Bill C-303 (Historical)
Early Learning and Child Care Act
An Act to establish criteria and conditions in respect of funding for early learning and child care programs in order to ensure the quality, accessibility, universality and accountability of those programs, and to appoint a council to advise the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development on matters relating to early learning and child care
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.
This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.
Denise Savoie NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Committee Report Presented
(This bill did not become law.)
- Nov. 21, 2007 Passed That Bill C-303, An Act to establish criteria and conditions in respect of funding for early learning and child care programs in order to ensure the quality, accessibility, universality and accountability of those programs, and to appoint a council to advise the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development on matters relating to early learning and child care, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.
- Nov. 22, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
December 8th, 2009 / 3:55 p.m.
Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It works out well for me to speak now because I just voted a few minutes ago. I would like us to discuss the amendment moved by my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. The exemption he is seeking has already been agreed to in other bills. I have in front of me Bill C-303, which was introduced in the first session of the 39th Parliament, in 2006-2007. Clause 4 of that bill says essentially the same thing as amendment BQ-2, clause 3.1, moved by Mr. Lessard. It asks that, recognizing the relationship between the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec, in certain areas, the Government of Quebec have control, having regard to its jurisdiction in relation to payments.
Heaven knows how many discussions we had about the division of powers between the federal government and the provincial governments. We had to debate it a hundred times. I think it is very important for us to preserve a balance that it was very hard for us to achieve and that we maintain a consistent course in terms of respecting provincial powers, in this case the powers of the Government of Quebec.
September 28th, 2009 / 2:15 p.m.
Crystal Janes Representative, Coalition of Child Care Advocates of British Columbia
Regrettably, Canada's current policies do not meet the needs of Canadian families. Canada has lagged behind other developed countries in its investment in early learning and care for decades, and it now has the lowest rate of access to early learning and child care programs for preschool children of 20 comparable countries.
Notably, the federal government's approach to supporting families with children introduced in 2006--the universal child care benefit--has not met its stated objective of providing families with choice. Cancelling dedicated child care transfers to provinces and introducing a taxable family allowance has not addressed family child care needs.
The situation is getting worse in B.C. Child care funding has been cut as a result of changes in the federal commitment, forcing child care fees to go up.
Our recommendation to the standing committee this year is consistent with our advice over the last number of years. It's time to invest in children. We recommend, based on the principles and accountability framework outlined in Bill C-303, that the next federal budget include the first installment of a four-year commitment to create a licensed child care space for every three- to five-year-old in the country, as the first phase in building a comprehensive system for zero to 12 years old.
The gross projected cost of meeting this first benchmark is $5 billion. Based on experience elsewhere, Canada can expect an immediate return of 40% through income taxes from increased labour force participation. In addition, Canada can expect a longer-term return of 2:1 on reduced social, educational, and health care costs as children get a good early start through their life cycles.
Secure, Adequate, Accessible and Affordable Housing Act
Private Members' Business
September 17th, 2009 / 5:45 p.m.
Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating the New Democratic Party on introducing Bill C-304. We do not spend enough time talking about housing, and this gives us a chance to point out, as the Bloc has often done, that the federal government has the means to make massive investments in social and community housing. That is what it is supposed to do.
Investment should add up to 1% of federal government program spending, or about $2 billion per year. That is what the Bloc has always said. However—and this is the problem with the bill—Quebec and the provinces need to be in charge of how that housing money is spent.
The federal government must respect provincial jurisdiction by limiting its role in this area to providing funding to enable Quebec to act on its priorities and special needs. Previous agreements recognize that housing falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec.
I would like to quote from a document published by the Government of Quebec, Coûts du fédéralisme pour le Québec dans le domaine de l'habitation, an analysis of what federalism costs Quebec in the area of housing, conducted by the Société d'habitation du Québec in September 1995. On page 21, it says:
Federal housing measures constitute interference in an area under provincial jurisdiction. The federal government has imposed very rigid rules for housing measures. It has also made its financial participation contingent upon a multitude of administrative rules as well as pan-Canadian objectives and criteria, making it difficult to plan interventions in a Quebec context. The presence of the federal government in this sector of activity has resulted in much administrative duplication engendering additional costs that undermine the coherence of interventions.
