Thank you, Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for some very interesting testimony.
I find it particularly relevant to listen to moms sharing with us their experience of what works and what doesn't. It's also interesting to share with the witnesses that we are just in the last days of a national discussion on a national poverty reduction strategy, and we're preparing a report on that. Melodie, you've shared how you experienced poverty and that social network that is supposed to help you, help moms, and help women. We've also heard from Anna out in Langley. We've heard from both of you what worked and what didn't.
I also want to thank Mark Gerretsen for raising this issue in Parliament, for listening to a constituent and presenting this very important bill.
MP Gerretsen was here a week ago and shared that in the budget, the government is giving 12 rather than the 15 weeks. He suggests that we not focus on that but rather on a national maternity assistance program, which is the second half of the bill, so that will be what my questions relate to.
This question is for Melodie and Anna. If you could give very specific recommendations to this committee, number one, do you support Bill C-243 and that Parliament establish a national maternity assistance program? What are the specific changes that need to be made? I'll just elaborate a little.
I heard that if you've already had a child—Melodie you've had a child, and Anna you have five—if another child comes along and you're not welding or not at work, then there are no sick benefits, no unemployment benefits, or any of these benefits that relate to your job. It makes it extremely difficult, then, from what I'm hearing, for a woman to decide to have another child. It's almost financially impossible.
We scratch our heads, as parliamentarians, asking why aren't Canadian women having more children? Well, maybe this is why. They just do not have the financial support to make that choice, to make motherhood a career choice. I think, Anna, you elaborated how important that is. That is a career choice. I think you shared that. How are you able to make that choice without the financial backing of a network?
Melodie and Anna, if you could both share practical suggestions with this committee on what we need to change to make it practical for women to make motherhood a career choice.