Debates of June 14th, 2005
House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parents.
- Order in Council Appointments
- Government Response to Petitions
- Committees of the House
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Canadian Women's Health Network
- Canadian Cancer Society
- Child Pornography
- Canada Steamship Lines
- Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum
- Arnie Hakala
- Softwood Lumber
- Federation of Canadian Municipalities
- Fraser River Bird Habitat
- Open Doors 2005
- The Budget
- Natural Resources
- Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Awareness Month
- Canadian Forces
- Police Youth Corps
- Sponsorship Program
- Natural Resources
- The Environment
- Sponsorship Program
- Child Care
- AudioTaped Conversations
- Child Care
- The Economy
- Maher Arar Inquiry
- Veterans Affairs
- Medicinal Marijuana
- Aerospace Industry
- National Defence
- Canadian Heritage
- Points of Order
- Main Estimates, 2005-06
- Budget Implementation Act, 2005
- Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Ken Dryden Minister of Social Development
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak about the government's policies on families and early learning and child care.
All of these policies and programs emerge from the understanding that at the very centre of every child's life is his or her relationship with his or her parents. The centrality of this relationship has always been the case and it always will be.
Recognizing that a fair, vibrant and productive society requires investment in our children, the Government of Canada has put in place a comprehensive set of policies and programs to assist parents and to support and enhance the range of families' choices. It is into this context that the government's commitment of $5 billion over five years for early learning and child care fits and should be understood.
The Canada child tax benefit and the national child benefit supplement provide assistance for low income families. These benefits have been described as the most important social program since the introduction of medicare. They help more than 3.5 million families meet the cost of raising their children.
In 2002-03 the Government of Canada's total annual assistance to families with children through the Canada child tax benefit and the national child benefit was $7.76 billion. That number is projected to reach $10 billion by 2007.
Maternity and parental benefits are offered through the employment insurance program. Five years ago these benefits were extended to provide replacement income for up to one year while a parent stays home with their new baby or newly adopted child.
In 2003, 86.4% of women with children under a year old and with insurable earnings received maternity and/or parental benefits. These benefits are also becoming increasingly attractive to men. In 2003 about 11% of men with children under a year old either claimed or intended to claim parental benefits.
These benefits can make an immense difference to these families. They create an opportunity for parents to spend time with their child during the child's first days of life and spend time with each other to help create the habits of parenthood, the joys of family. When parents return to work, they return with a feeling and a memory with the growing instinct of family and with the growing desire for family life.
To ensure that parents who take time out from full time work to raise their young children do not experience reduced pensions later on in their lives, the Canada pension plan has a child rearing dropout provision. All of this is to encourage and not to discourage the development of this important early parent-child bond.
In order to provide families with a handicapped child with financial assistance, the Government of Canada has introduced certain targeted measures such as the new child disability benefit and other tax initiatives.
We are also helping to improve and expand early childhood education programs via joint initiatives with the provinces and territories. Under the 2003 multilateral framework on early learning and child care, the Government of Canada is transferring $1.05 billion to the provinces and territories over five years to help them improve and expand their programs and services. By 2007-08, this commitment will represent $350 million annually.
One year ago we decided to do more. We decided the time had come to build on the important work of many dedicated people. We made a commitment to develop a system of early learning and child care in every province and territory in the country. One year ago the members opposite were not talking about building early learning and child care in this country. I am glad that early learning and child care has risen to the top of the national agenda. It is time.
As I said earlier, at the centre of a child's life is the relationship with his or her parents. That has always been the case and will always be the case. The lives of families can and do change over time. The challenge for a child to develop and learn to his or her fullest potential remains the same.
Early learning and child care is not, was never intended to be and never will be the only answer to a child's development, just as elementary school and high school are not understood as the only answer to learning and education. Simply put, early learning and child care is a tool, one of many for a child's development and for parents to use as they see fit.
