House of Commons Hansard #257 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mmt.


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5:25 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, New Democrats vote no on this motion.

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5:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, I am voting yes on this motion.

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5:25 p.m.


Gilles Bernier Independent Beauce, QC

Madam Speaker, I will vote for the motion.

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5:25 p.m.


Sergio Marchi Liberal York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I was unable to be here for the first vote but I would like to be counted with the government on the second vote.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I declare the motion carried. Consequently, the bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

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5:25 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I know the House is scheduled to terminate Government Orders at 5.49 p.m. If you were to seek it I think the House would give its consent to call it 5.49 p.m. and to proceed immediately with private members' hour.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Is that agreed?

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Some hon. members


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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

The House will now proceed to consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Auditor General For The Family ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

moved that Bill C-322, an act to respecting the office of the auditor general for the family, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I count it a real privilege to rise this afternoon to lend my support to the Canadian family. I can think of few things in our country as important as the topic I am addressing this afternoon. In fact, if I raise my sights just a little higher, it is fair to say that worldwide few topics are as unifying as people's desire to look after their families.

The UN declaration that 1994 be the year of the family means that all of us, worldwide, need to care to preserve the family each and every year.

We have just gone through a distressing period in our nation and there may be more difficult times ahead before we are through. However, if strong families make a strong nation then today, more than ever before, we need strong families in Canada. I am proud to say that strengthening the family is the purpose of Bill C-322. Allow me to describe how this will happen by first describing the role of a familiar Canadian institution, the Auditor General of Canada.

As members know, Canada's auditor general does his excellent work by choosing perhaps a dozen government programs and departments every year and investigates them. He then reports any waste or inefficiency to Parliament. That is all he does. However, it seems to generate action in government. That is all the auditor general for the family would do too, except that it would investigate and report on behalf of the nuclear family in Canada.

The auditor general for the family would be a small, inexpensive office set up by Parliament. The legislation restricts it to just 20 people. By contrast, the current auditor general employs 600 people. Even the Status of Women Canada has 93 employees.

Many positive and important legislative changes over the years have been brought about by policy groups funded by the federal government to examine government programs as they affect that group. The government creates them when it perceives that a group is at risk in society and needs some help.

I mentioned the Status of Women Canada a moment ago because the secretaries of state also perform much the same function as would the auditor general for the family. We have secretaries of state for women, for youth, for veterans, for multiculturalism and science, among others. We have an auditor general for the environment. We have the National Council on Aging and the National Council on Welfare. We have advisory councils on forestry, on business, on libraries, on gender integration in the Canadian Armed Forces, on native peoples, on racial equality in the arts. I could go on and on.

What is there for the family? Precious little in the way of recognition by governments.

The kinds of advisory groups, or think tanks, I just mentioned are established when there is a broad public perception that a group is at risk. They have a definite policy focus and have a real effect on public policy.

Let us take the last annual report for the Canadian Council on the Status of Women as an example. That report is now two years old but it contains recommendations that sound very much like the government's agenda today. There were recommendations on a stalking bill, on female genital mutilation and on child custody, all issues that are understandably high on the government's list of priorities. In other words, by bringing these to the attention of the government they eventually became government policy and a government priority. I would like to see the family take a higher priority too.

If we wanted to create a group that would speak for the family, it begs an important question: Is the nuclear family in Canada really at risk? Polls reveal a broad public perception that the family is in trouble, but the federal government has not reacted to it. Perhaps it is because the Canadian family, at least in times past, has not been as politically correct an issue as hundreds of others that I could name.

A poll done by the Angus Reid Group for the International Year of the Family in 1994 told us that the public perceives the family as a group in crisis. Sixty-three per cent of all respondents to the survey agreed that the family is in crisis and 40 per cent agreed strongly. The poll told us more. Even more Canadians, 68 per cent, including single parents, agreed that the traditional two-parent family is the best type of family in which to raise children. There is certainly a clear, broad public consensus in Canada on the need to help the family, even the so-called traditional family.

There might be a broad public perception of need but are there other more objective indicators of need to which we can point? You bet there are. This year the Department of Human Resources Development, a government department, wrote a report called "A Social Outlook" that paints a picture of the family in crisis.

Family incomes are dropping. The poverty rate among two-parent families has risen from 9 per cent to 12 per cent in the last two decades. Families that would prefer the option to choose whether parents work outside the home find that they are forced into the

workplace whether they like it or not. Those that would like to choose to stay at home to look after the kids find that they cannot.