That was written in 1995. Nothing has changed. This bill, too, constitutes encroachment.
Quebec has the skills and the experience to take care of its own housing responsibilities. That is the point. We would be better served if we took matters into our own hands.
Quebec is calling for a transfer of all federal responsibilities for housing, provided that this be accompanied by satisfactory financial compensation in light of the criteria of fairness, sufficiency and continuity. Currently, Ottawa’s proposal is limited to offering Quebec only the administration of existing federal obligations with regard to social housing stock, which only amounts to a simple management contract. In addition, on the subject of social housing, Quebec has not obtained its fair share of federal expenditures. The Government of Quebec cannot accept this situation, no more than prior administrations were able to tolerate this. Were we to be satisfied with less than our share of financing of the federal effort for housing, this would be all the more unacceptable since Quebec's needs in this area are proportionately greater than those of the other provinces.
Bill C-304 in its current form does not respect Quebec's jurisdiction in this area. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, if we recall that, in 2007, Bill C-303 concerning early learning and child care faced the same situation as this bill. The solution: allow Quebec to opt out unconditionally, with full compensation, as set out in clause 4 of Bill C-303. Thus, there is hope that this bill could also be amended in committee.
We are in favour of Bill C-304 being studied in committee, with one caveat: it must be amended considerably.
If Bill C-304 comes back to the House in its present form, the Bloc will not support it. The solution is to allow Quebec to opt out unconditionally and with full compensation, as was the case with clause 4 of Bill C-303, nothing less. In addition, the preamble of Bill C-304 includes the principles of housing rights that we support. However, we believe that a more thorough study should be conducted on the consequences of having these principles in the bill and on the possibility of an individual without housing turning to the courts.
Bill C-304 does, however, indicate set out the context in which this strategy must operate with specific points of action that already exist in Quebec. Consultation by the minister with provincial counterparts, which the bill advocates, will lead to subsequent procedures for settling accounts.
Under clause 3, the Minister shall, in consultation with the provincial ministers responsible for municipal affairs and housing and with representatives of municipalities and aboriginal communities, establish a national housing strategy. We do not agree with having a national strategy other than to have our share of the program funds. This national strategy is to ensure that the cost of housing in Canada does not prevent an individual from meeting other basic needs, including those of food, clothing and education.
Under clause 4(2), the minister, in cooperation with the provincial ministers responsible for housing and with representatives of municipalities and aboriginal communities, may take any measures that the minister considers appropriate to implement the national housing strategy as quickly as possible. Note that we in Quebec have the SHQ, which sets priorities. We have absolutely no desire to have our priorities set by the federal government.
The minister's powers to take the measures indicated are not dependent on the consent of Quebec. Clause 4(2) provides clearly that the minister may take any measures to implement the national strategy, regardless of the opinion of the provinces, regardless of Quebec's or the other provinces' prerogative over housing, regardless of the efforts made by Quebec and other provinces in the area of social housing, regardless of the existence of protection for renters provided by the Régie du logement du Québec and regardless of the different social choices being made in Quebec.
The intent of this bill is, in the end, to eradicate and appropriate the decision-making powers of Quebec and the provinces with respect to housing, including social housing. This is appropriating an area of jurisdiction that does not belong to it and forces Quebec and the provinces to become managers for Ottawa.
Even though Quebec is one of the few provinces to have been commended in the report by the UN Special Rapporteur because of its policy to fight poverty and because of the content of its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms—page 10, paragraph 28—among other things, this bill ignores this reality and ignores the nation that is Quebec.
The agreement should set the conditions for federal withdrawal, including the amount and type of financial resources to be transferred. In addition, a political agreement should establish the form of compensation, namely cash transfers and tax points. Or, the agreement could require the federal government to continue its expenditures in the province concerned. The territories should also be able to avail themselves of this provision. The federal government would be required to negotiate and enter into this agreement within a reasonable time.
Rather than focusing its actions in its own areas of jurisdiction, the federal government is trying to use worthy causes to interfere in Quebec's jurisdictions in order to have the greatest possible visibility. This bill, in its current form, follows that logic.
I will reiterate that we are in favour of this bill on housing but that it must be overhauled in order to respect Quebec's jurisdictions.
