Mr. Speaker, I am glad to return to an issue I raised in June with the Minister of Human Resources Development when I asked him what plans he had in place to ensure that Canadians and their families would not be subject to the level of poverty that they are presently subject to.
We know from experience that Canada has to a very large degree eliminated poverty among its senior citizens. There is still a category of senior women who are subject to severe deprivation, but on the whole we have responded to that problem. We have essentially eliminated poverty among senior citizens, although quite clearly we have not done so with regard to our children. There are now 1.3 million children in Canada living in poverty, more than when this government took office. There are 2.3 or 2.4 million Canadians living on social assistance and 1.6 million living on unemployment insurance.
We clearly have a major problem in terms of our economy not working for those four million Canadians and in particular for those 1.3 million children.
In response to the minister when he talked about unemployment insurance-and I do not quite know why he did that-I want to return to the point that I made with him because I think Canadians need and this House deserves to know what specific plans the Minister of Human Resources Development has under way to eliminate poverty among young people and in particular young children. We know that this House in 1989 unanimously committed itself to eliminating child poverty by the year 2000. We also know that this House is unlikely to see any improvements in that regard as long as we continue in the direction we are taking.
All we have seen from this government are plans to cut billions of dollars from social programs spending at a time when Canadians are in record numbers experiencing difficulties.
We see a continuation of the Mulroney agenda where unemployment is blamed on the unemployed. The notion is that the problem is with the unemployed.
If you look at the documentation presented by the minister, you will see that his response to unemployment is to say that there is a problem in the employability of Canadians, that they need more training, more skills and so on.
We all know that we can do with more training. All of us in this House can do with more training. If there are no jobs for Canadians at the end of this training as is plainly the case at the present time, this training goes for naught. In particular the sort of training programs that have been put in place by this
government and other federal governments has cost enormous amounts of money to train the participants in the program.
If we look at the works program, we see a huge drop-out rate in the program. We see a huge cost in terms of training those Canadians. We see this in the context of further deep cuts to social program spending. We do not need to move to an American approach to social programs, which this government is continuing. It is a trend that the Mulroney government introduced.
We do not need that Americanized approach. We need a compassionate, caring approach. We need to look at countries that have been more successful than we have in dealing with those problems of poverty.
As we all know, only the United States has a worse poverty problem than Canada in the industrialized nations. We should look to those European countries which have taken a very much different approach to this problem, an approach which has enabled more and more citizens to live in dignity.
We have a choice in Canada. We can if we want to continue to slash programs as this government plans to do or we can instead focus on the core problem which is that we do not have enough jobs in this economy. This economy is not producing enough jobs for those Canadians who need them. We have no leadership in that regard.
The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Human Resources Development have said basically they will take a hands-off approach to this except for a couple of programs involving the youth and involving the infrastructure program. It has put some Canadians back to work but still left millions not working.
They said they will take a hands-off approach and let the private sector develop those jobs. Over the last 15 years the private sector has simply not done that. The private sector has not created the jobs that Canada needs. It requires a concerted approach from the government in conjunction with the provinces, in conjunction with business and labour and the various communities across this country.
The point I really want to make with the minister is that there is a need for urgency. We do have to come to grips with this problem of insufficient jobs in this economy. We cannot deal with the deficit unless we attack that problem.