized by the loan fund."

I have some concerns in regard to that; that is very simply that some of the witnesses spoke to real problems in terms of the eligibility, the scrutiny and means testing that has occurred. I think it's a highly problematical issue, and we're introducing the issue of family dependency into the income contingency repayment plan. I guess I have problems with it within the present OSAP system, and if we're going to extend that to another one I have some strong concerns.

The Chair: I sense in the way that all of these have been worded, and the word is used as well in 5, that any income contingent repayment approach to the student loan system should be "guided by" the following principles. It would seem to me therefore that it doesn't specifically state how that ought to work but simply that there should be something there that would deal with, I think you pointed out, dependent members. It makes that part clearer. These might not all be included by the committee that has been set up which takes in all the different players. If we include that word "dependent" will that meet your --

Mr White: No. It clarifies that sentence alone. My concern is that this is a major problem with our present system: the means testings, the way in which that can be done in a very pejorative way. I'm not suggesting that there's an easy way out, but if we're highlighting it in one area I think we should highlight it as a problem in another area as well.

The Chair: Discussion on that, Mr Daigeler?


Mr Daigeler: I'm not sure whether I hear Mr White properly, but you seem to be saying let's move away from requiring parents to contribute to the higher education side of their children also. If you're saying let's not have a means test, that would be it, would it not? I don't think I'm prepared to do that.

Mr White: I'm not suggesting that we necessarily need to move away from a means test. However, I am saying that this is an issue that was brought up with some concern in regard to our present OSAP system, that the means test has been used in a pejorative way. Obviously it's not as relevant if you're 25 as it is when you're 18. It has been used as a way that where someone is not receiving assistance and needs that kind of student assistance on an immediate basis in September and doesn't receive it until much later, people end up dropping out of school, first year of university or whatever that might be. There are a lot of questions about how fairly and regularly those criterion are applied. I'm just saying this has been an issue. It was brought up and I think it needs to be addressed.

Mrs O'Neill: Mr Daigeler and I both think it is tied in with the point we discussed earlier: "all aspects of an individual's...." You may want to add something there: "a means test based on all aspects of a family's financial circumstances." I think people brought to us certain circumstances, whether illness within the family or chronic illness or extraordinary needs for child care; even distance can be a problem here, distance to an educational location. So you may want to try and tie it in with the point we made earlier, because I think that's what we're trying to say, that it shouldn't be terribly bureaucratic, but there should be some way to humanize it.

I think the deputy minister when he came basically told us that the technology has improved considerably in the ministry, and perhaps this kind of software could be developed as well that would be more attuned to -- what should I say? -- a broader scope of financial circumstances.

The Chair: In listening to these comments, number 5 is posed in terms of principles. Is the principle here one that families who can provide assistance should be encouraged to do so? Perhaps it's more than that, that they ought to. The means test or some other kind of thing is the mechanism, but the principle is that where families are able we would still encourage them, want them, feel it is a good thing that they play a role.

Mr White: I certainly agree with your phraseology, Mr Chair; the idea of encouraging families who are capable of assisting in all ways possible. The issue of a means test I have concerns about because it has been found to be wanting. If we have examined it, and I believe we have and many other aspects of the OSAP program, and don't comment on that concern, it essentially sounds as if we are endorsing it holus-bolus. So I think your phraseology about the encouragement as opposed to specifically naming a means test might be a way out of the problem, without including that issue of the means test elsewhere.

The Chair: Could I read out wording that's been put forward? Listen to this and try this out. Beginning at the start of the bullet, "An improved means test that considers all aspects of an individual's financial circumstances should be retained so that families who can easily finance higher education for their dependent members are not subsidized by the loan fund."

Mrs O'Neill: I think you're contradictory in that statement, because the kind of means test we have now -- I don't like the term any more than Mr White does, but the term is easily understood. We don't consider an individual when we're applying for the OSAP grants as they exist. As you know, it's family income that's considered. So I don't think you can say "all aspects of an individual's" if that's what we're going to change to.

Mr White: How about "all aspects of an individual's financial situation, including their family context"?

Mrs O'Neill: This is not going to be easy to express. I hope we all believe that families who have children have a responsibility to educate them at the post-secondary level if their circumstances are stable. I think we're lost if we don't believe that somewhat. To do that is like anything else: There has to be some criteria. We can maybe change the term "means test." I don't know whether the researcher has any other terminology, but we have to have the principle that parents have an obligation to contribute if at all possible and for the most part -- I don't know what the percentages are, but they're pretty high -- parents do participate.

