Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address the government's proposed social policy review today. I have been pleased to take the charge the government has suggested to participate in fostering informed public debate by taking up the debate in my constituency in the last several weeks.
Today I would like to spend the majority of my time on the issue of the family as it relates to child care. First let me echo the surprise and concern of some of my constituents as I talked to them in the past while.
First, when the whole social security program was presented, including old age security, the CPP and federal government transfers to provinces for established programs and equalization, the people in my community were convinced that surely we cannot avoid reducing expenditures in social program areas, as this represents a very major portion of government expenditures.
In fact at present rates of growth in these very programs, social program expenditure and debt service charges alone will exceed our total revenue in government within just a few years. Cuts must be made. However, they feel that taxes must not be increased, specifically as relates to our CAP. They were shocked to hear that the federal government forbids a work component in any welfare assistance.
There were a few things they were shocked about. They were shocked to hear of the unsecured liability of over $500 billion, as great as the federal debt, in the CPP program alone. They were angry at a government that would possibly consider taxation of RRSPs when its own security programs for seniors, including the old age security program, are becoming totally unsustainable.
Changes must be made to provide a social security system that addresses the real needs now and for the future of our citizens.
As we speak of the future, I would like to spend the majority of my allotted time on the foundation for that future. The Reform Party believes in the importance of strengthening and protecting the family unit as essential to the well-being of individuals in society.
The family, I believe, is the fundamental building block of our society. Not only is it the best institution for the transfer and protection of values, of culture and of social stability, it is the very best institution for the practical realization of our social policy renewal.
I stand distinct in this House today in the fact that my background has basically been one of a homemaker. I have heard in this House people complain about different programs that government proposes or that are actually in existence that make one spouse dependent on another.
I am not sure that is always a bad idea. A dependency in our social structure between people especially if those people can create a unit that will indeed strengthen the base of society is not a bad thing. There is strength in numbers. There is strength in combination of talents. There is strength in bringing viewpoints together.
Our society must be built on values such as commitment and understanding, shared goals and willingness to sacrifice. These things are epitomized in our families and they should be honoured in that situation.
Recently while attending the Standing Committee on Justice concerning changes to the Young Offenders Act I was not at all surprised to hear a witness remark that he felt that government legislation had worked against families.
I see it often in my constituency office in stories from distraught parents as to how those provincial and federal laws, their programs and their bureaucracy have affected their children, their ability to make a living and even their hope for their future.
Short term planning and ever escalating government programs have removed authority from parents. They have skewed their responsibilities in all directions and even hinted that perhaps they should not even work together in the home, it is better to work outside the home, and then they diverted their energies from their families into basic economic survival.
With the social policy review, once again the government proposes new and bigger programs that will adversely affect
families. Even presently according to the children's bureau federal spending on children exceeds $15 billion a year.
Again much of the government's social policy focus is not on families but on children and more specifically to our discussion today the issue of the best care for our children. Like all Canadians, I would like to see the most effective means available to create opportunity for the families of these children.
This solution, however, may not be-I do not believe it is in government programs-only addressed to children. Children are a part of families.
Specifically as relates to child poverty, the backgrounder to the discussion paper reads: "The very best way to fight child poverty is for parents of poor families to have a job". Given the present levels of government debt and spending, potentially made even worse as I have mentioned by increased government programs, let us take a closer look at this statement.
What happens when a family gets a job, particularly when a single parent family gets a job? May I suggest that single parent families or one earner families have a very difficult time in making ends meet even now. Let me explain.
Recent statistics out of Port Moody-Coquitlam, my home riding, tell us that over 80 per cent of families are composed of a husband and wife and 12 per cent to 16 per cent, depending on the community, are single parents. Surprising to some, this actually is quite consistent with out national statistics.
Nationally approximately 80 per cent of families are dual parents. Twenty per cent are single parents and that is up from approximately 17 per cent in 1981. Of concern are the low income families, that is those that fall below the StatsCan low income cut off point.
What I found interesting was that over one-half of single female parent families, precisely 51.6 per cent, are low income when they work. They have a job but they are still low income. Almost one-quarter of one earner dual parent families are low income. These tell me that a job alone is not enough. One earner is not enough.
What is there in this make-up that encourages the single parent to actually get a job? There is not much. Over half of them will still be in a low income category.
Given our present unacceptable high taxation directly resulting from continued government debt, spending and continued government program creation this poverty trap cannot be solved by a job alone.
