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 care.

Topics

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for the great information he has given us, although I must admit that I heard the minister speaking earlier, when he appeared before the government operations committee that I am a member of, and at that time he informed us that there was $40 million spent. When we pursued how that money was spent, we were told that there were 20 million photocopies of information that had to be produced. Well, by my mathematics, that means that each piece of photocopied paper cost $2 a copy, which seems awfully excessive.

The other part that confuses me is why this war room needs someone like Ms. Menke, who is a former director of CSIS, to be the director. There are only four or five staff in that unit and apparently Ms. Menke is heading up that war room. I would like the member's opinion on that.

The minister mentioned that there were 20 million photocopies. By the way, these were all photocopied in the other departments. I am sure they were not copied in the PCO.

There is an article in the newspaper today that talks about lawyers for Jean Chrétien, Jean Pelletier and Alfonso Gagliano. The Gomery commission cost taxpayers more than a million dollars.

Let me just go through what it cost. Mr. Pelletier, the former Prime Minister's chief of staff, cost the public purse $382,000 between September 2004 and January 2005. We are talking about four months there, roughly. Mr. Chrétien's lawyer, from the same firm, cost $311,000 for services during the same period. Mr. Gagliano ran up a bill of $401,000. That is in excess of a million dollars. Now other bills, obtained through the access to information request made by CPAC, include $84,000 by lawyers for Chuck Guité. This money was spent to prepare the witnesses. How come there is supposed to be $40 million, along with the photocopies, that was spent preparing witnesses? I am confused. I wonder if the member could shed some light on that.

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the point. As we dive into this, we learn more. What has happened with this whole commission is really tragic: this money was funnelled into the Liberal Party of Canada. Quite rightfully, Canadians are just sickened by it, almost to the point that they do not want to hear about it anymore because it just keeps going from bad to worse.

We hear about $40 million to “prepare” government witnesses, but they have all been given their own lawyers and that means millions more. It just never ends. First of all, people were directly involved with siphoning off taxpayers' money and stuffing it into suitcases and sprinkling it throughout Quebec and now we are giving them more taxpayer money to defend themselves.

It does not end, and it is so fundamentally wrong. Let us imagine that the current Prime Minister had come along and acknowledged from day one that yes, he knew stuff was going on but it was a Liberal Party problem and so he just opened up the books and came clean. We all know that this is Liberal Party problem. Every donkey in the country knows that this is a Liberal Party problem.

The Liberals talk about the 20 million documents they had to photocopy for the commission. I have no doubt they did. I would be more interested in the ones they did not photocopy, the ones that made it to the shredders. I wonder about the 20 million they sent and the boxes. I wonder if they said, “There is a warehouse full of documents there. Those are not damaging to us. Let us photocopy them and send them”. We know that a lot of documents made it to the shredders.

This is not the way a modern, civilized government should operate. It is even worse to see the current government continuing to try to defend itself, to prepare, to say that it is clean, when it is absolutely crystal clear that millions of dollars were shuffled into the Liberal Party

. Now the Liberals are trying to defend spending more money than the commission itself. The commission is at $32 million, but they are at $40 million and it is going up. They are racking up higher bills and spending more money than the commission itself just to try to prepare witnesses, to prepare them to tell the truth. There is something fundamentally wrong here.

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, in the 10 minutes I am allocated today I do want to talk about the opposition notice of motion, because technically it is not a motion but a notice of motion. It should trigger a motion from the President of the Treasury Board. That is what we are debating here tonight. We are talking about the more than $1 million for the war room set up by the government in the Privy Council Office.

I am going to talk about more than that. I am going to talk about the Gomery inquiry itself. We have seen in media reports that it is going to cost $80 million. In fact, the actual cost of the inquiry will be something like $35 million. It is a lot of money, but it is money well spent to try to find a way to deal with this kind of thing and prevent it in the future, although in reality nothing will prevent it except a government with ethics. That is not going to happen with this Liberal government no matter what Gomery finds.

What happened to the rest of the $80 million? What we find is that the government has spent more money hiding and trying to keep things from Gomery than it has on the actual Gomery inquiry itself. It has spent more money covering and hiding the information than the actual Gomery inquiry is spending.