(Bill C–303. On the Order: Private Members' Business:)
November 21, 2007--Third reading of Bill C-303, An Act to establish criteria and conditions in respect of funding for early learning and child care programs in order to ensure the quality, accessibility, universality and accountability of those programs, and to appoint a council to advise the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development on matters relating to early learning and child care--the member for Victoria.
February 7th, 2008 / 4:55 p.m.
Denise Savoie Victoria, BC
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby.
For me, this year's prebudget consultation process included hosting a public town hall meeting in Victoria that was well attended, presentations and attending finance committee hearings in Victoria by the committee last December, reviewing hundreds of letters and emails from my constituents and having countless conversations with folks on the street.
Throughout this process, I heard two predominant messages from the residents of greater Victoria. First, invest with vision in a more socially, environmentally and economically sustainable future. Second, that investment in Victoria should begin with housing.
They asked the government to review the massive corporate tax cuts announced in the fall fiscal update in favour of targeted measures to restore balance in our communities and in our social and physical infrastructure and to tackle climate change.
I would like to highlight a few of the excellent presentations we heard in the Victoria meetings of the House of Commons finance committee. The non-profit group, Heritage B.C., spoke eloquently about the importance of conserving heritage buildings and rehabilitating them for modern use, especially affordable rental housing. Its very pragmatic proposal would strengthen the federal historic places initiative by restoring the commercial heritage properties incentive fund and creating a federal tax incentive to amplify the success of tax measures in Victoria and Vancouver that has allowed us to protect some properties but, unfortunately, has not been supported by the federal government.
We heard from the BC Sustainable Energy Association, which expertly warned not only of the environmental hazards of the government's non-response to climate change, but also the economic hazards of being left behind as the rest of the world shifts to clean, renewable energy while we stay wedded to an obsolescent fossil fuel economy of past centuries. We must put a price on carbon to turn this around. Left unchecked, global warming could cost B.C.'s economy in the billions of dollars.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society identified six key actions that the federal government should take to protect healthy ecosystems in the face of climate change. I hope it considers those seriously.
The president of Results Canada made a compelling call to increase our foreign aid which he noted has actually dropped even further below our commitment of a 0.7% target from 0.34% of our gross national income in 2005 to 0.3% in 2006.
Before the finance committee came to town, I hosted a public town hall meeting to hear the priorities of my constituents that were not necessarily linked to the narrow focus of taxes. Overall, those in attendance expressed a strong desire to see the federal government re-establish its leadership role in the arena of social policy and to nurture the social contract we have together as Canadians.
However, overwhelmingly, the number one area of urgently needed investment in Victoria continues to be housing and homelessness. In October, the City of Victoria released its task force report on breaking the cycle of mental illness, addictions and homelessness after four months of work. The task force did an excellent job analyzing the problem and mapping a way forward, but many of its recommendations cannot be implemented without support from Ottawa. In fact, the report clearly identifies the past Liberal government's withdrawal from the social housing sphere in the early 1990s, along with cuts to federal transfer payments, as two of the contributing factors to our current crisis. Now the Conservative human resources minister does not even bother attending housing meetings with his provincial counterparts, pretending it is not his problem.
The chorus of voices pleading for federal help from the perspective of ethics and social justice has been joined by that of members of Victoria's business community who have come out as forcefully and unequivocally as they possibly could.
I would like to quote briefly from the testimony of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. It stated:
...the Government of Canada needs to take a far more aggressive lead in solving the problems of chronic homelessness across our country.
So much for the absence of our federal human resources minister from the meeting with his provincial counterparts.
The Chamber of Commerce added:
In this time of record government surplus, it is absolutely necessary for the federal government to apply a focused effort to reducing homelessness across Canada, and in doing so improve the business environment for thousands of Canadian companies.
This sentiment from the Chamber of Commerce echoes what I have heard on the doorsteps in Victoria. Even in the more affluent areas, I frequently hear concern for affordable housing and homelessness mentioned on the doorsteps of homes that might cost $700,000 in Victoria. These residents understand that even if this issue does not afflict them personally, it is relevant to them because they are members of the Victoria community.
