House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was equality.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

The member for Provencher says that they want to see him, but I do not think that is the answer.

Early learning and child care are not a priority of the paternalistic disturbing Conservative government. Women, research, advocacy and human rights are not a priority for the government in terms of equality for Canadian women, for first nations women. Not only are they not priorities, but the government has cut the opportunity for women to access any of these rights. Not only has the government not invested in women's programs, but it has cut opportunities for women.

Probably the number one issue in Thompson in my riding is housing. The reckless, careless Conservative government has not invested in affordable housing.

I am proud that I am able to stand and participate in the debate on this motion today.

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with some interest. I know my colleague has great interest in the first nations issues.

The question of this motion today, which has confounded many of us in this place, is about accountability and cause and effect. The motion is construed and tries to shift blame to other places as to the results of actions.

I think of a leader in my community, who the member might know. He recently passed away. I am speaking of the traditional chief of the Haida, Chief Skidegate (Dempsey Collinson). For 30 years, he was hereditary chief of the Skidegate Band. He portrayed, in every action and every way and everyday, that true leadership meant taking actions and taking responsibility for those actions, and the cause of those effects.

I often thought, when I spoke with Chief Skidegate, whether he could have instructed many of the elected officials in this place to realize that when there was an action, and when there was something we did, particularly when in positions of power, there had to be a consequence. True leadership means following those consequences to their ends.

I ask the member to realize and to confirm this to the House. The reason the Liberal Party was thrown from office in the end was a decision made by the electorate of our country, through a free and fair democratic vote. The reason people in northwestern British Columbia, and the Haida in particular in this case, supported my campaign was about leadership and consequence of action, being true to our word and doing what we say we are going to do. The Liberals seem to have a deep and profound problem understanding that the actions they caused had a result, and that result was their being removed from office. I wish they would get over this idea that somebody—

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Churchill.

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, in terms of responsibility, as the member has articulated, we have a responsibility when we are here.

I remind the member that the early learning and child care agreements were signed by the provinces. We were able to that for the first time in the history of our country. We had a $5 billion Kelowna accord. Again, it was historic in that it brought together the first ministers, aboriginal leadership and the federal government for the first time in the history of our country. When the Liberals came to power in 1993, they had inherited a $42 billion deficit from the Conservative government, which had also cut the court challenges program. The Liberals reinstituted that program.

My point is we have lost these national child care agreements. We have lost the court challenges program. We have lost the Kelowna accord. We lost those because his party decided to support the Conservative Party to bring down the past Liberal government. It was that party's decision.

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I have heard the member opposite reference a number of things in her speech and I will refer to a few of them.

She mentioned how interested she was in the city of Thompson and the people. Whenever I travel there, as I have many times in the last two years, I am often asked if I am the MP for the area. They have not seen their MP.

I will ask a very specific question to this member. She referenced matrimonial real property. As we all know, women on reserve, if their marriage breaks down, they do not necessarily get access to the matrimonial property. A wife and her children could be booted out of their home. Does she support our initiative to extend matrimonial real property to first nations women?

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, is that not surprising? His constituents say the same thing to me. They write to my office as the parliamentary secretary on that file because they cannot get a response from him. In fact, I have had very similar phone calls to my office. It might be a partisan thing. Who knows?

In response to his question on the matrimonial real property, this is an issue that first nations women and aboriginal women have been wanting to discuss with the federal government. They made it clear from day one that they wanted to participate in this process. The first nations women's council of the Assembly of First Nations, and these are aboriginal women themselves, engaged in a process with the ministerial representative, Wendy Grant-John, a very fine ministerial representative. She also has indicated that the government should not prepare this legislation unilaterally. In fact, that unilateral decision making on legislation is at the crux of the problem. That in itself is paternalism.

On this very serious issue, the Conservatives have manipulated it just as they did on Bill C-21. We are talking about the whole issue of human rights. Again, native women—

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order. I am sorry, I gave the member much more time than was permitted.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

Opposition Motion—Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this motion. I am going to speak from the perspective of a proud father of three daughters and a husband.

I think we have come a long way in this country. The Liberal Party is, after all, the party of the charter. As the party of the charter we have come in a generation, I believe, to the point where my daughters simply assume equality. That is not really a discussion around our table. It is not something they actually find themselves fighting about in their courses.

