House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was social.

Topics

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to check with the leader the agreement that we had regarding consideration of Bill C-3 on Tuesday instead of Friday, since Bills C-2 and C-4 will be considered on Friday. I would like him to confirm if that is still the agreement.

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Herb Gray Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is right; that is still the agreement.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Social Security System
Government Orders

February 3rd, 1994 / 3:05 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, as a new member of Parliament it has been very interesting to uncover many of the ideas and directions that seem to permeate politically correct thinking on Parliament Hill and within the news media. Yesterday was a classic example when the minister of immigration stood in the House and told Canadians we were going to be receiving an additional quarter million immigrants in the next 12 months.

I suggest the expressions of concern around coffee tables or living rooms last evening in the homes of many Canadians were not reflected in the minister's quota. It was particularly instructive yesterday when the immigration critic for the Reform Party stood in the House. There were expressions of humour and derision from some of the Liberal Party members when he made the statement that the Reform Party was not opposed to immigration.

We stand for a balanced approach to immigration based on economic need and benefits to Canada. Clearly some of the Liberal members have prejudged that the Reform Party is anti-immigration and therefore found his statement humourous. Of course the concept of prejudging is the root of the word prejudice.

We all judge statements and actions by other individuals in the light of our own experience or sometimes unfounded assumptions. Perhaps an old line party like the Liberals should take instruction from the fate of the other old line party which was decimated in the most recent election.

I make these statements as a preamble to suggest that the old, tired, worn out concepts which have led to a crisis in many Canadian families relating to child care clearly have not been successful. Perhaps government members would be well advised to assume Reform Party MPs and the ordinary Canadians who they represent share the same concerns that they do.

We want what is in the best interest of Canada, for Canadians and especially our nation's children. Do not prejudge our ideas that may be interpreted in so-called code words, because I choose to speak in clear, concise, simple English. There is no other meaning that is contained in these clear, concise words.

The Reform Party supports child care programs that subsidize financial need, not the method of child care chosen and that subsidize children and parents, not institutions and professionals. The Reform Party supports government regulation of day care standards. The Reform Party opposes state run day care.

Reform Party policy is generated through a bottom up, grassroots approach where hundreds of thousands plus of our members have an opportunity, indeed a responsibility, to give direction to their representatives in the House.

There are many Canadians who feel any government subsidies or expenditures by government in support of child care must be balanced and do away with a system that is complex, inequitable and inadequate.

The Prime Minister in a year end interview with Maclean's magazine stated:

Day care is an economic program as much as a social program, because if you have a good system of day care you create more jobs. The people who want to work will be able to do so and the people who take care of the children will have new jobs.

The Prime Minister acknowledges the element of social engineering that drives the economic considerations.

What about those parents who choose to stay home and excel in the job of homemaker? Should we have a taxation and benefit system in Canada that fundamentally forces parents out of their homes? We support parents and those responsible for bringing up children who choose to work outside the home. However I submit we are the only party that equally supports parents who choose the worthy vocation of working within the home as the homemaker.

Following a thorough study I would visualize the Reform Party supporting an increase in the per child personal tax exemption and amending tax rates so that a single income family earning $60,000 annually pays no more tax than a two income family where each parent earns $30,000. This would work to use the tax code to be fair to families that choose to have one income earner rather than two.

Let me express some of the concerns to the House that some Canadians have with respect to institutionalized child care. They cite studies that show children put into day care at an early age having difficulty forming affectionate and trusting relationships later on. I am not stating that there is any conclusive evidence of this, but I am stating it is a concern for many Canadians. My own personal sentiment is that in the vast majority of cases day care is, after all, a poor substitute for a child's own mother or father.

To subsidize state run day care and not give equal subsidy to families that choose alternatives is prejudicial and has the potential of forcing children into a situation that many parents in Canada reject.

We want to promote policies in which single parents who are either forced to work or choose to work outside the home have the option of entrusting the well-being of their children to other family members or close friends. Should their situation not

receive equal subsidy? With government subsidy of only state run day care Canada closes the option of parents exercising their responsibility to choose what they judge best for themselves and for their family.

We are very conscious of the tragic situations such as the situation which has led to the Martensville trial in Saskatchewan. We are aware that there are many other circumstances wherein children are not being properly cared for in unlicensed day care facilities. This is why I restate that the Reform Party supports government regulation of day care standards.

We are also concerned with the impact that unlicensed day care has on the so-called underground economy where there is a reward for not declaring income derived from what is essentially an in-home business. We view with concern the changes that the Conservative government brought to child benefits and other social programs through what has been described as a skilful exercise in the politics of stealth.

Without an informed and open public debate Canadian social policy especially in the area of child care is wandering aimlessly without thorough discussion, study or input from concerned Canadians. It is important that members of the House go out of their way to inform their constituents of details and background on this and many other issues so that concerned Canadians will be empowered to give meaningful input to the political process and indeed to the direction of the government with respect to family issues.

