Canada Early Learning and Child Care Act

An Act respecting early learning and child care in Canada

Sponsor

Karina Gould  Liberal

Status

In committee (House), as of Feb. 1, 2023

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-35.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment sets out the Government of Canada’s vision for a Canada-wide early learning and child care system. It also sets out the Government of Canada’s commitment to maintaining long-term funding relating to early learning and child care to be provided to the provinces and Indigenous peoples. Finally, it creates the National Advisory Council on Early Learning and Child Care.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Feb. 1, 2023 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-35, An Act respecting early learning and child care in Canada

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:05 p.m.
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Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Families

moved that Bill C-35, An Act respecting early learning and child care in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me tremendous pleasure, and it is an honour to rise in the House today to kick off the debate on Bill C-35, an act respecting early learning and child care in Canada.

I want to start with a few thanks. I first of all want to thank the thousands of advocates across this country who have been waiting and fighting for this day for just over 52 years. It was 52 years ago in December that the Royal Commission on the Status of Women came out with its landmark report that asked the Government of Canada and suggested that it put in place an affordable, high-quality, inclusive and accessible child care system across this country.

Fifty-two years is a long time to wait, and there are lots of families who went through child care during that period of time. However, what I have heard from stakeholders and advocates across this country is that now is a good time to start. It is never too late to do the right thing, and here we are.

Today, we have agreements signed with 13 provinces and territories. As of December, almost all of them have reduced fees by 50%, and we have one more that is going to be making a good announcement very soon. More of those fee reductions are on their way.

What excites me about this system and about this bill is the impact it is having on families. I have had occasion to to travel to almost every province and territory across the country over the past year, to engage with families and to hear from them the stories about how this system is making a difference in their lives. I have yet to speak to a child care centre representative or a family who has not talked about the very real and tangible impact that this reduction in fees is having on their families' bottom line.

I will start by talking about one of the things that we have been doing as a federal government for a while, and that is the RESP, the registered education savings plan. For decades, we have been encouraging families to save for post-secondary education. We understand that this is a huge expense, but that it is important for all of our children across this country, for the future of our country, to make sure that they have the opportunity to attend post-secondary education.

Child care fees can range between $12,000 and $24,000 or even more per year. Multiply that by three or four or five, depending on the province they are in, and it could be two or three times the cost that the average student would spend on post-secondary education, yet we did not have any mechanism, until recently, to support families for this major expense.

It is an expense that starts right at the beginning of their family's journey, often when they have recently purchased a home or when they are just getting started in their careers. We are talking about tens of thousands of dollars. That is a huge impact and, not always but often, it results in the lower-income parent deciding to take a step outside of the workforce, because it just does not make financial sense for them to carry on.

The stories I have heard over the past year are changing that. I have been to every province and almost every territory. I meet parents. It is often a mom, I have not heard from a dad yet, but I am looking forward to that as well. However, I hear from so many moms who talk about the fact that it is because of these lower child care fees that they are returning to work.

There was the mom in Ottawa a couple of months ago who said that because of the 50% fee reduction she enrolled her daughter in day care, and she is returning to work full time as a real estate agent. She spoke of the impact that it had not only for her family's finances but also for her career development.

In Richmond, B.C. in December, in talking to a mom of three, she said that it is because of these reductions that she is able to go from part-time to full-time work, because she can now afford to have two of her children in full-time day care, with one of her children in school.

In Nova Scotia, a mom whom I was talking to said that because of these fee reductions, she is not only returning to full-time work, but she breathes a sigh of relief when she goes to the grocery store. She is not as worried about making sure that she can afford to buy healthy, nutritious food for her family because of the significant fee reductions.

Most recently I was talking to a mom in my community of Burlington, Ontario. She explained that when she and her husband saw the 50% reduction in child care fees, they decided they would not have to give up their house. Financially it made sense to keep her child enrolled in day care. They would be able to afford their mortgage and both of them could keep working.

This initiative is having a real tangible impact on families across the country, and I could not be prouder to be part of a government that is delivering this important policy.