The study also shows that between 1960 and 1986 the time parents had to spend with their kids, that important bonding time with their own family, has fallen by 10 hours a week.

Families also suffer a discriminatory tax regime in Canada. Often it is cheaper to live together than it is to get married. The tax system also discriminates against homemakers.

A chartered accountant from New Brunswick has calculated that a single income family in which one parent chooses to stay at home will pay 36.2 per cent more in tax than a dual income family earning the same gross amount. The tax system clearly discriminates against those who choose to live in a more traditional arrangement, the kind of arrangement that most people in Canada, according to the Angus Reid poll, think is the best one to raise their children, especially at a young age.

Without tax reform, at the very least, we risk losing that vital middle class which forms the backbone of our nation. Unfair tax policy harming the family is the kind of policy that the auditor general for the family could investigate and expose, bring into the light so the government could deal with it.

There is much more evidence. A U.S.-wide study called the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth followed 14,000 people since 1979 and found that the children of single parents are almost three times as likely to be single moms and drop out of high school. They are less likely to graduate from college or university. One out of four babies in the States are born to single moms and this adds up to a cycle of continuing poverty, continuing lack of opportunity and obviously something that we would not hope for those families and those children.

The U.S. News and World Report ran its cover story on the family in February this year. This is how its story began. I will quote just the opening words: ``Dad is destiny. More than virtually any other factor, a biological father's presence in the family will determine a child's success and happiness, rich or poor, white or black. The children of divorce and those born outside of marriage struggle through life at a measurable disadvantage, according to a growing chorus of social thinkers''.

The article goes on to describe the various attempts in the States to reconnect fathers to their families. Fortunately, we are not yet as bad off in Canada, but the operative word there is yet. We may trail behind the States in our social trends, but we are on the same road.

For instance, the Vanier Institute for the Family tells us that Canada's divorce rate has jumped from being one of the lowest in the world in 1965 to being one of the highest in the world in 1988. It is about one-third higher than in Sweden and France. We are second only to the United States of America. The problem of family break-up will have and is having measurable negative effects on our economy, on our justice system and on government spending.

If the family is under threat in Canada, then our future is also threatened. This bill recognizes that the family is important, that it is suffering, that children are suffering because families are suffering. Families deserve a voice, a place of priority in the House of Commons and in the legislation dealt with.

You may think this bill is a fringe idea coming from a Reformer, Madam Speaker. I hope you do not think that, but perhaps somebody listening thinks such a thing. This is far from the case. The Canada Committee for the International Year of the Family was struck by the federal government to examine federal family policy during that year, 1994. In January 1995 it presented its recommendations. The Canada committee recommended the creation of a permanent federal secretariat for the family within the Government of Canada. Its mandate would almost be the same as that in my bill: "To serve as a catalyst, to initiate research and education on the changing structure and status of the Canadian family and the impact of federal policies and programs on the Canadian family; secondly, to work as a broker to develop tools and resources to aid in the development of harmonized policies and programs which support and strengthen families; and third, to prepare a family impact assessment statement on all significant new federal laws, policies and program initiatives".

These three functions correspond directly to the auditor general for the family's three main functions that I have in my bill: "To examine government programs, to propose changes to them if necessary, and to report to Parliament on all of its deliberations". This is a mainstream idea whose time has come. The government needs to act now to preserve, enhance and support the nuclear family in Canada.

I want to answer those who might say that the focus of this bill is too narrow, that it touches on the nuclear family as opposed to another more inclusive definition of the family. I have used the term nuclear family in the bill to designate what is commonly understood as a family in Canada.

This is in no way meant to be a pejorative statement or a condemnation of the numerous social arrangements which society accepts. There are many other acts of Parliament, for instance, that target particular groups for assistance and help without any pejorative connotation. For example, we have an act of Parliament granting benefits for unemployed workers, but this is not a jab at

those who have jobs. It simply targets one of the many groups in society with which Parliament needs to concern itself.

It is the same for the auditor general for the family. Society accepts many diverse living arrangements, as it should, but those arrangements are simply not the focus of this particular bill. The bill merely recognizes the importance of one needy group in our society, the nuclear family, and it attempts to enhance its well-being.

I have chosen the definition for the family found in the Dictionary of Canadian Law . It states: ``The family includes a man and a woman living together as husband and wife, whether or not married, in a permanent relationship, or the survivor of either, and includes the children of both or either, natural or adopted, and any person lawfully related to any of the aforementioned persons''.

