House of Commons Hansard #57 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities entitled: Restoring Financial Governance and Accessibility in the Employment Insurance Program.

This report calls for the creation of a new EI fund that will be dedicated exclusively to EI, will have the capacity to maintain premium rate stability and will be managed by an independent EI commission that is broadly representative of EI contributors.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Finance on Bill C-33, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004, which agreed on Thursday, February 10, 2005, to report it without amendment.

Divorce Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Sarnia—Lambton, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-334, an act to amend the Divorce Act (child of the marriage).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill, an act to amend the Divorce Act, child of the marriage.

The bill is about the legal obligation imposed by the Divorce Act on divorced parents to pay child support for their children who are older than the age of majority and who are in fact adults at law. The bill would address that category of persons now inappropriately styled as adult children. The term “adult children” is an impossible legal concept that is only possible in family law and creates adults with rights greater than other adults.

I am certain many members of the House would want to adjust those rights.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by a number of Canadians, including from my own riding of Mississauga South, concerning the definition of marriage.

As we all know, the majority of Canadians believe that the fundamental matters of social policy should be decided by elected members of Parliament and not by the unelected judiciary.

It also is the duty of Parliament to ensure that marriage is defined as Canadians wish it to be defined. Therefore the petitioners call upon Parliament to use all possible legislative and administrative measures, including the invocation of section 33 of the charter, the notwithstanding clause if necessary, to preserve and protect the current definition of marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure on behalf of the citizens of Prince George—Peace River, and particularly residents of Fort St. John, my home town, to present a petition on their behalf concerning marriage.

The petitioners note that the House passed a motion in June 1999 that called for marriage to continue to be recognized as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. They further note that currently the institution and definition of marriage is under attack and therefore they call upon Parliament to recognize in federal legislation the institution of marriage as being the lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

moved:

That the House call upon the government to address the issue of child care by fulfilling its commitment to reduce taxes for low and modest income families in the upcoming budget, and, so as to respect provincial jurisdiction, ensure additional funds for child care are provided directly to parents.

Mr. Speaker, our members will be splitting their times and I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.

I am pleased today to introduce a motion calling for the government to honour its throne speech commitment to reduce taxes for lower and modest income Canadian families.

We also urge the government to take advantage of the coming budget to keep its promise on child care, while respecting provincial areas of jurisdiction and meeting the needs of Canadian families.

We call upon the government to give any new funds for child care directly to parents themselves. This debate comes just after the government's apparent failure last week to reach a federal-provincial agreement on child care and it gives the government one more chance to get things right and act on 12 years of broken promises.

As we all know, the Liberal Party has been promising Canadians a national child care program since 1993, so the recycling of this promise in the 2004 election was no surprise. However there is one major reason that the Liberal vision of child care will inevitably fail. In listening only to the government funded experts, who dominate the child care debate, the government has completely lost touch with the needs and aspirations of Canadian parents.

Parents have made it clear that they want choice and empowerment when it comes to deciding how they can best take care of their children.

A recent survey by the Vanier Institute of the Family asked parents to rank a series of possible child care options. Parents' first choice for raising their children was their spouse or partner. Second was a grandparent. Third was another relative. Fourth was home-based day care. Fifth was institutional day care. Finally there was the option of babysitting by friends or a hired sitter.

But the message is clear: parents want choices and they want to make those choices themselves. Yet the government's preferred option is to make the choice for them, to take parents' tax dollars and plough all available money into one option, that of supporting institutional day care centres, an option that parents themselves rank fifth out of six.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that I am a parent myself, with two young children. They are now in the early years of school and have just passed through the more intensive years of preschool care. Laureen and I chose a healthy mix of various day care options for our children. Some of this care was provided directly by their mother, especially in the first year and a half. We also have used close relatives. We have employed caregivers and, for a number of years, Benjamin and Rachel attended a regulated, institutional day care centre on a part time basis. For us, fortunately, all of these experiences have been good experiences, but for us the key has been choice, and in this party we want to ensure that a similar range of choices is available to and affordable for all parents.

It is certainly a mistake to assume that parents with choices would overwhelmingly select regulated, institutional, not for profit child care. This is not the experience elsewhere. Finland, for example, provides high quality, municipally run day care centres, but it also offers a monthly home care allowance for parents who choose to take an extended leave of absence from work in order to care for their children. The evidence shows that almost 70% of parents with children under three choose home care, while only 11% choose formal day care centres.