That brings me to today and the introduction of this legislation at second reading. I hope all members in the House are going to support it and get it through committee quickly, so we can cement this important legacy for Canadian families, children and women right across the country.

Let me talk a bit about what Bill C-35 would accomplish. It would provide support for the continued implementation of an affordable Canada-wide system by enshrining the vision, guiding principles and a commitment to long-term funding. It would enhance transparency and accountability by requiring the minister responsible to report annually to the public on progress being made on the system. It would establish in law the national advisory council, which, by the way, is having its first official meeting today in Ottawa. This legislation would also build on the early successes of the Canada-wide agreements.

We are enshrining into law the federal government's commitment to strengthening and protecting this Canada-wide system.

We are enshrining into law the federal government's commitment to strengthening and protecting these Canada-wide systems while respecting provincial and territorial jurisdiction.

Bill C-35 would build on the collaborative work we have undertaken with PTs and with indigenous peoples from coast to coast to coast, and it is driven by a shared interest, and close partnerships and collaboration. It respects provincial and territorial jurisdiction and the co-developed indigenous early learning and child care framework that was jointly released and endorsed in 2018 with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council.

By enshrining these principles and vision into federal law, we are building stability into the child care system, and not just stability but also predictability and commitment.

We want provinces, territories and indigenous peoples to know that the federal government is in there for the long term. Importantly, we want parents, families, child care providers and early childhood educators to know that the federal government is also there for the long term. That is so important with Bill C-35, because we have seen in the past, unfortunately, when in 2006 then-prime minister Stephen Harper ripped up the child care agreements with the provinces and territories. It was one of the first acts the Conservatives did when they came into government. We need to ensure we are doing everything we can to make it harder for any future government, like a future Conservative government, to take that away from families, to take that away from our children and to take that away from the Canadian economy.

Let me talk a bit about the Canadian economy, because child care is one of those amazing policies that is not just good, smart, feminist, social policy, but it is good, smart, feminist economic policy. For every one dollar invested in child care, the economy sees a broader return of $1.50 to $1.80.

It is estimated that the Canada-wide system could raise real GDP in our country by as much as 1.2% over the next two decades. An OECD report shows that improvement in gender equality and family friendly policies has boosted growth in per-capita GDP by between 10% and 20%.

In Sweden, for example, when it brought in universal affordable child care, female employment rates increased by almost 30%. The IMF estimated that closing the participation gap between Canadian men and women in the workforce could raise Canada's GDP levels by 4% in the medium term. That is $92 billion.

Gender equality, ensuring women have access to economic opportunities, ensuring our children get the best possible start in life, is not just good for us as a society; that is excellent for our economy.

Let us talk a bit about what that means in real terms. We talk about the macro picture, but when we look at what that means, we have an example in Canada.

Quebec is celebrating 25 years of universal day care. Quebec went from having the lowest female workforce participation in the country in 1998 to now having the highest. In fact, some of the highest rates of women with children under the age of four are working in the entire OECD. If Canadian women join the workforce at the same rates that Quebec women have over the last 25 years, that is an additional 240,000 workers entering our workforce today. That is an impressive number. Those are workers in Canada, people who want to be part of the workforce, but for economic reasons have not been able to justify it or make it work.

As I said, I have talked to moms all across the country for whom this is making the difference. This is really exciting. As to where this is going to set us up as Canada in our future, for our economy and, most important, for Canadians, the potential is unmatched.

I want to spend a bit of time talking about the workforce. We know there is no child care system in Canada without the talented, qualified, well-trained, caring early learning and child care workforce. I want to give a big thanks to each and every one of them. During the pandemic, they went to work so that Canada could keep working. We saw what happened when child care centres were closed. It meant parents were staying home with their children.

It is pretty hard. I do not know about other members, but I was home during the pandemic for the first six months and my two and a half year old was home with me. It is pretty tricky to get work done when parents have a two year old or a two and a half year old with them. Anyone who is a parent or has been a parent of a young child can attest to that.

Those child care workers went to work during the pandemic. They went when we needed them most. We need to recognize that, we need to say thanks and we need to ensure that we have the system in place to support them with good wages and that they have an environment in which they can thrive, grow and develop their careers as well.