We also have to look at the other end of the scale. Do we want to encourage young people to have a lot of debt when they come out of post-secondary, because they got involved in something that maybe was too easy to get into? That concerns me greatly. There are ways around all these means tests and I'm sure there are loopholes; I'm sure the deputy could have given us examples if we'd asked. But it's a complex issue and to simplify it by trying to change the words "means test" is going to be difficult. I'm open to another word, but we have to have some threshold and some criteria to have people say: "This is not possible. This family cannot support the student at all."

Mr Daigeler: If we are in favour, as I am, of continuing to request a contribution from the parents, there will have to be some test, and that's been traditionally called a means test. Frankly, I can live with the formulation you have. Again, the important element here is the principle, as you indicated, Mr Chairman.

Mrs Irene Mathyssen (Middlesex): Mr Chair, I hope you don't forget that I wanted to comment.

The Chair: No. I just want to finish this point that Mr White raised initially. Let me try one other thing to try to meet Mrs O'Neill's point. What if we said instead of "a form of a means test" an "improved" test, a recognition that we can do better: "an improved means test should be retained so that families who can easily finance higher education for their dependent members are not subsidized by the loan fund." It seems to me that if you put "dependent" in you really are talking about a certain group as opposed to older offspring and so on, and that "improved" says we recognize the need for some sort of mechanism but it's got to be better than what we've got.

Mr White: Certainly those two minor alterations satisfy my concerns.

Mrs O'Neill: No problem.

The Chair: Just one last time from the top: "an improved means test should be retained so that families who can easily finance higher education for their dependent members are not subsidized by the loan fund."

Ms Mathyssen.

Mrs Mathyssen: Thank you, Mr Chair. At the risk of sending the subcommittee into a moment of hysteria, I'd like to comment on item 4 and say that I have very serious reservations about this income contingent repayment system. In fact, Mr Chairman, I don't like it at all, and I am very, very uncomfortable about it appearing in this document. Even the suggestion that the ministry may wish to study it further bothers me very much, because like many of the witnesses I have very real concerns about its perceived benefit. I think the whole purpose of what we were doing here was to look at how OSAP can in fact make post-secondary education more inclusive, and I was convinced that looking at a looming future debt that could be overwhelming would convince a significant number of people not to pursue post-secondary education at a time in this province when we need all of them, every person we possibly can include in post-secondary education.

I would like to see number 4 eliminated entirely. That of course would cause the need for some revision in number 5, quite simple revision. You'd simply have to remove from the first line "income contingent" so that it would then read "The committee recommends that any repayment approach...." Then in the first bullet, if you changed "such a" to "any loan system will not" you wouldn't have a great deal of revision to make.


The Chair: Discussion?

Mr Daigeler: To talk about the subcommittee again, even though I chaired the subcommittee so I'm supposed to be neutral, I was the only Liberal there so I -- no, I wasn't; Joan Fawcett was there as well. Anyway, it was your whip who quite strongly made the point that he did want to see something about income contingency in the recommendations and the third party was even stronger. I would expect that Mrs Cunningham, if she does make an additional recommendation, will request that we formulate some clear support of the income repayment plan.

As I already indicated at the beginning, I would not be in favour of that. However, I think what's here accurately reflects the positions that were spoken about, certainly from the government side and from the Liberals at the subcommittee meeting. If there was anything, it was the Tories; Mrs Witmer wasn't 100% sure because she was representing Mrs Dianne Cunningham, but Dianne Cunningham had indicated she wanted a stronger or a relatively strong support for the income contingent repayment plan in the recommendations.

The Chair: May I make what I hope will be a helpful suggestion? Let me go back a step here. One of the things that's unusual with the 123s is that we go through them, by and large we get a lot of information on the table and we prepare a public record, but at the end as members, we don't necessarily say, "It's that one thing there" or "It's that one over there," that we don't have a final answer. Particularly here we've been suggesting approaches or areas we want the committee to look at as it goes forward.

Would there be a way of expressing number 4 in this context? Because I think Mr Daigeler's right, that if we're trying to put together a report that would have the support of all members, which I think carries more weight, we are going to have to deal with this one and I think we're going to have to use the words "income contingent." If we were to say in number 4 something like --

Mrs Mathyssen: Go ahead, Mr Chair.

The Chair: I had it in my head. "While there were a number of members who had real concerns about the income contingent repayment system concept" -- that's getting wordy, but -- "the committee none the less recommends that the ministry consider funding some pilot projects in order to better assess this approach as part of on overall student assistance program."