We must listen to our constituents because I believe that the answers to these problems lie outside this Chamber and reside in the homes of our citizens. Discussions in restaurants, coffee shops, living rooms and around kitchen tables should be the source of intelligent direction for this House.

In the government's order for today's debate it requested broad consultation to analyse and make recommendations regarding the modernization and structuring of Canada's social security system with particular reference to the needs of families with children.

As a Reform Party member I am speaking for the ordinary Canadian whose voice is not normally heard in this Chamber or indeed in front of standing committees. I believe there are countless millions of Canadians who are not represented by the vocal special interest groups. They reject the vision of child care that includes state intrusion into the family. Social responsibility, yes; social engineering, no.

Those voices are calling for a balanced system of taxation, regulation and direction from the government which will treat all Canadians, all families, all parents equally. They want social engineering by the government terminated. It has been said, and I agree, that a nation is no stronger than its most basic unit: the family.

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3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien London—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all let me congratulate the hon. member for his comments. While I listened with great interest I was glad to see him in the course of his remarks switch from the term day care to child care. In fact as we well know the more relevant term that reflects the reality of our society right now is child care. Many children need that care at various times throughout the day and therefore the traditional term is very much out of place. I was pleased to hear him shift to the appropriate term.

That is simply not a matter of political correctness. It reflects the reality in our society today and the fact that so many children need care outside the home. I say unfortunately because I agree with him that certainly a parent is the best provider of care for one's child, if that is possible.

This leads me to my question. I wonder if the hon. member would support a measure which would, through the Income Tax Act, reflect a credit to a parent? Let us be candid. Usually that would be the mother, but not necessarily always. Would the hon. member support a measure which would give a tax credit to a parent who, in fact, chooses to stay home and provide full-time care for the child?

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3:15 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, in response to the hon. member's question I offer a qualified yes. I say that there must be a balance so that there is the ability for parents to choose what is best for their children. If in fact a child tax credit is the best way to go about doing it or the measure that he had suggested is the best way of going about doing it, I would support it but it is a qualified yes.

My qualification is that at this point I do not believe nor do any of the members of our party believe that the country is in a position to actually take an action like that. If it was revenue neutral I would suspect it would find support within our party.

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3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Kraft Sloan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a working mom who has had two children in day care or child care I really object to the tone of the hon. member when he seems to suggest that my children have had an inferior upbringing. I would like to attest to the fact that my children have proven themselves to be admirable members of their community and have contributed a great deal.

Could the hon. member please give us a precise definition of what social engineering is?

Social Security System
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3:15 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, through our taxation system frequently there are situations where it is beneficial for our citizens to take particular actions. I cite as an example the situation I mentioned in my speech where right now under our taxation it works to a net benefit to a family to have two income earners at

$30,000 rather than one income earner at $60,000 and yet the gross income before taxation is equal.

I suggest that kind of policy forces the situation where people make choices. I am not suggesting for a second that the choice a family may make when two people determine it is in their best interests and the best interests of their family that there should be two wage earners, that that is an inferior decision, not for a minute. What I am suggesting is that by the taxation act as it presently exists it works in a prejudicial manner against those who choose to have one income earner.

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Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Philippe Paré Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a short comment. I do not think we have to oppose a daycare system sponsored by the government and daycare services at home.

Ideally, we should have a system whereby parents can choose between two solutions according to their values and the circumstances. I spent my whole life in education, and I can confirm that for some children day care was very traumatic and a source of serious problems. This might have nothing to do with the daycare operation itself, but could be linked to the lack of resources. Clearly, daycare centres do not always offer the quality of service they should. I believe that parents who do not want to send their children to daycare centres should have a choice, although it remains to be determined whether this choice should carry with it social benefits. I think this would be a proof of respect for the parents' values.

Social Security System
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3:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I do not believe this is a question. Does the hon. member wish to comment?

Social Security System
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3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It seems to me that immediately before Question Period the member for Kitchener spoke and if I heard correctly the person in the Chair at that time said there would be an opportunity for five minutes of commentary and questions on his remarks.

I wonder if that is the case.

Social Security System
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3:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Thank you for raising that point. In fact I am told that the member you just spoke of was not in his seat at two o'clock. Therefore his 10 minutes of comments or questions expired because he was not here.

Other members might wish to know this too. If you do not show up, you do not get your questions and comments.

Social Security System
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3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are proud of the social programs we have built together. We are proud of our sense of fairness and justice. We care when people are unemployed. We care when people are poor. Together we have built social programs which are the envy of the world, from medicare to the old age pension.

We Canadians are also proud of our common sense. Today common sense tells us that we must rebuild and improve our social programs to meet the new needs and challenges of the 1990s.

We need to reform and strengthen our social system so that we can provide all Canadians with a fair chance to seize the opportunities of the 21st century.

The Liberal Party was the architect of major social reforms in this country. With the assistance and the proposals of all Canadians, the new Liberal government intends to pursue its social work.

We cannot allow nor do we want to allow past successes to prevent us from seeing the need for change. Our goal is to change our income support programs without threatening our values of fairness and compassion.