That is completely unacceptable, yet we heard the deputy House leader for the government, who appeared at our government operations and estimates committee on this issue, spinning the Liberal message very effectively. The Liberals are very good at this. In fact, they are masters at it. The Liberals are truly masters at taking reality and making it sound like the total opposite. Very few political parties in the world can do that. They are probably the best in the western world, but I do not think that is anything to be proud of.

It is really sad that the Liberals will take reality and spin it into something entirely different. It is not acceptable. They have done that for a lot of years. I want to start by talking about some of the things that they have spun in the past and that they have been caught at. I am not talking just about corruption, although there is so much corruption. It is widespread and it is deep.

I am going to talk about issues that affect every single Canadian in the country. First, before the 2000 election, the Prime Minister passed a budget. In the budget was $100 billion of tax relief. That is what he claimed. That is what the Prime Minister claimed when he was finance minister.

That is a lot of tax relief, but I ask Canadians to look at their paycheques from 1999, 2001 and today and compare the taxes that are taken off their paycheques. Canadians will find that taxes are every bit as bad now and probably worse than they were back then.

So what the government said was one thing. It sounded good, and it won them an election, in fact, but the reality was totally different. Canadians found that out on their paycheques every single month. The Liberals said one thing but reality is another.

Let us talk about health care and how the Liberals say they are the saviours of health care. If we listen to the Prime Minister, the health minister and the others over on that side, we will hear that they are the saviours of health care.

Yet our health care system has collapsed to such an extent that the Supreme Court said that Canadians, Quebeckers, should have the right to private health care because the public system is so bad that it cannot be counted on to deliver the health care Canadians need. That is what the Supreme Court ruled just last week.

The Liberals say they are the saviours of health care and they have been saying that while in government for 12 years. The reality is clearly something different.

As well, the long gun registry was going to make society safer. It was going to reduce crimes committed with guns. We all know that simply the opposite has happened.

On agriculture programs, the Liberals are pumping billions into farmers' pockets and saying that things are much better on the farm than they were in the past because of what the government has done. As a farmer, I know that it has never been worse on the farm. My neighbours know and farmers right across the country know.

What the Liberals say is one thing. The reality is an entirely different thing. They spin it and they spin it so well that it sounds believable, but the cruel, hard reality of what is going on in this country tells quite another story.

The Liberals say that sanctioning same sex marriage will somehow save the institution of marriage and the family. I have heard some of them say that. That is the way they have spun it. We all know that this is simply not the case. It is not true. It goes on and on.

The Liberals are going to legalize pot and it is going to make the problem better. They are going to legalize prostitution and it is going to make the problem better.

They are going to have government look after our kids because it can somehow do so better than the parents of this country. That is a disgusting idea, yet they spin it so it sounds good. They take away from parents the choice of looking after their kids in the way they want and choose. With the program they are proposing, it takes that choice away. They make it sound so good, but the reality is entirely different.

I cannot go through much more tonight. I have to talk about this war room and the over $40 million the government has spent to cover up and keep information from the Gomery inquiry. That is a lot of money.

We have layers of corruption and wrongdoing, one stacked on top of the other. First of all, there is the corruption, the scandal itself. Of course we have learned a lot about this one particular scandal from the Gomery inquiry. That is not enough. The Liberals try to spin that. They will not admit to any wrongdoing. Only when they are caught do they set up the Gomery inquiry.

The Liberals got caught, they set up the inquiry, all this information comes out, and then what? They are going to be the people to clean it up. They were all involved in it, by their silence at least, I would suggest, but many of them were very closely involved in all this corruption. Yet they are going to be the ones to clean it up now. It makes no sense but that is the way they spin it. They are really good at that.

Now there is the million dollar war room. It is not a war room, the Liberals say. It is not to protect Liberals that have been caught cheating taxpayers out of their money. That is not what it is. To them it is just to help Gomery get the job done. The spin is marvellous.

I give them credit. I absolutely give the Liberal Party and the Liberal government credit for being the best in the western world at spinning truth into something else and making it look like reality, making it look believable. This is not something that Canadians are proud of. I do not think it is anything to be proud of at all, nor do most Canadians.