It is that community spirit, the truly Canadian quality of caring for one's neighbour and choosing to contribute solutions to our common problems, that is alive in Victoria and in communities across Canada, which the Conservatives do not seem to recognize in their obsession with tax cuts, especially corporate tax cuts that benefit the banks and large financial organizations. It shows that affordable housing is a fundamental issue that strikes the hearts of all Canadians and it shows that tax cuts are not universally popular if it means that some in our society go without.
That brings me to a couple of other areas that require targeted investment in the upcoming budget, according to my constituents.
First, it is time for the government to accept the majority will of Parliament and allow the NDP's early learning and child care act to pass. Bill C-303 has now passed two votes in the House and one in committee. Parents across Canada who desperately need affordable child care cannot wait any longer and parents who want to choose quality early learning over big box day care deserve that option.
Next, one million Canadians struggle to repay student loans, which have reached record levels, and they need help. The federal government expects to make $497.9 million in interest on student loans in the coming year. Every dollar in interest is one more dollar that a low or middle income student pays for his education compared to other students whose parents pay for theirs.
It will not be easy to level this structural inequality in our post-secondary education system. However, a good starting point in this budget would be to reduce the interest rate paid by students, to establish a system of immediate grants based on financial need, to improve options for lightening the debt load and to establish a student loan ombudsman's office to help students navigate this inefficient system.
Finally, public research informs good public policy, but it would appear that the Conservatives are allergic to both. They have cut key funding for the Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Research Network, eliminated the federal science advisor, overruled and fired Canada's nuclear safety regulator and continue to grossly underfund research in the social and human sciences.
Meanwhile, corporate influence on Canada's campuses and in university research continues to rise because the Liberal cuts from a decade ago have yet to be adequately restored. Our colleges and universities need stable, adequate core funding that corresponds with their economic growth in order to remain internationally competitive and provide the best possible education to our children.
We need increased funding for research in the public interest if we are to avoid letting profit become the guiding factor in public health, safety and environmental decisions. Budgets 2006-07 were colossal missed opportunities to invest in key strategic areas for more sustainable--
December 6th, 2007 / 10:20 a.m.
Senior Researcher, SpeciaLink - The National Centre for Child Care Inclusion
Having been last before, I'll be first now.
At least four of us have talked about child care as an essential component to a national anti-poverty strategy. We would endorse that, and support and applaud the action on Bill C-303, which is currently before the House. That is a child care bill that will move us forward.
December 3rd, 2007 / 5:05 p.m.
Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
One of the things we haven't really talked about today, and I'm kind of surprised about it, is child care. In the last election it was a pretty important issue. I think in the next election it will be very clear that there are two very different ideologies when it comes to families and child care in this country. There's the Liberal-NDP-Bloc view that the only option worth federal consideration is a universal, institutional, top-down, unionized, nine-to-five option. Of course, it has been mentioned that there would be a choice for families who want to opt out, but that option wouldn't be worthy of any federal support, for sure. Then there's the Conservative view that we favour equality of choice for families to make the best decision for their own circumstances.
I noticed some interesting quotes. Back in September, the Times and Transcript in Moncton wrote: “The former federal Liberal government was attempting to initiate a massive, universal daycare program that would have cost Canadian taxpayers billions, all on the basis of oft-heard claims by lobby groups that it was essential and would solve the problem of massive shortages, but that were based on dubious research and questionable facts.”
Even, actually, the former Liberal Deputy Prime Minister, Sheila Copps, said the last agreement--that would be the Liberal agreement “saw some provinces rake in millions without creating a single new daycare space. The Liberal plan is a cash cow for governments while families are cash poor.”
Then actually, the current finance critic for the Liberal Party back in 2000 made, I thought, a very good statement here. He said: “I am strongly opposed to any new national day care program with the cost running into the tens of billions of dollars. Given economic realities and competing demands on government resources, these are programs we cannot afford.” That was back in 2000, and of course, I would note that this is completely inconsistent with Liberal support of Bill C-303.
I have three questions.
Generally, I'd like to know if you can tell me what action the Conservative government has taken to give Canadian parents real choice in child care?
Secondly, and a little bit more specifically, how much money has been transferred to the provinces to support creation of child care spaces? How many have been announced thus far?