When we talk about child care, we talk about the economic impact and the social impact, but we also need to talk about the impact that it has on our children. Being in a safe, secure place is important, one where they feel loved, where they feel cared for, where they are well taken care of, but also where learning is part and parcel of the framework.

The Minister of Finance likes to talk about setting up a generation of super kids in the country, and I could not agree with her more. As a mom who is so grateful to the child care workers who made it possible for me to do my job while my son was little, the absolute illumination that he had when he went to day care and the explosion in learning that I saw from him is one of those things for which I will be eternally grateful.

When we talk about child care, there are so many spinoffs that are important for our society and our economy. I like to describe it as a home run, because it is good for our children, it is good for our families and it is good for the economy.

Bill C-35 is going to help us cement the role of the federal government. It is going to ensure that we are there in the long run for Canadian women, families, children and Canadians in general. It is going to ensure we are setting the country up for the 21st century to take hold of those opportunities and ensure that every child in our country has the best possible start in life.

I hope that my colleagues from all parties in this place will support Bill C-35 and move it forward so we can provide that commitment and assurance to Canadians and their families that the federal government is there in the long term, that we support our children and women, that we are setting Canada up for success.

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Michelle Ferreri Conservative Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish everyone a happy new year. It is nice to be back.

It was wonderful to hear so many positive stories, and that is great, but it is not the reality of all the other parents who cannot access child care. How many of those families has the minister spoken to? What are the answers she is giving those families that have been on wait-lists for years, those who cannot go back to work because they cannot access affordable, quality child care?

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I hope my hon. colleague will be supporting this bill on the advancement of child care in Canada. It is an extremely important question and it forms part and parcel of the agreements that we signed with provinces and territories across the country.

I was one of those parents who was on a wait list and was nervous about whether I would get a space for my son, so I understand what that is like. It is why we have committed, with our provincial and territorial counterparts, to increase the number of child care spaces by 250,000 over the course of these first five-year agreements that we have signed. In fact, I have been in many provinces and territories over the past year announcing thousands of new additional spaces that have been created, thanks to the $30 billion of federal investments that we have put in place. Access to these spaces is a key pillar and it forms part of our initiative.

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the minister for her advocacy on behalf of families and child care services.

I believe it is important to support them. We are pleased to see that the government is of the same mind and has the will to take action. However, I will nonetheless point out that, in theory, social matters such as the management of day care is a provincial and not a federal jurisdiction. That is very clear.

Quebec already has a day care system and we are happy to have it. We are pleased that the government has decided to exempt Quebec from the federal government's centralizing policy on day care. I also want to point out that the government's approach is patterned after the Quebec model. That is an acknowledgment of the work Quebec has done and how advanced we are compared to the rest of Canada.

More specifically, I would like to know why, in her bill, the minister has exempted Quebec for only five years. In five years' time, Quebec's day care program will still be in place. It is already in place. This is a provincial matter, and I assume that she would like her bill to be in effect for more than five years.

Why is there only a five-year exemption for Quebec?

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, we have an excellent relationship with Quebec when it comes to early childhood education and child care. I have worked extensively with my Quebec counterparts on this issue.

As my colleague mentioned, Quebec's child care system has been a source of inspiration for us. We want the rest of Canada to catch up with Quebec and its system. We negotiated an asymmetrical agreement with Quebec for exactly that reason.

Bill C-35 fully respects provincial and territorial jurisdictions. It is based on the principles and objectives we have set out in the agreements with the provinces and territories.

What I understand from the Government of Quebec is that they are happy with this bill precisely because it respects provincial and territorial jurisdictions. It also demonstrates that the Government of Canada will be there for the long term and will ensure that it is not just five years' worth of payments—

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I must leave time for other questions.

The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I will start by saying how nice it was working alongside the minister in the drafting of this legislation.

This is good legislation, but not perfect. One concern I have brought up many times in the House is how early childhood educators historically, and I would say even now, have been underpaid and undervalued. Noting that this is critical work, noting that this is work that is vital for women across the country, does the member support adding in Bill C-35 an explicit commitment to fair wages and working conditions for staff in this sector?