I have one daughter who recently graduated from the University of Waterloo. She is about to get married in a couple of months. She has found employment and is looking forward to a life where she will achieve in many areas that I could not even have thought of when I was growing up.

I have another daughter who is in her second year at McMaster University. If there is a lawyer in the family, she is probably it. We feel somewhat sympathetic to that, but nevertheless, I expect that she may well go into law, possibly even politics, my gracious me. I do not expect her to actually encounter any sexism barriers and I do not think she actually thinks that she will encounter any barriers.

My third daughter will be 18 tomorrow. I think probably the nation should be warned about that. I anticipate that she will also go to university. In fact, she has already been accepted here at the University of Ottawa. She recently came back from a debating competition in Great Britain. She did extremely well in an international debating competition. I have no idea why she has those particular talents.

I think the general point is that where I come from and the household in which we live, equality is simply expected.

The genesis of this motion is that in the enthusiasm of the Bloc and the NDP to bring down the previous government in their vacuous political machinations, they actually destroyed much of the progress of the previous government in three critical areas.

The first area was Kelowna, where there was an unprecedented agreement among all the provincial premiers with the federal government and all the aboriginal leadership. There was a serious and a significant commitment of funding to address those inequality concerns. That was lost because the NDP and the Bloc decided that they were going to join with the Conservative Party and bring down the previous government.

Then there was the issue of a national child care program. It was an unprecedented program. There was an ability on the part of the nation to actually address the issue of child care and actually take meaningful steps, so that Canadian women in particular, but Canadian families generally, are not forever running around trying to find child care, which often is inferior and inadequate.

Again the NDP and the Bloc, and I know, Mr. Speaker, you might have some bias on that point, in their enthusiasm to destroy the previous government for their own political calculations, took the unprincipled step of joining with the Conservative Party and taking us back into the 19th century.

As well as losing Kelowna and the child care program, we also lost the environmental initiatives that had been taken by the previous government. If we look at the November 2005 update, there was an over $5 billion commitment made to address climate change issues and a real program.

The country ended up losing the government, putting these folks in place, and the consequence of which is that there have been zero child care spaces created. We have an embarrassment on the international stage on climate change and an aboriginal file which is in utter disarray.

That is what we get for the apparent principles of the NDP being placed in a position such that its so-called political equation took precedence over its so-called principles.

I would like to speak to the issue of the child care spaces, if I may, that have not been created by the government. This is up front and personal for me.

There is a young woman employed by my office. She and her husband had a baby a little less than a year and a half ago and, in the fullness of time, she wanted to re-enter the workforce. Her re-entry was delayed some number of months because in the city of Ottawa one cannot find adequate day care spaces due to the fact that the government has not contributed. It just simply has not done the job.

The notion that if families are given a cheque for $100 once a month somehow or other that will compensate for child care spaces is ludicrous. One hundred dollars a month does not even get them in the door in many instances in and around Ottawa or any major city. This is a personal experience.

I heard the member for York Centre challenge the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development. After the minister had been to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, our member asked him how many spaces had been created. Of course, the minister dodged the question.

The minister then said he had been in Halifax the previous week and was again asked how many spaces had been created there. Of course, none have been created because the government is off on a tax cutting agenda, an agenda which is antithetical to family building, and has a cheesy program that sends out $100 a month, which is sort of a one size fits all.

If people try to get child care spaces for $100 a month in this city or any other city in Canada, I say good luck to them because they are simply not there. If there is a choice between an actual program which creates child care spaces and $100 a month for young families, let us do the right thing as opposed to this crazy notion that $100 will cover it.

The other area that really bothers me about the government is the creation of affordable housing. Liberals were in government when I came here in 1997 and they were just digging out from the Mulroney mess. I think 1997 was the first year the Liberal government ran a surplus. Of course, over that period of time a number of deficits had built up. There was a deficit in infrastructure, which is still building and not adequately addressed. The other deficit that was really acute for the Liberal caucus was the issue of homelessness and affordable housing.

Within the first month of my being elected, I was watching television and saw people marching in front of a motel in my riding. It had some pretty ugly slogans, such as “gypsies go home” and things of that nature. It was really an embarrassment. What really transpired was that there was simply no affordable housing for refugees or anyone else in and around the GTA and people were being put up in motels at $30 or $40 a night, an extraordinary sum of money.