Recently during consultations in my riding I had a long discussion with a single mom. She already was having to do dishes at two o'clock in the morning after juggling work, child care and unfortunately right now time with a sick elderly parent. She was asking me what more can she do. When I said to her that the family should be the primary care giver she asked me if we were asking her to do more. She just could not comprehend her ability to do more than she is already doing.
However, it is ever increasing government spending that will end up asking her to do more in the long run. Less and less of what she earns when she is working will be put toward her family. It is decreased government spending, decreased government programs at all levels that will actually free her to make more decisions and to apply her time the way she should.
We are simply asking that the government do less and allow her greater choices with her consequently saved tax dollars. Such savings would allow individuals such as this single mom to be more self-reliant. Families would be able to choose their child care. Communities would benefit from the increased local resources and businesses would thrive and share in programs to support their local needs. This is a real long term and far reaching solution.
Government economic and fiscal policies not only affect the income levels of Canadians, StatsCan figures reveal the average middle class after tax income was $39,500 in 1980 and by 1991 that figure had dropped to $37,200. Government economic policies have actually been instrumental in forcing dual parent families into dual earner families simply to make ends meet. Presently most Canadian parents are in the workforce including those with preschool children because of the demands of taxes in their lives.
The federal government presently spends more than $400 million every year on institutionalized day care. Its red ink book promises $720 million more tax dollars over three years on subsidization or the creation of up to 150,000 new child care spaces. The 1994 budget promised $360 million tax dollars toward a national day care program over two years if economic growth hit 3 per cent this year.
Reformers totally reject such a program regardless of our economic growth. Child care should be a personal choice. I along with many Canadians believe that the very best care is in the home. Canadians reflect that in their present decisions. According to a 1994 Statistics Canada report less than 40 per cent of child care presently takes place in day care centres.
In my riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam the clear choice of child care for most parents is to have their children in the care of a sitter, a neighbour or a relative. Private child care is a natural part of many neighbourhoods. Moms with young children can opt to care for their own children and the children of working neighbours. Communities can work together. Child care needs are met in the communities.
The government's proposal would create unnecessary spaces at a high cost to the taxpayer. Subsidization exclusively for their programs would coerce participation in government facilities over more casual arrangements as well as create yet another
penalty against that parent who chooses to stay home to raise his or her own child out of their own convictions.
Relating to the government child care activities in the national day care program, let me read yet another interesting quote from the social policy review discussion paper: "Linking child care and child development could represent a comprehensive and preventative approach to social problems at the earliest point in life. Rather than using our money to rectify social problems which eventually occur as a result of a lack of support or security for young children, investment at the front end could save us enormously in both human and financial costs 10 to 20 years down the road".
The parent state seems alive and well in this government's agenda. What I read here is a government that feels it is a better parent than a parent of the child. It is no secret that failed full employment policies and failed nanny state systems of the past 10 to 20 years are now being lived out through social turmoil in the former Soviet Union. It proved, and it will be proved again, that the state is not the best parent. A healthy family with a full choice for child care is the very best way to create a healthy society.
We propose that child care programs must subsidize financial need and not the method of child care chosen. Any such subsidy must be directed to the children and to the parents, not the institution and professionals, in order to allow a full choice of that care including the choice of the parent to stay home.
Surely a government which would consider direct payment of fees to students in its latest program of student fee transfers would consider the validity of a direct payment of child care costs to the parents of the child.
We support the regulation of day care standards but at the provincial level. It is at this level that medical and social services and the decisions that go with them are made. These relate directly with the needs of day care regulations. More fundamentally, as so much of the issue of the need for child care stems from economic factors, we support the concept of income splitting between legally married couples to help support and nurture families. Why should a family with a single wage be penalized with higher taxes than dual earners with the same total income?
Another more possibly distant solution would be a system of flat tax for all Canadians. I am encouraged as members from both sides of the House investigate this as a possibility. Within such a system accommodation could be made for the needed care of children through social assistance program support where it is needed, at the level closest to that need.
This government can continue to promote short term solutions. More government programs will demand more taxpayer dollars. The need for the increased taxpayer dollars means less money for individual use. Decreased disposable income will create fewer real jobs and less incentive to work and in turn will create more poverty, which in turn will create more poor children.
We need long term vision for the solutions. We reject a national day care program. Fewer government programs will allow individual Canadians to have choice and self-reliance. Families and their importance in our society will be enhanced for stronger communities.
We speak often of citizenship and the necessity of participation in the community. It is time the government dropped the rhetoric and faced reality. I believe, and may I add that single mom agrees with me, that our sense of citizenship and belonging will come through our strength as families and our participation as families in our communities.