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure working with my hon. colleague. I would note that she started her career as an early childhood educator, so her input has been invaluable in this regard.

It is important to reiterate that the legislation is complementary to the agreements we have signed with provinces and territories. Each one of those agreements does have a commitment to a wage grid, to benefits, to ensuring we are supporting the early childhood workforce. Of course, that is very much within the provincial and territorial jurisdictions, and provinces and territories decide what those wages are.

However, we are in constant dialogue with them and based on the last FPT meeting we had, there is a concerted interest from all my counterparts at the provincial and territorial level to ensure there are fair wages, that the workforce is included and supported, because they all understand that will be key to having a successful child care system.

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:25 p.m.
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Green

Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to start by saying I agree with and appreciate the minister for bringing forward this legislation so early in this session, as well as how important this legislation is. I also appreciate her comments about the importance of investing in the workforce. As we have heard from our colleague from Winnipeg Centre, this is an ongoing concern.

I will speak to the specifics in Ontario. The estimates are that we will need an additional 14,700 early childhood educators in Ontario by 2025-26. In the current agreement that the federal government signed with the Province of Ontario, the wage floor is $18 an hour, rising by one dollar per year until 2025.

Recognizing the talented folks in this workforce and the need to not only retain but also to recruit at these numbers, and since it is not just the Province of Ontario but also the federal government that has a responsibility, can the minister comment on what more needs to be done to ensure we are investing in the workforce and getting wages lifted higher?

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I could not agree with my hon. colleague more. We need to make sure we have a well-compensated and well-trained workforce.

In the $30 billion the federal government is transferring to provinces, territories and indigenous organizations, there is room for provinces and territories to ensure wages are keeping up and in some cases exceeding what expectations are to maintain that workforce. I will give you a couple of examples. Yukon has set a minimum wage for ECEs at $30 an hour. In New Brunswick it has been set at $23.40. B.C. has given a four-dollar-an-hour top-up to ECEs. Alberta has done two dollars an hour. Manitoba has come up with a provincial benefit plan.

There are many examples around the country of provinces and territories not only working with federal funds but also adding their own dollars to make sure that—

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I am going to allow for one more question.

I want to remind the hon. minister that she is to address questions and comments through the Chair and not directly to the members.

The hon. member for Fredericton has the floor. We have time for a brief question.

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Jenica Atwin Liberal Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, the legislation sets out a vision for a Canada-wide system in which all families have access to high quality, affordable and inclusive early learning and child care, or ELCC, no matter where they live in Canada. Are there are any challenges to meeting this goal, and if so, how is our government meeting that challenge?

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, yes, of course there are challenges to meeting this goal, but we have made sure within the pillar on inclusivity that we are working with provinces and territories to reach those places where child care is harder to access, whether that is in rural communities, remote communities or even in urban centres where there are child care deserts.

There are some really terrific examples, like in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where they are doing really innovative things in rural and remote areas. I was just in Nunavut, which is doing really interesting things to make sure there are enough child care spaces in all 25 of its communities. This is an important pillar to make sure we are reaching all Canadian families where they are, with affordable, high-quality and accessible child care.

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Michelle Ferreri Conservative Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Madam Speaker, as always, it is in an honour and privilege to speak on behalf of Canadians and the people of my community, Peterborough—Kawartha.

Before I begin, I would like to take a moment to recognize the life and service of Hazel “Hurricane” McCallion. She was what all of us inside of the House should aspire to be, which is fierce, fair and for the people.

“Rest in peace, Ms. McCallion. You made Canada better.”

Today, we are debating Bill C-35, an act respecting early learning and child care in Canada. As a mom and as the shadow minister for families, children and social development, I cannot understate the importance and value of affordable, quality child care. However, affordable, quality child care does not exist if one cannot access it.

As a shadow minister and critic, it is my job to speak up for all Canadians and point out what is wrong with the bill. It is my job to listen to the frontline staff and parents who are directly impacted by the bill and speak on their behalf.