To shrink the story a bit, what came out of that was a commitment on the part of the Liberal caucus to create a program for affordable housing. The then hon. Claudette Bradshaw grabbed it with enthusiasm and ran with it. The ultimate result was the SCPI program.

The government's response to the SCPI program was to let it wind down and then at the last second to re-fund the program. It was a really good, solid working program. It made a huge difference in my community.

I see these as significant losses. We have lost Kelowna. We have lost child care. We have lost environmental legislation. We have lost the SCPI program, only to be re-funded and renamed, and we have just lost time. It is all because of the machinations of the Bloc and NDP for their own political calculations.

Message from the Senate
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order. I have a message before proceeding to questions and comments.

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed certain bills.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to participate in this debate. I am almost reminded of a game of T-ball where we see the kids who need a little help in getting a hit put the ball on a stick. They spend their time stepping up to the plate and whacking away not unlike the Liberals, who for a strange and confounded reason have twisted themselves into this perverse logic to talk about principle.

Let us talk about principle and what the Liberals have done to support the Conservatives in the last six months alone on Afghanistan. They have completely moved over their position that the leader of the Liberals said he would not move on.

On the environment, we will have a motion and an opportunity for the Liberals tomorrow to do what the leader of the Liberal Party said he wanted to do, which is to bring back the clean air and climate change act for a vote. The NDP are moving that motion tomorrow.

We offer this to the Liberals, to come with us, join with us, and do something about the environment and help save the planet. What did the Leader of the Opposition do 20 minutes ago? He walked out to the media to say he could not possibly support that on some vague Liberal principle.

When we talked about tax cuts, those folks got up and said they did not simply want the tax cuts being offered by the Conservatives, they wanted more and then they turned around to say there is not enough funding for the programs that they pretended to believe in, like child care and pharmacare.

The reason the NDP opposed those tax cuts, opposed the budget, and voted in our place was because the principles we believe in need to be manifested in reality.

There is a strangeness and a perversity in the motion, that actually pretends to talk about principle, not even to mention the promises they made while they were in government.

Another Commissioner of the Environment's report came down today, again putting truth to the lie that says that the promises made were more talk than action. Those are not my words. Those are the words of the Commissioner of the Environment. The auditor's office of the country said that the Liberal Party had failed on the environment. We know that. It is in black and white.

I ask my hon. colleague, if he is going to talk about principles, will he oppose the government? Will he join with us tomorrow to bring back environmental legislation that the country needs and on principle oppose this wrong-headed government?

Opposition Motion--Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should have thought about that about two years ago, when in fact he joined with the Conservative Party and destroyed the three items that I mentioned: Kelowna, child care and the environment. Congratulations, you destroyed it.

A vote for the NDP, we might as well just mail the vote in to the Conservative Party. That is exactly what it did.

The NDP talk of principles in this chamber is just nonsense. My goodness gracious me. Now we are trying valiantly to dig out from the mess created by the NDP by trying to keep the government alive until it can be shot and put out of its misery. You guys carry on with this idiotic notion that somehow--

Opposition Motion--Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order, order. The member for Scarborough—Guildwood started using the word “you”. I let him get away with it once and then he did it again.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Fleetwood—Port Kells.

Opposition Motion--Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Peace River.

On behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells, it is a pleasure to join in the discussion on the actions taken by the Government of Canada in support of women's equality.

I would like to address my remarks particularly to the issue of child care spaces, as raised by the hon. member for Beaches—East York.

First, in the true spirit of equality, this government recognizes that choices in child care are best made by the parents, women and men, who are primarily responsible for their children's well-being. That is why we are supporting the child care choices of all families with young children in a clear and tangible way, through the universal child care plan.

Since July 2006, the universal child care benefit has been providing $100 each month, or a total of $2.3 billion per year, for two million children under six years of age. This is direct financial support that helps all Canadian families, regardless of where they live, their hours of work or the choices they make for their children's care.

We are also helping parents offset the cost of child care, through the child care expense deduction.

For the average family, the universal child care benefit, together with the child care expense deduction, covers well over one-third of the cost of non-parental child care. The combined effect of these measures is even greater for lone parent families, mostly headed by women.