What we have now is unbelievable. The original $100 million or so that is the topic of the Gomery commission was spent mostly by Liberal friends in ways that clearly were wrong, and they have been caught. Then the Liberals spend another $40 million or more in keeping the information from Gomery. Yet the public works minister stands in the House every day saying, “Let Gomery do his work”. I am tired of hearing him say that every day: “Let Justice Gomery do his job”.

If the Liberals are sincere about that, then why are they spending more money to prevent Justice Gomery from doing his job than they are giving Gomery to allow him to do his job? That is the reality of what is happening here. It is disturbing but it is sad. It hurts us all. It hurts every single member of Parliament.

If it hurts every member of Parliament, it hurts democracy in this country. What is sad is the level that democracy in the House has been brought down to because of the government. Its most recent tactic is to say that somehow the Conservatives or the Bloc are involved. Actually, I do not think they have tried the Conservatives yet, but they are certainly saying that the Bloc is involved in this, so everybody is crooked and it is okay. That is a disgusting defence.

I realize that my time is up. I would be happy to answer any questions, but quite frankly I do not think anything else needs to be said on this issue. The Canadian public is very much aware of what has gone on, except that we of course discover new information every day and it is just as disturbing as the information was when this scandal was originally uncovered.

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Sudbury
Ontario

Liberal

Diane Marleau Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I have heard spin but this is not even good spin. I am trying to figure out what it is exactly that the member wants.

I was at committee when members opposite talked about a war room. It is not a war room. It is a coordinating committee to ensure everyone gives the paper forward.

It is kind of sad. This government called the inquiry because we wanted to get to the bottom of it. Yes, it is costly, but the only way we can clean it up is to air it.

I am angry about this. Are members opposite trying to tell us that Mr. Gomery has not done his job and has not received the information he was looking for? That is not my impression and I think Canadians across the country know we have been cooperating. To be honest, members opposite would not have heard all the things they have if we had not been cooperating. I say to the member that we want to get to the bottom of this. Is it cheap? No. However we are not a lynch mob.

I went to committee today. We want to condemn people. We want to be like a lynch mob. We want to decide who is guilty and who is not. I thought we lived in a democracy. Yes, bad things happen, but we have to make sure that proper legal steps are taken. Yes, we may not like it, but even the worse criminal has the right to a defence, and it is very important that happens.

We cannot impugn motives to members in the House or in the other House. I think it is wrong. I would ask that member to stop the spin and stop impugning motives to honest, hardworking members and especially an honest, hardworking public service.

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a little more spin.

I can understand, and I mean it sincerely, why a member might stand up and say that. It is because of the situation that her party has got itself into. When it is the Liberal Party and current members of government that are behind this corruption what else can those members do? I understand why they continue to perpetuate the spin but it still does not change reality.

As I was saying before, the spin is one thing but reality is quite another. The member said some things that really do not stand up to the test of accuracy. They are less than accurate. We are not really allowed to go beyond that in the House. The member has to know that.

If the member does not like the cost of the Gomery inquiry, then her party should not have been involved in the corruption in the first place. That is the way to prevent it. Even more than that, why did the Liberals not just admit to what they had done wrong? Why did they not say that the Liberal Party has been involved in a wrong activity and they will clean it up? However they did not say that. They hid it for more than a year and then finally, when the Auditor General put out her report and there was no denying it any more, only then did they say that they would be the ones to clean it up.

It is more spin but the Liberals are good at it. I give them credit. I am not nearly as good at spinning messages as members of the government but I hope I never am. However I can say that the Conservative Party of Canada will never be involved in activities like the Liberal Party has been involved. I will have no part of it and my colleagues will have no part of it.

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

June 14th, 2005 / 7:35 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on the notice of opposition by our Conservative colleagues. I think that it arises out of some wholly legitimate and valid intentions and concerns. The government has struck a commission of inquiry into the partisan use of public funds and it is absolutely necessary that we get to the bottom of it.