I do not think we will find a Canadian who does not want what is best for their children. However, we must acknowledge that it is not the government’s job to decide what is best for one's child. Rather, it is the parent, the caregiver.

Every Canadian deserves to choose what works best for their family when it comes to child care. Every family dynamic is different, and our diversity and our culture are what make Canada Canada. What works for one family may not work for another. We all have different situations, circumstances and needs.

Bill C-35 would not offer choice for families. In fact, it would exclude many Canadians from accessing quality, affordable child care. This bill speaks exclusively to those who already have a child care space with a public or not-for-profit child care operator. It does not offer anything to families who have been on wait-lists for years. It does not offer anything for families who choose to raise their children at home, use a grandparent or access a private or home-run day care.

There is no freedom to choose in this bill, and there is absolutely no mention of how to manage the frontline burnout and labour shortage of child care providers.

Bill C-35 would not solve the problem of the staff shortages and the out-of-control wait-lists to access child care across this country. In fact, the bill would do exactly the opposite. It would increase the demand for affordable child care and leave parents with no access. This bill would subsidize the wealthy instead of prioritizing our most vulnerable families who need child care.

The bill specifically says, “enable families of varying incomes to benefit from affordable early learning and child care programs and services”. In a cost-of-living crisis, why is the Liberal government subsidizing the most wealthy?

This message is from Morgan, who sent it to me. She says, “I think my story is pretty common among new parents right now. I have three children, one in school and I have to go back to work in February from my latest maternity leave. I’ve been on the waitlist since I was 8 weeks pregnant and still won’t have any care for at least another year likely.” She asks whether she is just supposed to give up her career, her income, her pension and her benefits. She continues, saying, “I’m not sure how I am supposed to provide for my family with no income. Many daycares I have reached out to say they have had to shut down some of their rooms, meaning even less child care spots.”

Here is another story from an operator in Peterborough, Ontario. She says that they have a child in their preschool program who is eligible for the Canada-wide early learning and child care program, or, as many call it, the CWELCC, and who has a sibling in the senior before and after school program who is not eligible for CWELCC because of their age. Program eligibility, for those who do not know, is only for children under six.

The day care operator says that the parent fee for the preschool child is $19.85 a day, for up to 10 hours of care. The day care is open 7:30 to 5:30. This fee includes a hot lunch prepared by their cook, as well as two snacks each day, also prepared by the cook. For the senior before and after school child, the fee is $24 a day for a maximum of three hours and 45 minutes. This includes one snack per day.

She asks where the equity is in this. Families who have children over six are not entitled to CWELCC program fee reductions and therefore are paying more for under four hours of care than families who are entitled to a full day of care with a hot lunch and two snacks.

This example points out many of the flaws in the bill. What about parents who work shift work, are entrepreneurs or who work weekends? Where can they take their kids for child care?

Second, how would the bill create more spaces when the child care operator who has written this letter is located in a school, and there are physically no more spaces to put in the school?

Furthermore, how would this bill help with the labour shortage? There is no labour strategy in this bill.

Matthew Lau’s synopsis of this bill and the Liberals' failed attempt at child care is spot-on. He writes that the challenges are the same across the board and there are not enough qualified staff to keep all existing child care centres running at full capacity, let alone staff new spaces.

Bill C-35 has nothing in it to fix these problems.

Andrea Hannen, the Executive Director of the Association of Day Care Operators of Ontario, or ADCO, gives many examples of what we can expect with this Liberal flawed bill. She says, for example, that taxpayers and the families who use the program will wind up paying more and more for it, while all children will wind up getting less and less.

This bill, like most Liberal policy, says a lot of really nice things but gives zero details on how any of these nice things will be delivered or how they will be achieved. The Liberals love to promise unrealistic expectations, and then act shocked when they cannot achieve them. They also love to tell taxpayers to just trust them.

After eight years of this Prime Minister and seeing how badly Canadians are suffering, we do not trust them. The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario says there is a committed shortfall of $1.2 billion in 2026-27 based on the minimum federal and provincial commitment. We have barely started, and we can already see there is no sustainability plan here.