Mr Daigeler: I'd have some difficulty with that, Mr Chairman. I think the way it is leaves it quite open, doesn't go into who is for or who is against. I would feel much more comfortable with what's here than what you're proposing.

The Chair: Can I try one other?

Mrs Mathyssen: All right.

The Chair: "The committee recommends that the ministry fund some pilot projects to assess the use of an income contingent repayment system."

Mr White: Might I suggest -- bear with me, Irene; I hope this meets with your concerns as well -- that the issues of affordability and accessibility as outlined above would need to be borne into an evaluation of those income contingency repayment projects, that those are the essential criteria. Certainly the witnesses before us had extremely strong concerns about those issues.

The Chair: I think I understand your point that one makes clear within the body of the fourth recommendation that the two principles we've asserted above, affordability and accessibility, would also be relevant to any assessment of income contingency, that those two principles would guide --

Mr Daigeler: That's generally fine with me. I just want to indicate again that at the subcommittee meeting the government whip clearly indicated that he wanted some reference to the concept being at least further studied. The third party -- and they should really speak for themselves -- were very strong on having something there, so if we take it totally out I'm sure the third party would want to submit a minority report. But what you've just suggested is agreeable to me.


The Chair: I'll take more comment. We're just trying to work out a wording that would bring in those two principles. Can we take a second here? Our diligent researcher is putting words together.

So number 4 would read: "The committee recommends that the ministry fund some pilot projects to assess the use of an income contingent repayment system. The principles of accessibility and affordability outlined above should be considered as essential criteria."

Mr White: "Essential criteria" or "critical criteria in the evaluation of these projects."

The Chair: Would you want to say "in the development and evaluation?"

Mr White: Thank you, yes.

The Chair: In my view, what we would be doing with this would be saying to the committee and to the ministry: "Look, this is something which you should consider, should assess, and that setting up some pilot projects might be a useful way to do that as long as those pilot projects, both in their development and in their evaluation, are based clearly on principles of accessibility and affordability."

Mrs Mathyssen: I see what you mean, Mr Chair, and I understand that the ministry does have an obligation not to simply rule things out. It's just that this particular method of repayment leaves me with very grave concerns. Personally, I don't want to be seen in any way supporting it or recommending it and I'm having a little bit of difficulty getting around that.

The Chair: I appreciate that. I guess really what the committee and what we are doing would be simply saying, "Let's fund some pilot projects in order to assess this approach."

Mrs Mathyssen: Or how about "the ministry has the option of"?

Mrs O'Neill: This isn't going to wash. You can't water it down much more than we've done here and have our support.

Mrs Mathyssen: You can eliminate it. That'd do it.

The Chair: This was an area where there was a strong difference of opinion among different presenters; none the less, it is an approach that was suggested and what we would be doing here is simply saying, "This needs to be looked at more fully." Mr Daigeler's earlier point, though, is that in the absence of our colleagues from the Conservative caucus if we are trying to put together recommendations we could all support, we're going to need to have some reference to this in some form or another.

Mr White: To resolve this difficulty -- I request Ms Mathyssen's endorsement here. Here we have a recommendation that there be pilot projects funded and the issue explored. If we were instead to acknowledge that this is something the ministry may well be doing and we understand that this is quite possibly ongoing, rather than ourselves saying and recommending it due to the strong reservations that exist perhaps we could instead say, "Should the ministry fund some pilot projects to assess the use of an income contingency repayment system," then these are the criteria to evaluate them with, as we've outlined already. In a sense what we would be doing is acknowledging this is probably going on but not specifically recommending it; however, saying that if it is happening, this is how you should evaluate it.

Mrs Mathyssen: I could live with that perhaps better than --

Mrs O'Neill: I think we have to remind Mrs Mathyssen that this was a recommendation from her party at the subcommittee meeting, so the division is among the NDP members of this committee. It's really very difficult. We had a lot of presentation on this particular subject matter. There is agreement among the three parties to have it. In my mind, it's in the mildest possible form here: "pilot projects." This is the way destreaming got started, folks, and it was with the NDP suggesting it as pilot projects.

So to water it down and to say, "Oh, yes, we know things are going on out there" and we may put a couple of guidelines on them -- let's get real. Let's give some direction and make this report meaningful. It is definitely something that is gaining profile within the university and college communities. Are we going to pretend we don't know what's going on out there? That's basically what we're doing. It's an option some people want us to look at; in fact, quite a few people want us to look at it.