The third question I had was regarding Bill C-303. Can you maybe explain to the committee why our government will not support this bill?
Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007
November 29th, 2007 / 12:55 p.m.
Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-28. In the view of New Democrats, this was an unprecedented opportunity to invest in Canadians. Instead we see a Conservative government that continues to take Canada in the wrong direction.
It was not a balanced approach. It could have provided targeted tax relief for those who needed it most, instead of providing billions of dollars in tax relief to the friends of the Conservatives, the oil and gas companies. It was an opportunity to close that ever increasing prosperity gap. However, as we have seen in many of the programs and legislation that comes from the Conservative government, it has not invested in working class and middle class families, in ordinary Canadians.
With regard to the wrong direction, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, in a 2007 paper called “Why Inequality Matters: The Canadian Case”, talks about that growing prosperity gap. It see income distribution deteriorating.
The rich and poor gap is at a 30 year high, in after tax terms, the fastest growth in the past 10 years under economic conditions that traditionally lead to it falling. There is a far greater polarization of incomes. The bottom half has been shut out of economic gains of the last 30 years, despite working more hours. As a cohort, these families raising children are better educated and working more than those 30 years ago. On average, those families are working 200 hours more a year. That truly is a prosperity gap.
In the economic statement, the government talks about delivering broad based tax relief for individuals, families and businesses. Let us do a bit of a reality check around that.
The government's own document says that families earning between $15,000 and $30,000 will pay on average almost $180 less in tax in 2008. My question has always been this. Exactly how many child care spaces, how many child care days, does $180 in tax relief pay for?
Social Planning Cowichan recently issued a report in October. It talks about quality child care. I will read briefly from that because my community is in a crisis around child care. It says:
Quality, affordable child care is crucial to the social and economic welfare of the Cowichan Region. The successful development of our children, especially in the early years, has a long term impact on our region....
Currently, there is a critical lack of licensed child care spaces in the Cowichan Region, with enough spaces to serve only 48 percent of the estimated 4,862 children under the age of 12 who need child care. For the estimated 1,047 aged three and under who need child care, there are only 165 licensed spaces, or 16 percent of the number needed.
This situation continues to worsen due to the current labour shortage and increasing cost of housing which requires that most families need two incomes to afford a home which is resulting in an estimated 70 to 75 percent of mothers entering the workforce.
Three significant barriers to providing quality child care are consistently identified by information gathered from interviews with local informants as well as the websites of many provincial, national and international organizations involved in promoting quality, affordable child care: lack of child care spaces; funding for child care services and programs; staffing, training, recruitment and retention in birth to three year services.
The economic statement would have been an opportunity to take meaningful action around child care. The Conservatives will talk about choice in child care when they talk about the $100 a month, but that $100 a month simply does not create new child care spaces.
The New Democrats have put forward Bill C-303, which calls for meaningful attention to early learning and child care. One would hope, with the kind of support this bill has garnered, that the Conservatives would have seen fit to take the opportunity in the economic statement to invest in the creation of child care spaces and in early learning. Instead, we have seen tax relief of $180 a year for people earning between $15,000 and $30,000 a year. This kind of tax relief will not create child care spaces.
In my province of British Columbia, and I know in other provinces, many industries are facing severe labour shortages. We could have encouraged people to join the labour force by ensuring there would be affordable, quality, regulated child care. This was a missed opportunity to invest in working and middle class families. This was a missed opportunity to close that prosperity gap.
Another element that is of critical importance to Canadians, certainly to those living in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, is housing. On October 22, the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari, took a preliminary look at the Canadian housing situation. I will quote from his report because he says it far better than I could. He says:
Everywhere that I visited in Canada, I met people who are homeless and living in adequate and insecure housing conditions. On this mission I heard of hundreds of people who have died, as a direct result of Canada's nation-wide housing crisis. In its most recent periodic review of Canada's compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United Nations used strong language to label housing and homelessness and inadequate housing as a “national emergency”.
This is an international overview of what is happening in Canada. People are saying that the housing situation is in a crisis.
Mr. Kothari goes on in his report to talk about why there has been a significant erosion of housing policy rights over the past two decades. Not only is the current Conservative government not taking the kind of action that is required in terms of a national housing strategy, but when the Liberals were in government, they directly contributed to the crisis that we are in today.