Susan Cake, chair of Child Care Now Alberta, an advocacy organization, says that there has been a giant frustration in Alberta about the lack of communication, that everybody does not know what is going on, does not know where funding is coming from and does not know where they are going to get money.

I want to take a minute right now. This is very important to listen to, because as members may have heard earlier, the minister talked about how this is such an advancement for feminism. This bill would do exactly the opposite.

Feedback from the Association of Alberta Childcare Entrepreneurs said that the majority of private child care in Alberta is operated by women, with a large number being immigrant women, and that the impact of this agreement and the intention of the federal government to prioritize the business model of child care rather than the affordability, accessibility or quality of care is having the opposite effect on women. It notes that we are seeing a women-led industry targeted and pushed out of business, and that women across our province are facing bankruptcy and losing their homes because they signed on to this agreement because they wanted and advocated for affordable child care.

The association also notes the creation of a two-tiered child care system. For example, one of its directors has a centre in Grand Prairie. She had a wait-list of over 400 families, so she decided to expand even though she understood the new spaces would not have access to the affordability program. Now in her centre she has her original 120 spaces with families paying an average of $13 a day, and 86 new spaces with families paying an average of $65 a day for the same care in the same centre. This is an unintended consequence of this child care program.

The written feedback also says that there are new centres sitting empty. They are fully operational and licensed, but because of their choice to be private operators, they cannot access subsidies for families. There are centres with wait-lists of 100 families but only four children attending, because the other families need the subsidy and cannot access it in that centre. These women who have invested their savings and taken the initiative to open centres and meet the needs of their communities are going bankrupt. They likely have signed 10- to 20-year leases with personal guarantees of their families' homes and assets, but the federal government is restricting them from having access to a fair market to operate their businesses. The message this sends is that the choice of these parents does not matter and that these women are collateral damage to meeting this Liberal campaign promise in an NDP coalition.

As the Association of Alberta Childcare Entrepreneurs has pointed out, we must have private child care along with public and not-for-profit centres to meet the demand and to offer the choice to fit what is best for families. However, the language and intention of this bill clearly leave private child care operators in the cold. The exact language from the bill reads that it is to “facilitate access to early learning and child care programs and services — in particular those that are provided by public and not for profit child care providers”.

How can we expect to meet the demand without private operators? We cannot. We need them, yet this bill clearly leaves out any representation from private operators on the national council. What does that say? It says the same thing the Liberals always say, namely that they will decide what is best. They will decide how to spend our money. They will decide who the representatives are at the table. They do not believe in the fair market or having freedom of choice. It is not right. It is not good leadership, and it is not a good long-term strategy for our country.

Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office projects that by 2026, there will be 602,000 children under the age of six whose families will want $10-a-day day care, but the province will only be able to accommodate 37,000 of them. That will leave 38% of children without access. Government estimates also suggest that by 2026, there could be a shortage of 8,500 early childhood workers.

In British Columbia, 27% of child care centres turn away children because of a lack of staff. One director, who oversees 13 child care programs that comprise 350 spaces, said that in the past two years, they have had to close programs temporarily, whether by closing for a day or two or shortening hours for the week.

In Peterborough, we have 4,200 licensed child care spaces in our city and county. There are 3,500 children on the wait-list. Frontline burnout is hurting our entire economy and contributing to our mental health crisis, as is not being able to access quality child care.

When the minister says that more women will be able to go to work, she is misleading Canadians. One cannot go to work if one lacks access to child care. One cannot help address our labour shortage without available day care spots. They will say they are going to create more spaces but give zero details of a plan for achieving that.

Bill C-35 does not solve these problems. It is not a child care strategy. It is a headline marketing plan.

Women are rethinking having children because of the cost-of-living crisis and because there is just no access to child care. I know many women who put their name on a wait-list before they were pregnant; now they have toddlers but no indication if they will ever get a child care spot. Accessing quality child care is one of life’s greatest stressors. Any mom or parent watching this knows that leaving their child with somebody is the ultimate stressor in life. Parents need choice about who to leave their children with. It is an indescribable stress.