I am pleased to say that the universal child care benefit has lifted an estimated 24,000 families with about 55,000 children out of low income status.

We also introduced more direct support to families with children through a $2,000 child tax credit for each child under the age of 18. This tax credit will provide more than 90% of Canadian families with tax relief of over $300 per child.

Turning specifically to the issue of child care spaces, budget 2007 confirmed new funding of $250 million per year to enable provinces and territories to create child care spaces that are responsive to the needs of parents. These spaces are administered in an efficient and accountable manner. This funding is on top of the $850 million provinces and territories already receive through the Canada social transfer for young children. This makes for a total of $1.1 billion this year, rising to $1.3 billion by 2013-14.

Our government's approach recognizes that provinces and territories have primary responsibility for child care services and that they require flexibility to address their respective priorities. We are beginning to see the positive results of our approach to child care spaces.

Since budget 2007, many provinces and territories have announced plans for new child care spaces, more than 33,000 so far. Others are investing in enhancing the quality of their spaces or the affordability of their spaces, for example, through raising wages of child care workers or making capital investments in existing day cares.

The provinces and territories are responding to our government's support so that they can create the necessary quality child care spaces in their jurisdictions.

Last year's budget also extended existing funding for agreements with the provinces and territories on early childhood development, early learning and child care. Not only are we supporting the provinces and territories to create child care spaces, we are also helping businesses to do so as well.

In budget 2007, we announced a 25% non-refundable tax credit to a maximum of $10,000 per child care space created to support businesses interested in creating child care spaces for the children of their employees and potentially for children in the surrounding community.

This government recognizes that families are the building blocks of a society and that child care is a priority for Canadian families. That is why we are committed to helping parents balance work and family life and to provide them with real choice in deciding what is best for their children.

In total, we provided $5.6 billion in 2007-08 alone in support of early learning and child care. This was accomplished through transfers to the provinces and territories, direct spending and tax measures for families. This is the largest investment in early learning and child care in the history of Canada. It is three times more than the previous government invested.

Our approach was carefully thought out. Before launching our programs, we consulted widely with provincial and territorial governments, businesses, child care providers and non-profit organizations. They told us that direct federal government intervention was not the way to go. We listened.

Our role and responsibility as a government is to provide flexibility. We are there to support families, to ensure they have choices and to respect their choices.

These are the words of our Prime Minister on the universal child care benefit. He said:

The reason we ran on it, that we believe so strongly in it, is the very reason that our opponents are so vehemently against it: it’s a real, meaningful and tangible benefit, paid directly to parents—and institutions, bureaucrats and special interests can’t touch it.

Children aren’t raised in academic faculties or government offices or the boardrooms of social activists. Children are raised in families, so that’s where the money flows.

The Liberals hold an insulting ideological belief that without government direction, parents cannot choose what is right for their children. The Conservative government believes precisely the opposite, and that is why we are providing choices and options for Canadian families when it comes to providing care for their children.

I would like to add that the hon. member's concern for the ability of women to join the workforce is not reflected in their participation rate. In fact, our nation continues to have one of the highest rates for women's labour force participation among all OECD countries. It has risen more rapidly as well.

What women have told us is that they want choice in how they care for their children. That is what our programs offer: support and respect for individual choices.

Opposition Motion--Status of Women
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's comment with respect to choice, the comment that the Conservatives have lifted a large number of women out of poverty and the comment that this program greatly helps single parents are absolutely offensive.

The hon. member talked about choice with regard to the $1,200 but the fact is that none of the women who really need it receive $100 a month. After taxes, they are lucky if they get $50 which does not even pay for one day of child care, never mind finding a space which is not available. I am not quite sure what choice that gives.

I speak to all the women in my riding and those who need it cannot have it. Nothing is available.

The hon. member said that the benefit covers one-third of the cost of child care. How $50 a month covers one-third of the cost is beyond me, because in my riding it certainly does not.

The hon. member talked about the child tax credit of $300, which is not refundable. Unless a person has $2,000 to invest in the first place, which most of these women do not, then they do not get anything back so it is not a refundable credit.

If the Conservatives are negotiating these spaces with the provinces, which the Liberals were doing, that is a great thing, but those choices they keep talking about that women have, maybe they think of earlier education and child care as a babysitting program that can be done at home. This is not what children deserve and it is not what women in this country deserve.