This is similar to the definition used by other dictionaries and also the federal government and the governments of all 10 provinces. I realize that it is never a perfect definition but we do have to try to do something and certainly this is the standard definition found in the dictionary.

Finally, the nuclear family is hardly a narrow or isolated group. In the enormous study done by Murdock some years ago in which he studied 250 societies around the world, he found that "the nuclear family is a universal human social grouping. It exists as a distinct and strongly functional group in every known society".

Does this mean that all government programs must be focused only on the family or only on married folk or only on their children? Of course not. This bill merely recognizes the importance of the family in our society and it attempts to enhance its well-being.

I was reminded of the centrality of the family in Canada when I attended a wedding just a few weeks ago. The bride was beautiful. The husband to be was very nervous. He was determined to go through with his decision and his promise to stick to his wife for life. The father of the bride was pretty close to tears giving away his little girl, but he was also pretty close to shedding a few tears of joy as well. I should know because the father was myself and Karina is and always will be my not so little girl anymore.

Even though there were a couple of hundred people there, there was something very private, something very personal about that ceremony, and that was the transmission of values from me to my child, from the parents of the groom to him and the fusion of those values into what was really a new family. We watched the creation in a sense of another new family unit.

It is almost like running a race in which one runner passes the torch on to the next one and together each runner helps run the race for the whole team. If the torch is dropped, the race can still be finished but it is not the same. In fact, the race cannot be won.

The torch in this analogy is the invaluable inheritance of secure, committed families. The race is the life of every Canadian. Canadian families are too often too easily dropping the torch during the race. As a result, individuals within families are suffering and the whole country is suffering because our families are suffering.

In Canada 13 per cent of all families are single parent families. That is one million families. Nearly 30 per cent of all Canadian marriages end in divorce. Even if we lay aside the arguments for the family that are based on the emotional hardships suffered by broken families, we can point to strong economic arguments of why we want to promote and encourage the family.

Surely it is in the interests of all political parties, our government, our nation, to find ways to promote the family unit, where a loving, committed husband and wife nurture healthy, happy children. Within that unit they pass on the values of commitment and faithfulness and stability and responsibility to their own children, who will in turn carry the torch in their generation and will pass it on to the next.

Families are the root of a prosperous and peaceful nation. If Parliament is to cultivate the ground from which strong families grow, it must now begin to study the social environment for the family and begin to change its policies to provide a more favourable environment for families.

If the government for whatever reason finds that this auditor general for the family is unacceptable, that this idea just does not carry the day, I appeal to government members to create their own body that would perform a similar function. Listen perhaps to the recommendations of the commission which asked for a permanent secretariat on behalf of the family, but find some ways to encourage and enhance that important institution.

The family in Canada is in crisis. The time to act on its behalf is now. I hope all members will lend their support to the principle of an auditor general for the family.

Auditor General For The Family ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

York North Ontario


Maurizio Bevilacqua LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Madam Speaker, if there is one thing we have in common as members of this House, it is our shared belief in the value of family life and the central role the family unit has within our society. Families are at the very core of our social fabric.

That is why I congratulate my hon. colleague across the way for introducing this bill for the creation of an auditor general for the family.

I congratulate the hon. member. By bringing the bill forward he provides those of us on this side with an opportunity to comment constructively on this area of social policy. It also allows us to

review the many ways this government is already working to support individual Canadians in the pursuit of their social and economic objectives, including in meeting the commitments to their families.

Right at the start, I must express my disagreement with the importance attached to the nuclear family in Bill C-322. This term seems to define what constitutes today's Canadian family in too narrow terms.

It may be that a generation or two ago the traditional family structure was that of a male breadwinner and a stay at home mother who looked after the house and their children and all lived under the same roof. That may have represented a typical Canadian family but that situation has changed dramatically.

The nuclear family is no longer the dominant model in Canadian society. Now we have many different models: single parent families, blended families, extended families and so on.

The two parent with children household now comprises less than half the families in Canada. Our lifestyles have changed over the years since the nuclear family defined society and the direction of our social policy and any related legislation must reflect those changes.

It is our duty as legislators to base ourselves on today's realities and not yesterday's ideals. Deciding a certain model merits our attention more than another is tantamount to thumbing our noses at all those Canadians whose family structure does not fit within the model of the typical nuclear family.