The more things move along, however, the more we realize that the government has in a rather hidden way, rather under the table, set some benchmarks, some guardrails to keep things from going off the tracks for it and for this commission. We are certainly aware of that sort of Privy Council war room which was apparently set up to coach the witnesses, channel media messages, fine tune them, all of course in the government's favour.

Is there not a danger of things going off the rails again and of more partisan use of public funds? The question certainly arises.

We also got wind of the possibility of a secret agreement between the attorneys for former Prime Minister Chrétien and the government's attorneys. It would appear that the agreement was more or less along these lines: the Chrétien attorneys would agree to withdraw the legal proceedings questioning the credibility and impartiality of Justice Gomery, while still retaining the possibility of being able to come back to it later. The government attorneys are saying, “If by any chance you decided to come back to that later, we will have no objections.”

The danger, after the Prime Minister promised the nation, cross his heart, that he would call an election 30 days at most after the tabling of the final report of the Gomery inquiry, is that now this secret pact might end up releasing the PM from this solemn promise to Canadians, and most particularly to Quebeckers.

Needless to say, those who still have an axe to grind and who wanted to have their say in an election, are the people of Quebec. The Liberals' sneaky tricks on May 19 deprived Quebeckers of the possibility of expressing themselves democratically. This is something that merits discussion, something that is most disconcerting in a democracy. But back to my main point.

This secret deal could free the Prime Minister from this promise. How is that possible? Quite simply, if the attorneys for former Prime Minister Chrétien decided once again to question Judge Gomery's credibility and impartiality when the judge tables his preliminary report and if, by chance, they managed to have him removed, this would have the effect that the judge would not be able to table his final report. Consequently, the government would not have to keep its commitment of holding an election 30 days following the tabling of the final report, since a final report would not be tabled.

Thus, the notice of opposition by the Conservative Party arises from extremely valid and legitimate concerns.

That being said, we must recognize that the procedure that was used to bring these concerns is very questionable. It shows some degree of amateurism and improvisation. Why? Because when we talk, for example, about removing $1 million from the vote, we should know to what we are referring exactly. We should trace this amount to know why it is $1 million, and not $1.5 million, or $2 million or $750,000. Thus, the amount put forward in the notice of opposition seems arbitrary to us and is not supported by specific data.

Also, we must recognize that our rules of procedure do not allow us to remove some amount from the initial vote. We must accept the vote or reject it entirely.

The program expenditures vote of the Privy Council is about $125.413 million. If we decided to cut the whole amount of $125.413 million, we would not only run the risk of sending this country into an election. It could also spell chaos for governance in Canada.

Of course, we have very serious reservations about the relevance of the Privy Council as the central agency of the government, but we have to admit it would not be justified to abolish it completely. Any government needs a central coordinating body where interdepartmental consultation can occur. That is exactly the role of the Privy Council.

Therefore, if we went along with the notice of opposition of our Conservative colleagues, which again is based on extremely valid and legitimate concerns, and if we opposed these votes, the consequences could be dramatic to say the least.

The Bloc Québécois has always advocated responsible action. In our opinion, it would be irresponsible, to say the least, to vote against this vote, given the dramatic consequences that could result.

Therefore, even though we obviously recognize the basis and the validity of the concerns expressed by our Conservative colleagues in this notice of opposition, we will not be able to join them in rejecting this vote.

It will not be our pleasure to do this, but we will do it because we have always said we would act responsibly in this House, and that is why we feel we have to adopt this vote and not reject it completely.

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to the estimates this evening. It is a chance for all in the House to reflect on the past and to give some thought to what lies ahead and how we can be most effective as members of Parliament.

Tonight as we begin this debate I certainly feel some satisfaction and a sense of comfort knowing that we have been able to actually make a difference in this Parliament, to have an impact on the federal government's budget process. For us, this is a day of celebration. We are on the precipice of advancing some very important legislation, some significant changes to the federal Liberal budget proposition that will enhance the quality of life in this country and ensure that we are investing strategically in areas of our economy that will put us on the path to great growth and productivity for future generations.