Mr. Kothari says:
—Even more dramatic housing cuts in the coming years as the federal government “steps out” of its financial commitments under the 1973 to 1993 national housing programme.
--Reductions in income support programs at the federal level, and in every province, that have left many Canadians with little money to pay for ever-increasing housing costs, and
--A shift in housing policy to provide support for homeownership, mainly through the tax system, while eroding support for social and rental housing.
It is clearly a failure of leadership, both under the Conservatives and under the previous Liberal government.
The Cowichan Valley fall 2006 report talks about the crisis that has emerged in Nanaimo—Cowichan. It talks about the fact that no new rental units have been built in the Cowichan region during the last 20 years, therefore the supply is scarce. Vacancy rates in private rental buildings in the city of Duncan and in North Cowichan have declined in recent years from 8.4% in October 2002 to 1.6% in October 2005.
Under rents and incomes in the same report, in 2001 more than 6% of households in the CVRD had incomes of less than $10,000, and an additional 14% had incomes of between $10,000 and $19,999 and a further additional 12.9% had incomes between $20,000 and $29,999, in total, 35% of the households. Clearly, the ability to afford rent is a significant issue for many people in the region. The proportion of households spending more than 30% of their gross income on rent was higher in the CVRD than for B.C. as a whole. Thirty-five per cent of the households in my riding are making under $30,000. The $180 tax relief is in the pockets of 35% of the households in my riding. How will $180 help someone rent an apartment when rents are rising because of the severe shortage in supply?
A national housing strategy looked at a continuum housing, from homelessness, transitional shelters, accommodation for singles and families, up to aging in place. We need a continuum. We need that national strategy. That was in the Cowichan Valley. It is no different in the city of Nanaimo.
Another report talked about the market rental and row housing vacancy. It was 3.4% in 2002 and down to 1.4% in 2005. They are turning away people from emergency shelters. Transition houses that responded cited the increasing cost of housing, both owned and rental. They also cited the increasing incidence of homelessness and raised concerns about the declining stock of rental and market housing.
A number of suggestions have been made on actions that can be taken to deal with it. It is no surprise that people in Nanaimo are calling for a range of housing types catering to different ages, family types and income levels, including smaller unit sizes to low income single adults and seniors.
Back in March, a panel, sponsored by the Nanaimo Canadian Federation of University Women, talked about the fact that there were a significant number of women in Nanaimo living on the streets. The Haven Society's Willow WAI for Women have said that 99% of homeless women generally have addiction or mental health issues, are undereducated, lack employment life skills and many commit crimes to support an addiction. They become homeless because of estrangement from their families due to violence or drug use, or marital breakdown or incarceration, or they have been evicted and lack affordable housing.
Affordable and adequate safe housing is only one part of dealing with homelessness in a community. We certainly see that very visible face of homelessness in many of our communities. The economic statement and the throne speech were an opportunity to take leadership both in Canada and internationally in a meaningful national housing strategy. It was a failure in dealing with some of these very serious issues confronting our communities.
Again, the economic statement talked about the fact that people who worked on our shop floors and assemble lines or in our forests and mills were struggling, that the manufacturing and forestry sectors were bearing the brunt of a strong Canadian dollar, that they were facing increased competition from emerging economies and that this is a difficult situation.
I argue the fact that a difficult situation is probably an understatement. In many of communities in Nanaimo—Cowichan our forestry sector reeling. Another one of the pulp and paper mills in my riding has applied for bankruptcy protection, and those are important jobs in our community. Forestry is not a sunset industry. Forestry is a vibrant and vital industry in the province of British Columbia and in other provinces across the country. We are not seeing a strategic investment and national leadership in forestry.
In my province and in my riding, raw log exports continue to be a source of aggravation. Our raw resources are being shipped elsewhere for processing as our sawmills close down. The closure of those sawmills is having repercussions for the pulp and paper mills. When the Bloc put forward a motion calling for some attention to manufacturing and forestry, the Conservatives voted against it and the Liberals abstained, instead of taking a strong stand for our forestry communities across the country.
