House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was families.

Topics

Atlantic Groundfish Strategy
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, we are fully aware that the new system, starting with employment insurance, is causing some disruptions because of the change in the number of weeks of required employment. I take note of the question and I will look into it again.

Atlantic Groundfish Strategy
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

Mike Scott Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a little late. The TAGS program was announced in 1994 and it has already almost spent its entire $1.9 billion.

The minister of fisheries is also culpable in this Atlantic Canadian tragedy. The audit revealed that one-third of the licence buyouts by his department, some of which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, are unsupported by documentation. Only Quebec files were found to be in order.

This grotesque display of incompetence cost millions of dollars in over-runs and legitimate fishermen are being denied benefits as a result.

How can the minister even pretend to care about Atlantic Canadian fishermen now that we know his political tricks have backfired in his face?

Atlantic Groundfish Strategy
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the insinuations of the member are totally wrong. When the TAGS program was set up the number of candidates who would actually require it were underestimated. That was done by the previous government, as the member knows very well.

The fact that the number of people who actually need it had been underestimated caused a funding problem that we are addressing. It is an important one at this time.

Indian Affairs
Oral Question Period

November 21st, 1996 / 2:55 p.m.

NDP

Audrey McLaughlin Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for Indian affairs.

There is a great concern that the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples' recommendations will be shelved and not taken seriously or acted upon.

I would like to ask the minister if he, along with his government, would consider the immediate establishment of a special committee made up of representatives from aboriginal groups and parliamentarians to discuss and develop an implementation plan of the recommendations and, second, to encourage the Prime Minister to call a first minister's meeting in April 1997 to discuss implementation at that time and also to have the committee report before then.

Indian Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Sault Ste. Marie
Ontario

Liberal

Ron Irwin Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. As a matter of fact, these are two of the recommendations in the report.

As of now, I do not think any of the provinces have seen the report. It will take them about four weeks to read it because it is very extensive. However, I believe these are the two issues that they are going to have to deal with fairly quickly at a first ministers conference, whether they will hold it, whether it needs additional work, the committee that the report is suggesting.

I am prepared to support anything that enhances the lives of the aboriginal people in this country.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, during question period the minister of defence was making some kind of remarks about alley cats and marriages. It seems to me that taking advice on principles from a Liberal cabinet minister is like listening to a pyromaniac talk about firefighting.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I would judge that a point of clarification, not a point of order.

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask today's most important question: What is the government's legislative agenda for the coming days?

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to deliver to the House the weekly business statement.

We continue this afternoon with the business of supply, that is to say the opposition day motion we are currently debating. Tomorrow the House shall commence report stage and second reading of Bill C-63, the elections bill. We shall make this bill our priority until it has been passed.

We shall follow this with Bill C-42, the Judges Act amendments; Bill C-62, the fisheries legislation; Bill C-59 regarding passengers by water; Bill C-29, the MMT bill; and then other bills reported from committee.

The House resumed consideration of the motion and the amendment.

Supply
Government Orders

3 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Whelan Essex—Windsor, ON

Mr. Speaker, the third party in this House has taken a curious perspective on how best to address the needs of children in Canada today and it is one that surprises me. That party normally has a pretty clear position on the role of the federal government on social policy issues. Write cheques and pop them in the mail to provincial capitals sums it up.

It is also a party that prides itself on its commitment to pare government spending to the bone and probably well beyond.

And here we are today with a motion before us that runs totally contrary to the broad political policies of the Reform Party. It talks about a greater role for government and increased government expenditures.

I do not intend to use the time allotted me today to repeat arguments already made by my hon. colleagues on the child care deduction. Rather, I would like to talk to you about certain initiatives our government has taken to respond to the real priorities of Canadian children.

This is excellent day to do this, for while the Reform Party sits and talks, our government gets up and works. We are working with our partners, the provincial governments, to tackle the real children's issue in Canada, child poverty.

A federal-provincial meeting is taking place in Toronto. Our government is sitting down with the provinces to discuss how we can build a national child benefit and how we can build it together. We are talking about how to align our programs and services so that we can do the most to help children living in poverty.

The idea for this initiative has been around for a long time. It was discussed during the federal social security reform. More recently, the issue of a national integrated child benefit was raised in the ministerial council report last March.

Our government responded favourably. It became a shared commitment of both levels of government at the first ministers meeting in June. Alberta is the co-chair on behalf of the provinces while the Minister of Human Resources Development is co-chairing on behalf of the federal government.

This is an example of the federal government's renewing federalism and renewing our social union by working with the provinces. It offers so much more than hollow calls for unilateral tax policy changes that would only stand to benefit those families that already have a measure of security, middle to upper class income families.