I want to take a minute to talk about the hard work of the NDP throughout this budget process. Once again I commend the hard work of our leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, and my colleague, the member for Vancouver East, and all of the members of the NDP caucus who joined together in one determined voice to say, let us try to make a difference at this moment in our history; let us try to effect some change. We thought that would be impossible up to that moment.

The Conservatives basically rolled over and played dead. The budget came down on February 23. The leader of the official opposition took a cursory glance at the budget, walked out of this chamber and said to the world that he could live with the budget. The Conservatives would not vote non-confidence in the government on the budget.

We took a look at that budget and we said that it missed the mark, that it was contrary to the wishes of Canadians. It did not respect the promises made by the Prime Minister in the last election campaign. The Prime Minister said during the election campaign that there would be no new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy in our society until such time as money had been restored to those programs that had been cut over the years to ensure balanced budgets.

When that budget came down on February 23 with another round of tax cuts for corporations, we knew in an instant that we could not support the budget. Not only did the Prime Minister break his promise to Canadians with respect to another tax cut for large corporations, but he also failed to invest in several strategic areas that Canadians were counting on.

There was not a mention in that budget about education and about the need to make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable for our young people. There was nothing in the budget about the burden facing students after they graduate, the huge loans they have to pay back to the tune of $25,000 or $30,000. There was nothing about those families who desperately want to send their children to university but just cannot afford it. There was nothing about investing in our young people to build an economy for the future, to take advantage of the new economy around us.

To top it all off, there was nothing in the budget about the desperate situation that hundreds of thousands of Canadians are facing when it comes to decent housing. Imagine living in a community without certainty about safe housing. Imagine what it is like in some of the inner-city north end communities like mine where people cannot afford a safe, decent home because the cost is out of reach. Imagine what it is like when the government has pulled out of all of its housing projects and all the funds have dried up and some individuals and neighbourhoods cannot access money to renovate and improve old housing stock.

Imagine what it is like living on a reserve, in what have been clearly identified by impartial UN observers as third world conditions. There was not a mention in budget 2005 for housing, for making sure that everyone in this country has the right to safe, secure, decent housing.

There were more problems with the budget. I am not going to go into it all again. We know about the shortcomings with respect to the Kyoto accord. We know the government has missed the mark in terms of environmental planning and ensuring that we are able to preserve this earth for future generations. There was nothing in the budget in terms of meeting our commitment internationally, 0.7% of our GDP to be used for international aid and overseas development.

We recognize that the budget missed the mark. However, we did not just sit on our laurels and say that is it, that we will vote against the government no matter what. At the first opportunity we said, “Let us try to achieve those objectives. Let us try to fill the shortfalls. Let us try to deal with the neglect that we see in this budget by the federal Liberals”.

We entered into negotiations with the Liberal government in the full light of day, not as my dear friends from the Conservative Party like to suggest, in some hotel room or in the back seat of a car. This was in the full light of day. I know they are envious of the relationship that we established, this short term project that we worked on, this extended one night stand, but for goodness sake, they do not have to let their jealousy get to that degree.

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

A one budget stand.

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

It is a one budget stand, as my hon. colleague has just said.

In the full light of day we set out to accomplish something that was good for Canada, and we did it.

We arrived at a fiscally responsible plan that ensured there would be no attempt to have this government go into any debt or deficit. There was no thought of giving up on some contingency emergency fund to be set aside for sudden situations if they were to occur, and not to go into debt. No, we said that our plan was to use the money that had been set aside for another corporate tax cut for large corporations, because those tax breaks are not producing huge benefits for Canadians in terms of new jobs, new companies and new opportunities in this country. In fact, the government has been giving tax breaks to large corporations and all the while profits have been going up and up for those corporations and investment has been going down and down. The key to our future prosperity is not about giving more tax breaks to those corporations. The key is to invest in areas that will create jobs, meet social objectives and enhance the quality of life in this country.

How can the Conservatives oppose something that positive? It is a proposal that is fiscally responsible. It does not create any kind of deficit for the government. It does not take away the contingency fund. It is a transparent use of surplus dollars. It shifts money from tax cuts for large corporations and puts it into housing for Canadians, lower tuition for students, cleaner air for people who cannot handle the smog warnings day in and day out, and gives some assistance for those suffering from tremendous economic and social structural barriers overseas. It is a very reasonable plan that makes a big difference in the lives of Canadians.

