Mr. Speaker, last Friday, the minister of Human Resources Development ended his answer to my question on a potential Unemployment Insurance costs increase by inviting the Official Opposition to co-operate with him in a thorough examination of social programmes, and thus study the question of government's social expenditures as a whole.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind the minister of Human Resources Development that we should also take a look at the evolution of certain of our social policies, and I am particularly referring to the lack of a family oriented policy in Canada, since 1994 year is the International Year of the Family.
With the emergence of a certain form of neoliberalism in the eighties, a new view of family responsibility has come to the fore; it has now become an individual responsibility, thus freeing society from a seemingly embarrassing load.
Federal social policies are often based on a concept of the family where the husband is the only wage earner. Thus, we have a married exemption in our tax system. In our old age security plan, the wife's benefits are cut in half when her husband dies, but if the wife dies, her husband keeps all his benefits.
As a result of complex changes in the tax system and the deindexation of family and child benefits, a Senate committee says that, from 1986 to 1991, the federal government grabbed $3.5 billion out of the family and child benefits program. A Quebec family with two children and an income of $70,000 a year pays as much tax as a childless family with the same income.
Thus, a couple who chooses to invest in a pension plan will have generous tax deductions, but if it prefers to invest in the future of the Quebec nation by having children, it has to fend for itself without any help from Revenue Canada.
This lack of family oriented policies at the federal level carries tragic consequences. In 1991, the number of children depending on food banks in Quebec and Canada was estimated at 700,000. One year later, it was 900,000. Many teachers throughout our school system complain that they are now social workers because of a sharp deterioration in family life and because of the number of children they look after.
The following case shows the great inconsistency of federal family-oriented policies. In Toronto, a young mother, owner of a small business with nine employees, had to be on her job in her business two days only after having a baby. That person contributes to plans insuring a significant percentage of her employees' salaries when they are on maternity leave, but nothing in the social policies of the federal government provides for maternity leave for that small business owner. Such a situation is unacceptable.
The establishment of a universal day care program, maternity leave and special leave granted to mothers to provide care to a sick child are but a few of the issues that have to be debated in initiating a true reform of social programs, and especially the establishment of family oriented policy.
Simple things such as allowing children to have lunch at school so that they do not have to travel, offering flexible work schedules and offering a flexible transit system to seniors would also foster the emergence of a family oriented policy.
In the past, the federal government, and this includes the Liberal government, showed a lack of vision and a lack of courage towards Quebecers and Canadians with respect to family oriented policies.
We, the members of the Bloc Quebecois, are convinced that a review of our social programs starts with the development of a real family oriented policy in Canada as well as in Quebec. Whatever options the Liberal Party has, it is difficult for us to think that this government can ignore the fundamental changes that family structures have undergone in Canada and Quebec since the introduction of social programs.