Mr White: We have devoted about 40% -- in fact, almost half -- of the written recommendations to the issue of an income contingency repayment plan. It would speak to our concerns about it and our guidelines about it. Obviously, as you say, it's a very current idea. We want to resolve this difficulty. While I agree that as a caucus we may not be united in terms of degree of support for any particular idea, I think that as a committee we can discuss these issues and come to a consensus. I think Ms Mathyssen's concerns are real and genuine and shared across the board by many people. The reservations that she's expressed need to be listened to.

Mr Daigeler: I quite agree with Mr White. In fact, I'm quite pleased to hear such a strong view from the government side on that question because up till now it hadn't been there. I had the impression it was rather going in the opposite direction. I can only go back to what Mr Martin at various times in the committee meetings here had indicated, that he certainly was prepared to look at it. I don't think you from the government side can separate yourselves so totally from the ministry that you can say, "Okay, I know they're going to do it, and should they do it, then they should take those things into consideration." I just don't think that will wash with the public. You are members of the governing party and therefore the ministers are members of your caucus.

I find that the formulation that is there is a reasonable one, because at the subcommittee I was the one who was the most reticent about talking about the income contingent repayment. I said that in view of having a report subscribed to by all three parties, that's something I am open to, to study the matter further and to have it looked into. I'm not very optimistic that the study will say it's a viable option, because there are a number of issues that remain very much open.

Mr White: There are indeed. I'm wondering if we could have a five-minute recess in which we could caucus briefly on this issue.

Mrs O'Neill: I have to go because I have another meeting at 4:30. Could I could go back to the previous point, which was not as contentious? In looking at that again, I'm having a lot of trouble with the phrase "who can easily finance higher education." I don't think there are very many parents who can easily finance higher education. If you could help me with that, I'd like to say "who can contribute to the higher education of their dependent members." It would be a lot more reasonable. I've educated, with my husband, three children; it's not easy. Could we say "who can contribute to the higher education"?

I'm sorry, I'm going to have to leave this debate because I have another meeting.

The Chair: I think Mr White has a good suggestion, and I want to give you one more possibility as we do that. But can we just deal with Mrs O'Neill's point, which seems to me is perhaps a good one?

Mrs O'Neill: I want to get the word "easily" out of there and not "finance higher education;" "who can contribute to the higher education of their dependent members."

The Chair: So that would read, "An approved means test should be retained so that families who can contribute to the higher education of their dependent members are not subsidized by the loan fund."

Mrs O'Neill: Thank you very much.


The Chair: Before you go off on the five-minute break, can I throw out one more possibility? What if we were to put it this way: "The committee recommends that the ministry consider funding some pilot projects to assess the use of an income contingent repayment system. The principles of accessibility and affordability outlined above should be considered as essential criteria in the development and evaluation of these projects." That's essentially the change I am suggesting, that what the committee is recommending is that the ministry "consider" as opposed to "fund."

Mr White: Agreed.

Mr Daigeler: I can live with that. I doubt whether Dianne Cunningham can.

Mr White: We're resolved? There are no other outstanding issues and we have six minutes to go?

The Chair: No, we've got a little more than that. Is that all right, to try it that way?

Mr White: Yes.

The Chair: Okay, we'll try that. Ms Mathyssen, in number 5 those would be principles that would --

Mr White: As we do have a very few minutes left, could we briefly review the changes that have been noted to these points?

The Chair: Remember, these will be done and there'll be a meeting of the subcommittee, so it's not the Chair who's running off to do that.

Mr White: Indeed. It's always best to inform our subcommittee member of what we've done in his absence, though.

The Chair: The first recommendation would be as it is. On the second, we have not done the wording, but we're going to put together what in effect would be three bullets --

Ms Anderson: Three examples.

The Chair: Three examples, if you like, phrased in a way that they're not limiting. Okay?

In recommendation 3, the first bullet, at the end of the first line we took out the word "material," so it was "Living expenses, child care for single parents and extra costs for disabled students." And at the third bullet, "The student aid system should be based on all aspects of an individual's financial circumstances."

"4. The committee recommends that the ministry consider funding some pilot projects to assess the use of an income contingent repayment system. The principles of accessibility and affordability outlined above should be considered as essential criteria in the development and evaluation of these projects."

Ms Anderson: Then it continues.

The Chair: And then would continue, "Possible projects could address...."

Then number 5, the third bullet would read, "An improved means test should be retained so that families who can contribute to the higher education of their dependent members are not subsidized by the loan fund."