This brings me back to the other issue we raised in our motion today. Parents with children often indicate that they would prefer to stay at home or work part time in order to care for their children, yet at the same time a high percentage of parents with young children both work outside the home, often full time. I have no doubt that some of those parents would prefer and do prefer access to quality institutional day care, but what these facts tell us is that a large number of those parents would prefer to stay at home, work only part time and spend more time with their children were they able to do so.

Is it not possible that part of the reason so many parents with young children work outside the home is that our tax system makes it all but impossible for them to do otherwise?

Canada is almost unique in the industrialized world in providing no tax benefits to married couples and almost no tax benefits to families with children, beyond a very low income threshold. Other countries provide tax benefits like income splitting between parents, an additional basic personal exemption for children, or universal per child tax credits or deductions. Canada provides nothing except for the universal national child benefit and tax deductions for institutional care.

The Conservative Party certainly supports the existing deductions and the national child benefit program and would like to see this enhanced, but the benefit program does not provide enough assistance for many lower income parents to be able to consider staying at home to raise their children, and it provides next to nothing for parents once they are in the middle income range.

Rather than devoting billions of dollars to a child care program that will help only a small group of parents, that will pay for structures rather than services, that will lead to even higher government spending and higher taxes for families, and that runs the risk of conflict with provincial governments, we urge the federal government to devote much of the money to cutting taxes for lower income and middle income Canadians, enhancing the existing tax credits for families with children, extending them to more families, and using tax relief and credits to help support those choices that Canadian parents want to make for their own children.

The tax system is completely within the jurisdiction of the federal government, so there is no need for complex negotiations or confrontation with provinces that may have different priorities.

The best division of the work, one respectful of Canada's federal nature, is what was agreed on when the National Child Benefit was created. In other words, let the provinces define the child care program they want, which may or may not include in regulated daycare spots, while the federal government provides financial support to parents and children through the tax system.

These changes could begin as early as next week's budget.

If the other parties in the House support this motion, it would be a strong signal to the government that it is time to end the pipe dream of a universal program of institutional child care and instead replace it with a universal program of supporting Canadian parents as they make their own choices for their own children.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I understand the motion presented to the House today, it is calling for choice so that families can choose the type of care they want to provide for their children. On that basis, I am going to support the motion.

One of the first petitions I presented in the House had to do with income splitting in families so that one of the family could stay at home and care for preschool children. The petition stated that “managing the family home and caring for preschool children is an honourable profession which has not been recognized for its contribution to our society” and that unpaid work is still work and should be recognized.

In addition to the comments made, let me say that there is a child care expense deduction under the Income Tax Act which is available only to those who pay others to provide care for their children. I wonder if the Leader of the Opposition would also agree that this child care expense deduction should be changed to a credit which would be available to all families regardless of the form of care.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Harper Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comment and his question. As the member and I know well, there is an existing child care deduction for expenses, something that my family has availed itself of in the past.

The difficulty with that program is twofold. It is not simply that it supports only particular types of choices for child care, institutional choices, but as the member and others have pointed out in the past, it also discriminates toward high income earners. Not only is it mostly available to those who can afford heavy child care costs, but obviously the value of a deduction is greatest when one's income is highest.

This party has proposed in the past to enhance those deductions along the lines of what the member said, by providing deductions or credits which would be given regardless of the type of child care chosen. Obviously, I think, we should be looking at systems that would move to credits and enhance these benefits across income ranges.

I would not want to do away with the existing tax deductions that people have come to rely on, and I am not sure the member is implying that, but I obviously would suggest giving a wider range of benefits and choices.

We all know the government has the surpluses necessary to provide this kind of tax relief. We know also that all parties agreed to an amendment to the throne speech to recognize the necessity of reducing family taxation, so I urge the government to bring in a wider range of tax relief for parents with children in order to recognize the deficiencies of the system that we have today.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Simcoe North.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, we in this party will certainly not be supporting the Conservative motion today because we think it will just put another nail in the coffin of--

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I stated the wrong riding name for the hon. member because members have to be in their own seats in order to ask a question. I would encourage the hon. member to be in his own chair, and then we will start his question at that time.

Questions on the Order Paper
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am relatively new to this place and have seen on other occasions, perhaps under other rules, members sitting in different places and participating.

However, I want to repeat that we will not be supporting the resolution put forward by the Conservatives today because we think it will simply contribute to the growing gap between the rich and the poor and will fail to take advantage of the economic value that exists in good quality, not for profit, licensed child care.

I want to ask the opposition leader how he squares the circle in terms of this question of choice: between the women who do choose, 70% of them right now, to be out in the workplace, and the fact that we have huge lineups for licensed, registered, not for profit child care today in our country.