We are here tonight celebrating the fact that with the help of Canadians we have been able to make a difference. The better balanced budget is not perfect. It does not have everything in it. We were not able to accomplish all we would have liked to. We did not get a big concession in terms of employment insurance. We would have liked that. We did not get some new commitments on pay equity. We would have liked that.

We managed some constructive steps forward and we did it within a fiscally responsible framework. That is something to be proud of. I know that Canadians are proud of it and want the budget bills passed.

I am sure that Canadians were appalled when they opened a newspaper and read about the Conservatives first playing games through the course of an entire sitting of witnesses at our committee and then gutting the bill and sending a blank page back to this House. The Conservatives took away the $1.6 billion for housing. They took away the $1.5 billion for education. They took away the $900 million for environmental projects and public transit and for retrofitted housing. They took away the $500 million for assistance overseas.

That is what the Conservatives did. They took away that which Canadians wanted. They are now being held responsible for that kind of irresponsible action. One only has to look at the polls. They dropped by 10 points overnight. They dropped like a stone in the polls, and rightfully so, as my colleague from Windsor has just said, because Canadians have sent us here to act responsibly. Canadians have told us to do a good job, to do something, to make Parliament work. Canadians do not want their members of Parliament to sit here and play games constantly and give them nothing but talk and no action. As one of my other colleagues said, all this talk and no action from the Conservatives is like a bad date.

Let us get back to the issues at hand. We have before us tonight the estimates for this budget year. We have before us two budget bills that are important for Canadians. We have before us a responsibility and a mandate to continue to make inroads, to make this country better than what it is, to ensure that we deal with some fundamental critical issues in our society today.

In the few minutes I have remaining, I want to outline a few of those points of where we have to go in the future.

We see Bill C-48, the better balanced budget bill as just a beginning. We do not see short term investments as the solution in the long run. We recognize there must be a responsibility on the part of the federal government to invest in lifelong learning. That means starting from early childhood and child care supports and going right through elementary and secondary and post-secondary education. It is not something that happens by neglecting an area like education and reducing the federal share of cash to provinces for education down to 11%. Whatever happened to this goal of shared responsibility between the federal and provincial governments?

We must build on what we have been able to accomplish through Bill C-48, in terms of the $1.5 billion for education and improving access for students.

We must build on the beginnings of a national child care program that we see in Bill C-43, something that has been accomplished after many years of broken promises. In fact, members well know that the commitment for a national child care program is the longest running broken political promise in the history of this country. We are finally at the stage where we have the beginnings of a national child care program. We are pleased with that development. It is a beginning step. It is the initial step in a long journey to ensure that this country has affordable, non-profit, quality child care spaces.

Contrary to the Conservatives who like to suggest that our society will come to rack and ruin if we proceed down this path, we say that we have a responsibility to families who choose to work, or who must work, to ensure that their children are in safe, secure, quality child care arrangements.

We have heard so much from the Conservatives over these last two days about choice in child care. For once, let us get this debate straight. We are talking about a policy to deal with working parents. We are trying to respond to the fact that there are thousands of children in unlicensed day care spaces. We are trying to deal with the fact that there are families, too many to count, who cannot afford or cannot find quality child care to ensure their children are in safe, secure, quality settings.

I hear the Conservatives yelling in the background as usual because they cannot grasp the notion that it is possible to combine work and family. It is possible to be a good mother and still hold down a job, like being a member of Parliament. It is possible to provide the nurture, love and caring that is required of mothers and fathers by their children and still hold jobs, provide for families and make a living, but it takes some help from government. It takes government working with communities to make it possible. It means helping families and communities from the ground up to ensure they can help themselves. We are talking about that.

This policy is not about trying to meet all the needs of every individual in our society. If parents choose to stay at home to care for their children, we have an obligation to ensure that policies and tax provisions address those circumstances. That is exactly what must happen, but let us not mix apples and oranges. A child care program to respond to the needs of working families is one thing that has been neglected for too many decades. It must not be allowed to languish for one week more.