As I have said on many occasions, as the members opposite know, early learning and child care is the way we live in this country. Seventy per cent of parents with children under the age of six are both in the workforce. The great majority of those kids are in child care of some form, but not in a form that is good enough. Only 20% are in regulated care and not in a form that reflects the importance of learning and development in a child's early years; not in a form that utilizes best the opportunities of all those hours of a day, days of a week, weeks of a year, years of a life, all the possibilities. This time is this an opportunity to be realized or an opportunity missed? We want to make this time work.
One year ago in this country early learning and child care was nowhere near that. Outside Quebec none of the other provinces or territories had the capacity or had as a priority to build an important ambitious system. The party opposite had no interest.
In last year's election, the Liberal platform commitment was for $5 billion over five years to help build a system of early learning and child care across the country. We were on our way. Then for a few weeks not long ago, when it appeared the opposition might not pass the budget bill, it seemed we might not be. The stakes were enormous. As the executive director of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada said, “We are so close. I just can't imagine being this close again. I feel I have been waiting my entire professional life for this moment. If it slips away, I don't know how I will carry on”.
We kept going. We signed several bilateral agreements with the provinces. The first one was in Winnipeg. The Prime Minister, the premier of Manitoba and the Manitoba minister for social services were there. The room was jammed. Every person who was there had inside them that quote, but there was also an agreement. We were on our way. The event was a celebration. In Regina, Hamilton, Gander and Halifax, it was the same, because Canadians, provincial and territorial governments want an early learning and child care system in every province and territory in the country. They know how important it is. They know that this is an opportunity too important to miss.
To provide a context, what the $5 billion over five years represents is a 48% increase in what all governments are currently spending on child care in this country. By the third year, midway through this five year program, what it will mean for the province of British Columbia is a 105% increase; for Alberta, 121%; for Saskatchewan, 95%; for Manitoba, 48%; and for Ontario, 69%. Even for Quebec, with all the money it put in, it is a 21% increase. It will mean for New Brunswick, 132%; Nova Scotia, 90%; P.E.I., 85%; Newfoundland and Labrador, 130%.
These agreements set out: the overarching national vision, principles and goals for early learning and child care; clear and measurable objectives; funding levels and eligible areas for investment; strong accountability through public reporting; a commitment to collaborate with each other on information, knowledge and best practices; and a commitment on the part of provinces and territories to develop an action plan in consultation with citizens and stakeholders for the period of federal funding.
These are the common elements, but we also recognize that every province and territory is unique. We recognize that in each province and territory early learning and child care is in a different stage of development. They have different immediate priorities. Their needs and circumstances may vary, so in addition to a common set of principles and parameters, we have also built in the flexibility to allow provinces and territories to meet the requirements of their citizens.
There is great flexibility in an early learning and child care system because the scale is so small and the system so much still evolving. The Government of Canada comes to agreement with the provinces and territories on the principles, expectations, understandings and accountabilities. The provinces and territories decide on how best to meet those obligations, with the flexibility to find different answers for rural areas and big cities and the flexibility to meet the circumstances of linguistic minorities, off hours or specific needs.
This is not an elementary school. This does not require a core of 150 students and millions of dollars for a building to make everything work. Nor is early learning and child care an all or nothing. It is not something for eight hours a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, or nothing. Even most stay at home parents want some time in the week for their children to have other experiences with other kids in other places. Early learning and child care can be two mornings a week or a day a week, for parents and kids as they see fit.
We want parents to have real choice. We want them to have the chance to choose quality, affordability and availability. We did not build schools by putting money into parents' pockets and asking parents to get together, if they wished, to put some of that money into a pot to build a school and hire some teachers.
We did not build hospitals or roads that way either. We decided that schools, hospitals and roads were important enough to enough people and were important enough to our present and future society that we put the public money directly toward them. This is what we are doing with early learning and child care.
Choice also means understanding the reality around us. The majority of Canadian women and men do not have university degrees. The great majority do not have professional degrees. They make modest incomes. For them, not working outside the home is not a choice. For them, no child care is not a choice. The only choice they might have, but too rarely, the choice they desperately seek for their kids, is good affordable child care. For them and for the great majority of Canadians, that is the only choice they might have.