Again, these would come to the subcommittee tomorrow or Thursday, but as soon as possible, and that way everybody would get a chance to see them and would also allow for Mrs Cunningham to have input.

First of all, I need a motion to approve the body of the report.

Mr Daigeler: So moved.

The Chair: Mr Daigeler moves that we approve the body of the report.

Motion agreed to.

The Chair: Then a motion to approve the recommendations as amended, subject to review by the subcommittee and the Conservative members who are not with us today. If they can't agree with the amended recommendations they may then have the opportunity to file a dissenting report before the report is tabled in both languages. That's just a formality, but if they're going to do a minority report, they have to do it in both English and French. I need therefore a motion to approve the recommendations as amended, subject to review by the subcommittee.

Mr White: So moved.

The Chair: Thank you. Okay?

Then, as is the case in these 123s, is it the wish of the committee to request a response in the House from the minister pursuant to standing order 36(d), which of course we -- it's the 180 days.

Mr Daigeler: Seeing we haven't heard from the minister at all, I certainly would welcome a response.

The Chair: This is a normal thing with the 123s.

Mr White: Perhaps that particular point could be discussed in the subcommittee and brought back at a later point.

The Chair: I'm instructed that we can't. This is the standard response for all the -- I mean, the minister is free to respond in any way he or she wishes. They can simply say: "It's a very useful report. We're going to consider it." It's a pro forma thing. The other 123s I've been on have done this. It doesn't say what kind of response or how long or --

Mr Daigeler: It should be very positive and elaborate.

The Chair: All right. So that is carried, okay?

A reminder that if there are any subsequent dissenting opinions, those must be presented to the clerk in both languages.

Mr White: Is there a time for that presentation?

The Chair: If we meet tomorrow with the changed wording, if we get that approval tomorrow, then presumably there is no problem. But if there were going to be any kind of dissenting or minority report, we would want to get that as quickly as possible. I would think a week or something like that, okay?

Mr White: Certainly.

The Chair: Then tomorrow we will have a subcommittee meeting. I think we can get these changes together.

Just for Mr Martin's sake, Tony, we've made some changes to the wording. I explained at the beginning that Mrs Cunningham unfortunately had to have an operation. It's not serious; she will be with us. But I had agreed with the Conservative caucus that we would go through this today, try to come up with at least what we thought made sense, and give Mrs Cunningham an opportunity -- I'm told she should be here tomorrow -- to look at those changes. The subcommittee will get together. Either she will say "Fine," or if she has some suggestions to make, the subcommittee can consider those. If the subcommittee feels they are reasonable, we would then approve the recommendations as amended.

Mr Daigeler: And if not?

The Chair: And if not, she would then file a dissenting opinion.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Did you make any changes today to the proposed recommendations?


The Chair: We can let your members go over what we've done. We believe we have approved the recommendations.



The Chair: There are two matters which I need to bring to the committee's attention and which the clerk is going to pass out. The two things relate to our future work.

The first concerns the report of the subcommittee with respect to the issue of children's services, if I could read this report into the record.

"Report of the subcommittee:

"Your subcommittee met on Wednesday 6 May, Monday 25 May and Tuesday 2 June 1992, on a matter pursuant to standing order 106(a), and has agreed to recommend:

"That the committee conduct hearings relating to child protection, and specifically at-risk children. The hearings should focus on the population of children at risk, the services available to them, and recommendations to improve that continuum of services, from preventive programs to agencies of last resort;

"That the hearings take place the first two weeks of August and continue the first two weeks of September;

"That the committee sit on Mondays (2 pm only), Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (10 am and 2 pm);

"That the committee conduct hearings in Toronto, Sault Ste Marie, Thunder Bay, Kingston and London;

"That each caucus submit to the clerk of the committee a list of individuals and groups for consideration by the subcommittee when establishing its list of those who will receive letters of invitation to appear before the committee;

"That appointments be scheduled to allow 15 minutes for individuals and 30 minutes for groups, and that the committee reserve the right to extend a maximum of four appointments to one hour each in length; and

"That the Chair inform the House leaders of the committee's wishes with regard to this subject matter."

Obviously the House leaders have the authority in the end to determine what we will or will not do, but this was the approach the subcommittee took and that's the report. Is there any discussion on the subcommittee report?