In the past we have created programs which have substantially reduced poverty among senior citizens. Now we must forge creative programs to reduce the poverty among children. There is really something wrong when in a country as wealthy as Canada over one million Canadian children use food banks every year.

We know that when children live in poverty they get sick more frequently, they do worse in school, they have fewer chances to succeed. We owe it to our children to ensure that all of them have a chance to succeed in life. That is why I welcomed the announcement by the Minister of Human Resources Development that Parliament will hold immediate, wide ranging and open public hearings on reforming Canada's social system. The task before us is mammoth but we owe it to Canada's children to succeed. We need the wisdom and the input of as many Canadians as possible and that is why these public hearings are so vital.

Just as we must act to confront the problems of children living in poverty, so we must act to confront the problems of teenagers who drop out of high school. In the last three years alone the number of jobs held by high school dropouts has decreased by 17.2 per cent. We cannot leave these young people permanently stuck on a dead end street. We need to rethink our apprenticeship programs. We need to rethink our training programs. We need to give young Canadians a chance.

The government's plan to introduce the youth service corps is an excellent start, but we acknowledge that it is only a start. We need to find new ways of guaranteeing that young Canadians

have both basic reading and math skills and also the skills they will need in the knowledge-based industries of the future.

The bottom line is that we have to provide young Canadians with the skills to get off and stay off social assistance. That is the right thing to do both ethically and economically.

As we consider the realities of the 1990s we must remember the plight of hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have lost their jobs during the recent recession. There are so many decent, hard-working people who have lost their jobs as a result of massive layoffs. These are Canadians who have been robbed of their dignity through no fault of their own.

We must consider during our public hearings what new hope, what new help, what new training we can provide for older workers who have lost their jobs. How can we help these older workers regain their dignity?

I am not talking about doing favours for people. I am talking about making sure that we tap the talents of all Canadians and allow all Canadians to play a role in building a vibrant and prosperous society.

As we think together about how to improve Canada's social programs during changing times, we must focus on the reality that Canada's population is aging. How do we cope with this new reality? More important, how do we enable senior citizens to remain active and independent members of society? How do we start tapping the invaluable resources that senior citizens provide?

One answer to all these problems is to say that it is just too bad. It is too bad that some kids are poor. It is too bad that a lot of teenagers have dropped out. It is too bad that older workers have no prospects. It is too bad that senior citizens are kept from making a contribution. That is one response, but it is not the Liberal answer and I do not think it is the Canadian answer.

Canadians will solve these problems. We are really concerned with social programs and Canadians will be very happy to have the opportunity to express themselves during these public consultations.

Canadians who are in dire financial straits need help to survive. They also need help to get off and stay off social assistance. Part of the solution lies in greater job creation and the government has already indicated its commitment to this end.

Another part of the solution lies in redesigning our social programs so that Canadians are equipped to fill those new jobs.

In the months and years ahead all of us must work together to reform our social programs so that we can end poverty in this country.

The lessons of the great depression led a Liberal government to introduce unemployment insurance. The need to fuel a post-war economy led a Liberal government to introduce family allowance. The need to offer more people a chance at higher education led a Liberal government to introduce Canada's student loans.

The Liberal government of today is prepared to meet the social needs of the present from child poverty to opportunities for our youth, to laid off workers, to an aging population. We want to strengthen our social system and we want to include the Canadian public in the process.

We believe that the healthiest changes, the best changes, are made when Canadians agree to the changes together.

I look forward to the public hearings on these vital issues in my own riding of Hamilton Mountain and I look forward to hearing the views of Canadians right across our land.

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3:30 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting in the dialogue between political parties that we always seem to end up at the same point.

During the course of this election it was very interesting to me that the Liberal candidate in my riding went out of his way to make sure that people in our constituency felt comfortable with the fact that the Liberal government would not do anything, or had no plans with respect to social programs. We may recall very briefly that during the course of the election the former Prime Minister with the summer job also was really taken on in the area when she suggested that there might be some look at or revision of social programs.

I wonder if the member might not agree that it would have been helpful to the Canadian public if they had been made aware that in fact the Liberals when they became government were going to be doing a complete review; if it might not have been helpful for them to make a judgment based on what appears to have been a predetermined plan.

I suggest that there has been a situation in Canada during this election process where our party told the Canadian people about our plans, though they may be open to question, and that the social program had to be looked at if it was going to be maintained.

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3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Hamilton Mountain, ON

I am surprised that perhaps the hon. member has not read the red book. I thought everybody had read the red book by now. All the way through that red book it explains that we were going to keep the social net; that there would be nobody falling through it; that we would make sure all the protection that has been there in the past will be there in the future, but that there will be changes. There would be consultation. We would bring Canadians in to allow them to express what they felt about the programs and the state that they are in.

I agree with you that the response by the former Prime Minister-and we can appreciate why she is not the Prime Minister now-felt that there was not enough time during the campaign to talk about what she had to say about the social programs. Probably that was more because she did not have anything to say about the social programs rather than because there was not enough time.