Then the issue of dealing with whether our tax system is responsive to all family situations, especially in the cases where one parent chooses to stay home to care for the children full time, must be addressed. No one has said it should not.

It is absolutely irresponsible on the part of the Conservatives to suggest that by addressing one end of this public policy debate, we are taking away from another. We are not taking away choice. We are not denying the needs of all our citizens. We are recognizing the millions of children who now have a right to safe, secure, quality child care and early childhood development. It is as simple as that.

By investing in child care now, we grow the economy. We plan for the future. We ensure that there is a bright future for all in our society. That is but one example of where we must go in the future.

In the two minutes I have remaining let me also say this. In conjunction with lifelong learning, post-secondary and university education and child care, we must also look at achieving policies that ensure the appropriate balance between work and family. The work life balance issue must be addressed by this Parliament in the near future.

Too many families are struggling with the stress of trying to be excellent parents, good providers and contributing members of our workforce without supports that take into account the stress of juggling so much, ensuring there is food on the table and the needs of the family are taken care of with some time left over for themselves to have leisure activities and to enjoy the society to which they are contributing. That is another area for future work.

In the context of budgets, let us look at the issues of equality between the sexes and recognize that nowhere has the government yet achieved a simple objective to ensure gender sensitive, budget making processes and to look at the impact of our policies and decisions on women in the workforce. Nowhere is that more important than in the area of employment insurance.

We still have in practice employment insurance policies that discriminate against women because they want to work part time and care for their children the rest of the time. That is a perfect example for the Conservatives who say that they want to provide choice. If they want to provide choice, where are they when it comes to seeking something as simple as a change in the employment insurance rules so a part time worker is recognized as a permanent member of the workforce and is able to access employment insurance?

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

8 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

The Conservatives are against that.

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

8 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

The Conservatives, yes, are against that. It is some choice they are offering Canadians.

Finally, we have a major issue with respect to fiscal imbalance. We must ensure that this federation is nurtured and cared for. We must put back on the agenda the issue of equalization, stop this kind of one-off, divide and conquer approach by the Liberals and start to look at this nation as one. We must recognize and ensure an equalization program is in place so the wealth of one area is shared by others and so everyone in this society is entitled to the same quality programs in health care, education, housing and social services. That is our aim.

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a comment about the member's points on the housing and I have a question on the day care file.

As a starting point, I am sure the member would concede that it is not fiscally responsible, nor even possible, to address all government responsibilities and priorities in each and every budget. In fact, it is the series of budgets that we have to look at in terms of have we continued to respond to the emergent difficulties and problems.

However, I agree with the member in regard to the social housing issue. I spent a number of years on our local housing authority, rent geared to income and rent supplement. About 50% of the people using those services were seniors and 50% were family units. The vast majority were lone parent scenarios. Therefore, we know this is an important area in services to all communities across Canada. There are people who need help.

I agree that no matter where we provide the housing, whether it be at the social housing level or the affordable housing level, bringing in new housing stock means that other people can move and those in need can fill in those spots as they become available.

I am somewhat pleased that the housing issue continues to be of concern. We know CMHC is putting some $3.9 billion a year into its programs, mortgage insurance, et cetera. Is it enough? I do not think it will ever be enough to ensure that we deal with those in our country who are most need.

I know the member is very much involved in the day care and early learning side. Experts have said that it would cost about $15 billion to implement a full program of national day care plan, which I think is down the road. The OECD characterized existing day care arrangements in Canada outside of Quebec as being glorified babysitting, and this concerns me.

Does the member feel that the existing day care systems, which have been established throughout the country, have to upgrade their facilities and the quality of the people to ensure that our children get the full benefit of the early learning programs?

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, first, I appreciate the comments by my hon. colleague, both on housing and child care.

Let me just first touch on housing, since we both agree that it is a very important area of investment. I remind the member that while we share this concern, it was the NDP that moved the agenda forward by adding $1.6 billion to the budget for housing. There was zero in the 2005 federal budget for housing until the NDP proposed the additional money.