Choice is not having nothing to buy. Choice is not waiting for a bus that has a $2.50 fare and having 10¢ in our pockets. Choice is not too many mediocre or non-existent child care spaces in too many parts of the country. Choice is not knocking on an $8,000 a year child care door, on average, with $320 in our pockets.
Choice is making available to all parents who want it, urban and rural, rich, middle income and poor, in every province and territory in the country, good, affordable, available early learning and child care. That is the choice we are looking to provide.
No one program ever offers an answer for everything. Nothing does. The health system does not. The education system does not. Even if we would like them to do more, doing what they do matters and matters a lot. We are a lot better off because of them. And we will be a lot better off for an early learning and child care system in every province and territory in this country.
Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC
Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the effort by the new Minister of Social Development to implement a child care network. However, I take issue with the fact that he does not recognize that early childhood development, which also includes child care centres and families, is a provincial jurisdiction.
I will ask him a question outside oral question period. Quite often we do not have enough time to say what we want then. The minister now has the time to answer properly.
During the last election campaign, several of the minister's colleagues were very clear about this government's commitment to respect provincial jurisdictions.
When a journalist asked whether he would respect provincial jurisdictions, the Prime Minister responded, “Absolutely”. We know all about his famous “absolutely”. In other words, the answer was “yes”. We know full well that the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs was also asked something similar. She said that the provinces could do as they wished with the specific agreement that faithfully represents the priorities of the provinces, with no strings attached. The Minister of Canadian Heritage also said something along the same lines. That makes three ministers who promised to make payments to Quebec with no strings attached.
Will the Minister of Social Development say the same thing these three ministers did during the election campaign? These promises were made. The quotes in various papers can be used as proof of their promises to respect the provinces, Quebec especially, since this is a Quebec issue. Will the minister give the same answer to this same question?
Ken Dryden York Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, as I have said to the hon. member and to the House on many occasions, we certainly recognize the jurisdiction of the provinces in the area of early learning and child care.
We also respect the work done and the efforts and commitment made by the government and the people of Quebec in terms of Quebec's early learning and child care system. As has been mentioned by others, that is to a level of somewhere around $1.5 billion, which is much more than anybody else in the country spends on early learning and child care.
We also respect the fact that when one takes a step like that in the right direction, with the kind of ambition with which the government and people took that step, it is a step that is to be acknowledged, recognized, understood, applauded and in no way penalized. Really, all I can say to the member beyond that is that all of those things are part of our understanding as we continue our discussions and negotiations with the government of Quebec.
Jim Gouk Southern Interior, BC
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister's little Liberal cradle to grave diatribe. I would like to ask him about this, particularly as it affects the people in my constituency. I have a riding that has 19 official communities, the largest of which has 8,000 people. Several have less than 1,000. These are official communities.
I would like to know a number of things. First, does he really believe that rich socialites should be able to drop their kids off for free while in essence being subsidized by taxpaying Canadians where one family member stays at home to raise their kids because they think that is of value?
Next, what is he going to do for shift workers who need help but who would get nothing unless there is an around the clock type of centre available?
Last, particularly as it relates to my riding, what kind of service or help are hard-pressed people going to get when they live in communities of less than 1,000? Does the government really think it is going to put in tens of thousands of day care centres around this country, including in these small communities in my riding?
Ken Dryden York Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, as I alluded to briefly earlier, this program will represent to the hon. member's province of British Columbia at the midway point of those five years a 105% increase in what is currently being spent by all levels of government on early learning and child care.
As the hon. member knows and as I have pointed out before, decisions as to how all of this will get implemented are decisions of the provinces and the territories. We set the principles, but the provinces and the territories make the decisions on its implementation.
A 105% increase in early learning and child care represents a remarkable new opportunity for the province of British Columbia to find ways of delivering early learning and child care to those small communities the hon. member represents. That is a huge development and a huge change in what is currently the situation in his particular riding.
Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Mr. Speaker, everybody in the House knows that we in the NDP are committed to a national child care program rooted in principles and legislation, with sufficient funds to make sure that everybody across this country can access it.
When we look at what is happening out there at this point, with some money rolled out and a number of bilateral agreements, it makes this program a national program. What research is the minister using to support his insistence on it being open to both for profit and not for profit delivery systems? When can we see legislation tabled in the House to frame this important new national program?
Ken Dryden York Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have had discussions with the hon. member on this issue. In terms of his question about the national quality of this particular program, with individual provincial and territorial agreements, as I have said to him and to others in the past, the right analogy for me on this is the way in which education works in this country. Education is provincial jurisdiction. There is an education system in the province of Ontario. There is one in the province of British Columbia. There is one in Saskatchewan.
Each province and territory has its own education system, but what Canadians have come to understand with the system of education in each province is a certain level of expectation and understanding of what an education system is across the country: what is there and what is not there, what should be assumed and what should not be, and what one would normally have because it is available in other provinces.
Briefly in terms of for profit and not for profit, as the hon. member knows, in every province and territory in this country early learning and child care is currently being delivered by both systems, not for profit and for profit. This is happening not just in Canada but in western Europe as well, where the early learning and child care systems are much more advanced. Both systems are in play as well.
Canadian Women's Health Network
Statements By Members
Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Madeline Boscoe, executive director of the Canadian Women's Health Network located in Winnipeg and one of Canada's foremost leaders in the field of health promotion for women and girls.
Whether it is as a health care provider or a project manager, an intervenor at the Supreme Court, an author and editor or a participant in various national and international conferences, Ms. Boscoe is one of Canada's chief proponents for healthy women and notably, for women who are in low income and marginalized positions.
Last week the University of Ottawa paid tribute to Ms. Boscoe, bestowing upon her the degree of “doctor of the university”. I believe the Chancellor most eloquently summed up what Madeline Boscoe is all about when he decreed:
I think I speak for many Canadians--women and men--when I say thank goodness that Madeline Boscoe is out there, talking about these issues, and making such an important difference in the world.
I ask my colleagues to join me in congratulating Ms. Boscoe and thanking her for her tireless efforts.
Canadian Cancer Society
Statements By Members
June 14th, 2005 / 2 p.m.
Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commend the residents of Oxford county for their generosity and commitment to cancer support and research.
The Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life is drawing huge numbers in Tillsonburg, Woodstock and Ingersoll. Over 3,200 people in these three communities are participating, including over 200 survivors in each city.
The Relay for Life is a result of months of planning and is made possible through the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and the generosity of many sponsors. Oxford's generosity has resulted in a Golden Baton award for the highest fundraising per capita.
I would like to congratulate all those who participated in Tillsonburg and to wish the very best to those who will be participating in Woodstock and Ingersoll.
I would also like to thank the many volunteers, sponsors and participants who made this relay possible. Congratulations, Oxford.
Statements By Members
Tom Wappel Scarborough Southwest, ON
Mr. Speaker, in this statement, the sixth in my series exploring whether the courts are protecting our children, I want to bring another case to the attention of the House.
A 40-year-old man named Randall Weber kept a collection of over 600 photos of child pornography on his family computer, easily accessible to his wife and three children. The photos contained horrendous images of real children as young as two years old being sexually abused in various degrading and disgusting ways. He even shared these photos with hundreds of others via the Internet.
Ontario Justice Roy Bogusky sentenced this man to a 14-month conditional sentence. What a sad joke. At least the Crown appealed the sentence. However, the Court of Appeal Justices Catzman, Feldman and Gillese dismissed the Crown's appeal.
Rulings like this are not protecting our children from anything. I ask the House, when will Canada's courts start taking the protection of our children seriously?
Canada Steamship Lines
Statements By Members
Réal Lapierre Lévis—Bellechasse, QC
Mr. Speaker, while our shipbuilding industry is experiencing difficulties, Canada Steamship Lines, which belongs to the Prime Minister's family, has decided to have two new ships built in China.