The government, on the other hand, is concerned with the plight of low income families, in particular their children. At a time of limited finances, this is the direction Canadians are telling us we should go. Nine out of every ten Canadians say that the level of child poverty in this country is a problem. They also tell us they do not want to return to programs that treat rich and poor families alike. If public money is going to be spent, they want it to go where it will meet the real needs. That will be the point of a national child benefit.

A national child benefit is something for the future. But what of the present? How is this government addressing the needs of parents and children?

In our opinion, the best way to fight child poverty is to help the parents find work. I would point out simply that nearly 500,000 people have found work since our government's election.

In fact, between 1993 and 1995, Canada created more jobs than Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain combined. This is a pretty impressive result, and it benefits our children.

We recognize that many Canadians work at jobs that offer relatively low pay. These are people who benefit from the child tax benefit and the working income supplement. I remind members that our government doubled the maximum level of working income supplement in the last budget. Over the next two years it will go up from $500 to $1,000. That means more financial help for low income parents to address the extra costs of working.

Helping Canadians get back to work is also the goal of the new employment insurance system. Despite the criticisms of the third party in this place we succeeded in passing legislation a few months ago to build a new system. The key is a set of active employment measures to help people get the skills they need to find new jobs.

Another element of employment insurance that benefits the family and children is the new family income supplement, which comes into effect in January. It will be available to families eligible for the child tax benefit and the earned income supplement.

These families will receive an average of $800 a year, and the children will be the first to benefit.

More than that, EI claimants who get the family income supplement will be exempt from the new intensity rule that would reduce the benefit levels of repeat claims. This is yet another step that reflects the interests of children in lower income families.

Active measures under EI part II will also help Canadians develop the skills they need to build stronger careers. Other measures include grants and loans to students. Here again we have targeted our assistance.

We recognize that parents can find it very difficult to pursue full time studies. Last year we introduced a system of grants for part time students with high financial needs, many of whom are single parents. In the 1995-96 year we started a process that offers as many as 10,000 of these students each year up to $1,200 for every academic year of enrolment. This support will help them get the education that will enable them and their families to prosper.

I will address the issue of child care. A year ago the federal government presented a proposal to provinces to expand child care as was outlined in the red book. Although provinces recognize the importance of child care to working parents, there was no consensus on the need to significantly expand child care. The federal government remains committed to further discussions on child care if provinces and territories can reach a consensus on an approach. However, that has not stopped us from taking action where we can.

For example, our government launched the First Nations/Inuit child care initiative last December. The goal is to bring the quality and quantity of child care services in aboriginal communities in line with those of the general population. The result will be some 4,300 new child care spaces and the improvement of 1,700 existing spaces for a total of 6,000 quality child care spaces. This involves an investment of $72 million over the first three years of the program.

Another example is our child care visions program. This is a research and development fund. It supports studies to help us learn more about the adequacy, outcomes and cost effectiveness of different child care practices. In a world where many parents have no realistic choice but to work, despite nostalgic notions promoted by the Reform Party, this program helps us learn what kinds of child care will be best for our little ones.

Then there are the other joint projects that our government has funded under the strategic initiatives program. For example, thousands of families with young children are benefiting under an improved access to child care project in British Columbia. In Manitoba about 400 lone parents on social assistance are getting help to put them into the workplace. Federal support for Quebec's APPORT program is supporting 27,000 low income wage earners and social assistance recipients.

In all these cases, the children benefit when their parents have better job opportunities and extra help for quality child care services. In all these cases, however, the benefit flows from co-operation between the federal government and the provinces.

Yesterday on national child day we paid special attention to the needs of children. What better way to help children in need than by continuing the commitment to co-operation and action that our government is showing?

Supply
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member, since she has raised again for the umpteenth time today the

chestnut that our tax proposals would benefit the well to do rather than the poor, how she would equate that with the numbers which we have run past independent analysts who say that 737,000 Canadians who should not be paying taxes now would disappear completely from the tax rolls if our proposals were adopted.

The analysts state that a working parent in a single parent environment earning $30,000 would see his or her taxes reduced by 89 per cent. I wonder if she has actually taken the time to sit down and read our proposals and, more to the point, if she has read any of the independent analyses of them.

Supply
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Whelan Essex—Windsor, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion under debate proposes that the government should provide tax fairness for all Canadian families by extending the child care tax deduction to all families of all income levels and converting it to a credit, thereby removing the tax bias against parents caring for their own children.