Mr Martin: Just for some on the committee who perhaps have seen this for the first time, I've spoken to the minister about it and she certainly sees it as something worth exploring and doing something around. The only hesitation, and it's a hesitation for me as well in light of what's transpiring here, is the time -- the two weeks, four weeks, three weeks; some negotiated time -- that would recognize both the reality of what transpires and then the need for the resources of the government and the Legislature to be used in a way that isn't going to burn anybody out or overburden the system unduly. We would probably want to talk a little more about the time and the actual dates perhaps.

The Chair: As to that last line, the House leaders are the ones who are going to determine whether we do this, whether we do it for four weeks or two weeks. This I suppose is really a kind of maximum proposal or wish list. What is perhaps unusual here is that we have taken the time to try to define a topic and suggest an approach, but I think we all quite understand and accept that the House leaders, once they see what the various order of business is for that period, may well come back and say, "That's fine, but it's two weeks" or whatever. I think that's quite understood.

Mr White: Along those lines, as a professional who has spent the better part of my adult life working with families and children at risk, I think four weeks is a totally inadequate amount of time, as an amount. The timing of course is problematical. There are a number of issues coming up, as we know, in September or August and of course we do want to start this after we have finished our spring session.

The Chair: The reason for the four weeks in August-September is that it's the intersession period. Again, the House leaders will take this under advisement, as they say. They may even say, "Go ahead and do two weeks and then when the House comes back you can spend one other week on it." I think this simply sets out a framework. You can't dictate to the House leaders, but that reflects the discussion.

Mr Daigeler: I certainly wouldn't want either the time or the dates changed in terms of the committee. As you said, what the House leaders do with it is up to them, but in terms of the committee it's a serious issue, we want some serious study. We are aware of the limits of everyone, and I think the four weeks and the way it's put down here is a reasonable suggestion.

I have only one comment. Why did you choose Kingston? Not that I have anything against Kingston, but we usually go to these places and I was just wondering whether perhaps we might consider another city in eastern Ontario for a change, for example Pembroke. I've never been to any public hearings in Pembroke. To have the presence of the Legislature in a city I think is useful and important. Kingston obviously is relatively easily accessible from the Ottawa area and from other parts of eastern Ontario. Perhaps that's the main consideration, but if there's any possibility, I'd like to put in a pitch for Pembroke because I don't think we've ever gone to Pembroke, any kind of legislative committee.

The Chair: I'm trying to remember back to the subcommittee meeting because there were a few things. There was a reason we were suggesting the first two weeks in August and not the last two, which I think had to do with some members on the committee who weren't going to be around, and Kingston was trying to shift things around. Again, that was the conclusion of the subcommittee and the recommendation. I don't think this precludes -- let's suppose the House leaders say to us, "You can have two weeks and then a week later." The subcommittee presumably would then sit down and ask whether we can do that within what we've recommended here, because that might then mean some other changes. I wonder if we can just take that under advisement, that there may be some others but that these were the ones that the subcommittee had suggested.

Mr Gary Wilson: I just want to say, with all due respect to my committee colleague --

The Chair: I should note for the record that the member for Kingston and The Islands is now --

Mr Gary Wilson: In fact, I would like maybe some precedent set by one of the other cities on the itinerary, say, in London. We could go to --

Mr Brad Ward (Brantford): Brantford.

Mr Gary Wilson: -- one of the hinterland cities there. Yes, Brantford.


The Chair: I think the point, and it's a good one, is that we need to consider places where perhaps committees have not always gone, but ones that would still be accessible for people, in this case in eastern Ontario.

What we're proposing here is something a little different, where we're trying to set out as a committee an area of study and review that we all feel is important. We're all going to have to be talking with our House leaders, given other demands that may be on the system. I would suggest perhaps we let this go as the subcommittee has reported, and we'll see what happens once the House leaders meet.

Mr Gary Wilson: Just to make a serious point, though, I think because of the importance of the subject -- I guess all subjects are important -- we want to make it as accessible as possible to the greatest number of people, and I think Kingston does make a lot of sense.

The Chair: Kingston in August I think sounds wonderful.

Could I have somebody just move the motion. Mr Wilson, thank you.

Just one other thing on our agenda, if I can find it.

You'll recall that in private members' hour last Thursday, Bill 24, An Act to amend the Education Act, projet de loi 24, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'éducation, which was presented by Mrs Caplan, was passed in the House and it was agreed in the House that that be referred to the standing committee on social development. That should be also placed with the subcommittee on business for us to determine when and how that would be dealt with. I just need to bring to the attention of the committee that that was the direction of the House last Thursday, so we will need to discuss that at the subcommittee on business.

The committee adjourned at 1701.