The Minister of Housing may be going around the country suggesting that he has a plan and that he would have done this anyway. He may have a plan, but he did not have the money. It is important for us to acknowledge that. Because Canadians spoke so strongly about this need, we made a commitment to include that demand in our negotiations with the Liberal Party. I might add, that investment alone is estimated to create approximately 26,000 person years of employment, so again evidence of the bang for the buck.

On the question of child care, which a very important issue, when the OECD looked at Canada and said that about our child care system, it looked at the country as a whole. The fact that we do not have a national child care program has led the OECD to comment that we have more like a babysitting service than a good early childhood program.

The OECD recognizes that provinces like Manitoba and Quebec have very excellent models that ought to be replicated across this country. However, what the OECD has said and what other economists in Canada have said, like David Dodge, is that the investment in this area is so important for dealing with productivity and for ensuring our economy grows. We cannot ignore this area or we lose in the long run. It is like cutting off our nose to spite our face. If we do not invest in these areas, we are only hurting ourselves in human terms and also in economic terms.

Let me close by saying that it was Charles Coffey from the Royal Bank of Canada who said that a child's brain development in the first six years of life sets the foundation for lifelong learning, behaviour and health. High quality early childhood education produces long term positive outcomes and cost savings that include improved school performance, reduced special education places, lower school dropout rates and increased lifelong earning potential. We have so much to gain by investing in the area of child care.

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. friend's comments. When I listened to her boast about all the money the NDP had incited the Liberals to waste and to throw around, I began to think. Her leader is very much an outstanding spokesman for the silver spoon socialists who he represents in his downtown urban Toronto riding.

My hon. friend talked about a lack of fair equalization. Why was it not in the agreement? What the Conservative Party campaigned on in the last election was that all provinces be allowed to keep their natural resources and not have them clawed back, like the agreements with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.

I understand the premier of the province of Saskatchewan is an awful negotiator. When the federal government tells him something, he listens and walks away. He does not negotiate. He does not stand up for it and maybe he listens to his national party leader who says that Saskatchewan is not important, Saskatchewan does not matter.

The essence of my question is this. When the deal was made or hatched in the back seat of a car or whatever the hon. member said, why were provinces like Saskatchewan forgotten? Why was there nothing for a fair equalization deal for Saskatchewan? Why was there nothing for agriculture? Between an NDP premier in Saskatchewan and a supposedly powerful new finance minister in the person of the leader of the New Democrats, why could nothing be done that would help areas outside of the very narrow corner of downtown Toronto, the only area of the country the leader of that party actually cares anything about?

Main Estimates, 2005-06
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I guess the first response to my hon. colleague would be where were the Conservatives when the federal government brought down the budget? Did we hear any amendments from the Conservatives? Did we hear any suggestions? Did they have any kind of an agreement reached with the Liberals?

We heard the Minister of Finance at committee yesterday say that the Liberals had to turn to the NDP because they could not get anything from the Conservatives. They would not deal. They would not talk, or plan or propose. They are stuck in their rut and focused on one issue of having an election without any platform.

I would suggest that the hon. member read the subcommittee on finance which was initiated by the Bloc member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. It was done explicitly to deal with the issue of fiscal imbalance and we attempted to deal with the matter of equalization.

We are not talking necessarily first and foremost about a budgetary provision. We are talking about trying to convince the federal government to start to negotiate seriously with provinces for a new equalization agreement that is based on a 10 province formula that includes natural resource revenue and that is true to the wishes of the premiers as expressed two years ago and ignored by the federal government.

The question again arises, where were the Conservatives throughout this debate? Did members hear the Conservatives suggesting we needed a new commitment to equalization? No. What the Conservatives suggest is that we need to move more in the direction of a patchwork approach to this federation. We need more one-off deals. We need more band-aid approaches. That is the Conservative approach.

At least the Bloc, although we may not always agree on everything, was able to recognize that there was a problem that had to be addressed and we worked together to try to find solutions. That is the issue before us today.

I know the Conservatives are envious. I know they are suffering from sour grapes and NDP envy. However, but I wish they would get on with the fact of recognizing they missed the boat and pass Bill C-43 and Bill C-48 so Canadians can access the money they want and we can get on with building a great country.