At first blush it might appear it is a good idea but after all, Canada's children are our future and one of our most important resources. Who can honestly say they would oppose-not me of all-that we need to come up with something for children?

However, let us take a look and really examine the Reform Party's motion, which I have done. If we think about this motion we will note the proposal could mean two radically different things. First, if the Reform Party plans to convert the existing child care credit deduction into its equivalent value in tax credits it will provide about $850 for every child under seven years of age and $150 for every child between seven and twelve years of age. If this is what the Reform Party is proposing, it is far from clear that is what it means, given the clever wording used in the motion. This motion would hardly provide sufficient incentive or compensation to allow one parent to remain home and care for their children. As well, it would not provide much assistance to any families, especially low income families.

On the other hand, if the Reform Party plan is to give $5,000 tax credit for every child under seven and a $3,000 tax credit for every child between seven and twelve years of age, then this program would provide substantial assistance. Unfortunately it would also break the bank.

In Canada today there are 2,402,027 children age seven to twelve. At a cost of $3,000 per child the proposal would cost $7.2 billion. As well, there are 2,789,995 children under the age of seven. At a cost of $5,000 per child the proposal would cost another $14 billion. In total this proposal if implemented would cost $21.2 billion.

The existing child care tax credit cost $305 million in 1989. This means the proposal would cost $20.9 billion more than the present child care tax deduction. I would like to know where this $20.9 billion will come from.

I suppose the Reform Party could double the GST in theory. That would raise another $18 billion. It could cut off federal transfers for health care. That would raise close to the $20 billion, although the money would of course go straight to medical services.

Reform of course projects a cost that is much lower than this. The total package of tax breaks in its fresh start document is to cost only $12 billion. However, as we can see, the numbers do not add up. One might legitimately ask what the Reform Party is really proposing.

In their speeches members of the Reform Party talked about a $3,000 to $5,000 benefit per child, but if we look at its budget plan the figure is much lower. What is the Reform Party proposing the House of Commons do? By passing this motion are we committing the government to giving every child under seven years of age $850 or does it mean we are going to give these children $5,000?

The motion is fuzzy and cannot be supported for that very reason.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry McCormick Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate my seat mate, the hon. member for Essex-Windsor, on her excellent speech. It certainly had a lot of information about our government's doing many concrete things to help Canadian families, the rich, the poor and the working people of this country.

I also note that the hon. member made an excellent speech in both official languages, which I believe is the first time I have shared with that, if I may say that.

I appreciate hearing about employment insurance. There is a lot of misinformation about the benefits for all Canadians. Today anyone can fall between the cracks and find themselves in dire circumstances. There is an allowance there for anyone with an attachment to the workforce in the last three years who could be eligible for these benefits, for training and any of the other attachments.

Does the hon. member have any other ideas and points that she wants to share with us at this opportunity? I think it is very important that we hear the correct information on this.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Whelan Essex—Windsor, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. There are many points that we could share today on what we need to do for children in benefits. I would like to restate that EI claimants who get the family income supplement will be exempt from the new intensity rule that will reduce benefit levels

of repeat claims. That is very important for all Canadians to know. People need to know this step reflects the interests of children in low income families.

I also think people should know that part II will allow them to develop the skills they need to build stronger careers. Again, in part II we have targeted our assistance. We also recognize that parents find it very difficult to pursue full time studies.

It is important to make another point about the child tax benefit. The child tax benefit right now recognizes the contributions of all families by providing a basic credit of $1,020 per child per year, plus an additional $75 for the third child and subsequent children. It recognizes the cost of young children by providing a supplement of $213 for each child under the age of seven. It targets the greatest benefits to families in need by reducing the total benefit by 5 per cent on family income over $25,921. I believe the current child tax benefit recognizes the contribution of all parents and at the same time directs more resources to those most in need. That is good family policy.

The Liberal government is working with the provinces to improve this by developing, as I said before, an integrated child benefit. I believe this would be a better use of scarce and limited public resources than the Reform proposal. It would provide greater public benefit to the entire community, while Reform's proposal would channel more resources to one type of family regardless of financial need.

Families do want choices, but they want real choices. Reform talks about choices, but the impact of its policies would only provide real choices for the group of families who can afford to have one parent stay at home, and most families do not have that choice.

Reform based this motion on its proposals in its fresh start program on the notion that a one income earner family of $60,000 is the same as a two earner family with an income of $30,000 each. That is not reality. It is not the case.

If a parent earning $30,000 in the Reform plan decides to stay home, the family might get a tax credit of somewhere between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on the age of the children. That would give the household a family income of $32,000 or $34,000. The family, obviously, would not have the same choices as a household earning $60,000.