Parents deserve access to quality child care; more importantly, our children deserve access to quality care. If we are not invested in our children's welfare, then what is our future? Children are our future. They are our most precious resource, and this bill does not put children first. It is a marketing plan.

The following is Meredith's story:

“I have been on a wait list for my 21 month old son since the day he was born, I have never come off of it nor have I received notice that I am coming to the top of any list, let alone some of the choices I feel would best suit our families needs. I’m now pregnant with my second and have already registered this baby on the list in hopes of having more success next time. I have spent countless hours on Facebook groups, asking friends, on paid service websites trying to find adequate care. It’s sad to me because I thought I would be choosing the center/provider that best suited our needs as a family, but it would appear that we are being forced to just accept whatever we get. I have also heard from friends who applied strictly for part time care who gave gotten calls from centres that only accept full time spots. This makes me question how many people are taking up spots on a list for full time when in reality they only require part time care? This seems like a simple issue to fix in the application process. In Facebook groups I see posts every single day of mothers and fathers desperately seeking care as their time on leave has run out and they still don’t have a reliable option. I consider myself lucky, I decided to leave my job after maternity leave and start my own business because I don’t feel I will ever be comfortable leaving my children wherever I get to the top of the list first. This has presented its own challenges as a full time parent & a full time entrepreneur, but at least I am not desperately seeking care left between feeding my family & staying home to care for my children”.

She goes on to state, “This entire thing breaks my heart as I also think that while there are certainly many dads highly involved in the search for care, it ultimately seems to fall on women who are now being forced to leave their careers and remain home with their children despite wanting to return to the workplace”.

It is really unfortunate that someone cannot be present with their children because they are so stressed out about whether they will be able to find child care and go back to work. They do not have a choice; they have to go back to work to pay for food because of inflation and the cost-of-living crisis.

In terms of poor planning, alongside not providing clear communication or details on this ideologically driven bill, we have reports coming from child care centres explaining that parents are being charged an extra fee because, as everyone watching knows, the cost of food has skyrocketed after eight years under the current Prime Minister.

As reported by The Globe and Mail, “Governments' daycare budgets didn't account for inflation, and it's affecting how kids are fed”.

Ashley Collins is co-chief executive officer of Compass Early Learning and Care, which operates 40 child care programs across Canada. She estimates that Compass has had to increase its food budget by up to 10%. She said, “There's so many multifaceted things like we need to do from an operational level – make sure that food can continue, but also our staff, being able to make sure we're still putting money into increasing wages”.

According to The Globe and Mail, “Compass programs will continue to look for sales on food and adjust menus accordingly rather than cut food offerings or add them as an extra fee”.

“How unfortunate would it be that centres are feeling like they have to add that extra fee at a time when fees are supposed to be going down,” Ashley Collins said.

There is so much wrong with this bill, and I cannot stress enough that Conservatives believe in freedom of choice for quality, affordable child care. Everybody wants that. However, this bill is flawed, and simply listening to parents, child care operators and frontline workers should have given the knowledge needed to fix it.

We just need to listen to the people who are impacted by this to know what not to do. Clearly, the Liberals believe that Ottawa knows best. Conservatives know that Canadians know best, not Ottawa bureaucrats. We are elected to serve the people, and service means listening and doing something that is better, not worse.

There are concrete policy decisions that can help families. Affordable and quality child care is critical, but if it cannot be accessed, it does not exist. It is great that we are having this conversation. It is great that we are recognizing how important affordable and quality child care is, but this bill falls very short on achieving results and details, as well as providing equal opportunities for families to access quality, affordable child care.

It is because we have listened to parents, frontline staff and operators across this country that Conservatives believe we can fix this. We do not want to leave Canadians without hope. We know how important hope is. We can offer the freedom for families to choose what is best for them.

The Conservatives will put forth strong amendments to address these glaring shortcomings in the legislation and ensure all Canadians can access affordable quality child care. Their children are important—

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I am sorry. The time is up.

Questions and comments, the hon. Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.