Our critic for industry, the member for Parkdale—High Park, has compiled some good statistics. She talks about the fact that we have seen significant job loss. She said that there were job losses resulting in 8% of wood products. In British Columbia the manufacturing and forestry sector has lost 13,700 jobs. That is partly to do with the softwood lumber agreement. It did not take into consideration the downturn in the housing sector in the United States. This means the price per board foot has now dropped below that threshold, so we are now paying a 15% tax.
The economic statement acknowledged that forestry was struggling, that these were difficult times, yet there was no commitment in either the throne speech or the economic statement to develop a national strategy to ensure that our forestry sector would remain as a vibrant and vital part of our economy.
When we are talking about closing the prosperity gap, let us just turn for one moment to first nations.
First nations, Inuit and Métis across this country continue to be the poorest of the poor. One of the pillars that we know will contribute to raising people out of poverty is education. The throne speech did mention education. The minister said that there needed to be investment in skills training and development with regard to industries emerging in the north. I would argue that there needs to be a far broader plan for education in this country.
We are seeing discrepancies throughout the first nations education system from coast to coast to coast. In an article today in the Winnipeg Free Press, there is an editorial on education on reserves. The numbers here highlight the difference. On one hand, we hear the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development talking about the importance of standards and looking at provincial standards, curriculum and those kinds of things, and yet, on the other hand, he is telling first nations schools on reserve that he wants them to meet the standards but that he does not actually want to give them the same amount of money.
We have provincial standards on a per capita basis that talk about how much provincial governments say is necessary to provide an adequate education in the K to 12 system, but then we have the federal government telling first nations on reserve schools that it wants to deliver the same standards of education but that it does not want to give the money needed to do it.
Let us talk about some of these numbers. In this editorial it states:
The base funding--per student grants--from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for on-reserve schools across Canada is lower than provincial grants, and that extends to grants that cover special education. As an example, in Manitoba the Opaskwayak Education Authority receives total federal funding that works out to $6,400 per student.
Contrast that to the Wapanohk Community School in Thompson--whose student body is almost entirely aboriginal--which is under a public school board that spends an average $9,384 per student. On average, Manitoba school boards spent $8,900 per pupil. Across the western provinces, the average was $8,386, according to a report compiled by the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education.
There is roughly a $3,000 difference between what the province of Manitoba is spending and what is funded for, in this case, one on reserve school. This is not atypical. This is happening in provinces across this country.
In 2004, the Auditor General said that the department did not have a good handle on the funds that were required for education and did know whether or not it was actually getting results for the money it was spending.
Right now the first nations educational renewal is up in 2008 and there is something called a band operating funding formula. Here we are, at the end of November, and there still has not been agreement on this band operating funding formula. We know there are huge discrepancies. At a meeting with the department and the minister this morning, they said that it was difficult and that there were different things happening in different provinces.
We talk about a prosperity gap. First nations are certainly in the middle of that prosperity gap. One in four first nations children live in poverty, which means their families live in poverty. We know that one of the elements to raising people out of poverty is adequate education so why are we not investing in education?
The same thing is happening with the building of schools. We have schools in Manitoba that have been on wait lists forever. We have schools in Saskatchewan where, from the department's own records, there is a serious problem with the funding. We heard from the department today that it is juggling funding around when there is an emergency.
If we truly mean that we are committed to education, we need to put the money into the education system for first nations, Métis and Inuit so they have access to an adequate education.
The economic update and the throne speech are missed opportunities to close that prosperity gap and it clearly takes Canada in the wrong direction. Therefore, we will not be supporting that.
Points of Order
November 23rd, 2007 / noon
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
I want to be very clear that the NDP, as with other parties, completely stood by the Standing Orders. It was within normal procedure in terms of the process with Bill C-303.
I would ask the member to withdraw his remarks because he has made an allegation that somehow the NDP manipulated the process when in fact we stood by the process and did what is usual practice in the House regarding a private member's bill.
November 23rd, 2007 / 11:55 a.m.
Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON
Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday night we sat in this place ready to hear the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development speak to Bill C-303, a bill that the NDP had identified as a priority. However, when private members' hour came, imagine this. The NDP manipulated the system to delay the debate on its own child care bill on National Child Day.
I wonder if the parliamentary secretary has any insight into why the NDP might have done this and whether our government supports this private member's bill.