Despite Canada Steamship Lines' claims, the shipyard in Lévis is very capable of doing the job. Unfortunately, the lack of a marine policy undermines its competitiveness against aggressive competitors such as the Chinese shipyards. In any case, CSL did not invite that shipyard to tender.
Canada Steamship Lines registers its branches in tax havens, to avoid paying taxes here. Its ships fly flags of convenience to circumvent environmental, labour and marine safety laws. Now it is abandoning our shipyards.
Instead of implementing a marine policy worthy of the name, the Prime Minister is contributing to the decline of our shipyards. This speaks volumes about the true interests of the Prime Minister and his family.
Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum
Statements By Members
Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS
Mr. Speaker, recently I was delighted to visit the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum in my riding.
In 1973, faced with rapid urban expansion and the threat of losing touch with its rural past, residents founded the Cole Harbour Rural Heritage Society. Their goal was to record and preserve what they could of the area's agricultural and natural heritage.
Later, the Farm Museum was established, a museum that continues to rely on community support for maintenance and operations. With the help of volunteers, this community museum has grown to include a comprehensive collection of local farm and personal artifacts, as well as local archival material, including oral history tapes and over 1,000 photographs, a resource library, heritage plants and more.
I want to congratulate the many volunteers who over the years sustained and built the museum, people like the recent Order of Canada recipient Mike Eaton and the late Rosemary Eaton, Millie Richardson, current chair and vice-chair of the board, Judith Tulloch and Jill Hogg, as well as Elizabeth Corser, the executive director.
I encourage everybody to visit and support the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum.
Statements By Members
Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON
Mr. Speaker, it promises to be a very exciting summer this year in my riding of Perth--Wellington.
On May 30, I was very pleased to attend the opening performance for the 53rd season at Stratford Festival of Canada. The entire group at Stratford work very hard each year to offer fans a great experience in theatre.
Later in June I will be at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys. I have come to look forward to this event that each year celebrates athletic achievement, community activism and Canadian heritage.
Beginning July 27, the Stratford Summer Music Festival will bring together musicians from across Canada and around the world as they salute the centennials of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
A short drive along the highway and visitors may be entertained by another group of skilled actors at the Drayton Festival.
If this is not enough, we also look forward to hosting the International Plowing Match at Listowel, September 20 to 24.
Perth--Wellington offers something for everyone.
Statements By Members
Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Arnie Hakala, a journalist for the North Bay Nugget who passed away Friday, just 22 days shy of his 65th birthday.
Arnie was a veteran journalist who personified the profession for more than 40 years. His career began in 1962 in Kapuskasing and his newspaper trail went from Timmins, the Port Arthur News Chronicle, the Canadian Press in Toronto, the Hamilton Spectator , the Toronto Star , the Oshawa Times and the
North Bay Nugget.
Arnie was set to retire from the Nugget on July 29, but was determined to continue to write as a freelance journalist. In his final column he wrote the evening before he passed away, he said:
I have no intention of putting my feet up. I love what I do and there are still stories that have never been written.
Arnie Hakala was a tough reporter but he wore his heart on his sleeve. He had a special way of making those around him feel important and he lived his life through his readers and the people he wrote about.
Arnie Hakala will be missed dearly.
Statements By Members
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, the launching of an aquaponic ecological farm producing trout and lettuce, the construction of a positive pressure vertical wind tunnel, and a study on the revitalization of the village nucleus: such are the projects designed to help the softwood lumber industry, which the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec was boasting about in this House, on June 10.
These projects, while very interesting for the communities, are not related to the softwood lumber industry, or to the workers affected, who have been left to fend for themselves by the Liberal government in Ottawa.
The federal government must provide direct support to the industry and it must change the employment insurance rules for affected workers. A true assistance plan must also be put in place to help the industry assume legal costs that are now in excess of $350 million, and include loan guarantees for the companies affected.
The type of programs developed by the Liberals will not save the Quebec and Canadian softwood lumber industry. Action is urgently needed.