Having said that, I want to emphasize that our government is not against the nuclear family. We agree with the preamble of the bill which says that the nuclear family is one of the foundations of Canadian society.

It is true that the nuclear family is one of the foundations of our society, but it is our opinion that the foundation of society is the family unit, and family units may take different forms. We agree that the nuclear family constitutes an important element in Canadian society, but we contest the fact that it is the only family structure that counts.

To this government all Canadians are important, whether they are members of a nuclear family or not.

Finally, as we have stated in the red book, the Liberal government's policy is to aim at greater equality of social conditions for all Canadians. We wish to broaden the outlook, not it narrower.

As hon. members know, it is the Liberal Party which has been responsible for the major social policy initiatives of this country over the years. It is Liberal governments, including this government, which have confirmed time and time again our belief in the value of the family as the basic unit of society. We have signalled the commitment through many of our programs in support of family members.

This is an important concept. Whereas my hon. colleagues opposite would single out members of only one type of family unit for attention, our government believes in looking at the needs of all Canadians and all types of family structures and in doing that, looking within a broad economic and social context and not within a narrowly cast definition of family.

It is our belief that if we want to assist Canadians to meet their family obligations, we must look at the overall environment within which people live and work. We must look at and respond to needs within the social, economic, technological and cultural environments in which individual Canadians as family members find themselves.

We do not feel that we must evaluate Canadians, or the effect of federal programs and institutions, in terms of the needs of this or that family model. If our goal is to improve the quality of life of all Canadians, we shall improve the quality of life of the members of all Canadian families.

Thus, we have programs designed to provide income assistance to families with children. That means all families with children are eligible, not just one kind of family. Income assistance to families with children is one of the oldest parts of Canada's social security system, dating back to 1918.

One of the most important elements is the child tax benefit, a non taxable income-related benefit for those with children under the age of eighteen years. It comprises a basic benefit, a supplemental benefit for children under the age of seven years, and a work income supplement.

One of the best ways we can help Canadian families is to enhance the ability of individual Canadians to find a job and keep that job. This is a central objective of our economic and social policy.

The objective is to help not only those Canadians who are part of one type of family or another, but all Canadians.

Very often, helping a Canadian to find and keep a job also means helping him or her balance work and family responsibilities. In today's world, increasing numbers of Canadians have to strike a balance between responsibilities toward their employers and family responsibilities. This is also a reflection of the changing structure of the Canadian family.

For example, over the past few decades an increasing percentage of women have remained in or re-entered the workforce while raising young children. At the same time there have been increasing demands for support for older relatives and friends leading to the creation of the so-called sandwich generation.

Under these circumstances, a good child care system becomes a vital necessity, and the possibility of assistance may have a considerable impact on the family.

Nuclear family or not, many Canadians are feeling these pressures. Governments need to be responsive to these developments in the workplace and their impact on families as well.

One of the ways our government is responding to those needs is the "child care visions" research and development program announced earlier this year by the Minister of Human Resources Development.

The child care visions program will lead to a better understanding of emerging child care issues as well as increased knowledge about the needs of Canadian families. One of the objectives of this program is to encourage greater involvement by all sectors of society in meeting child care needs.

Once again, we view these issues in the broad context of economic and social policy needs and not in the narrower context of a family definition. There are other programs in place and under development to support workers to meet their family responsibilities.

In the very near future, the Minister of Human Resources Development will be meeting with his provincial counterparts to discuss the best possible ways to take care of our children. This will be a very important initiative for this government to help the family.

Auditor General For The Family ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


André Caron Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to the bill standing in the name of the hon. member for Fraser Valley East and entitled, an act respecting the office of the Auditor General for the Family. The hon. member made an excellent presentation and explained very clearly his reasons for proposing this legislation.

The purpose of this bill, after a preamble that stresses the importance of the nuclear family and states that Canada should encourage, support and protect it, is basically to appoint an Auditor General for the Family who would examine federal policies and make recommendations to ensure that the federal government encourages the development of the nuclear family.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development made it very clear that this bill is well intentioned. No one in this House wants to diminish the role of the family in our society, and everyone wants children to have a family in which they can develop their potential. The bill would, however, create a number of problems.

First, there is the definition of family. The bill refers to the nuclear family, the traditional family that is still very important. This is the family where there is a father, mother and children. However, for the past 20 or 30 years at least, we have seen changes in the family structure in Canada and Quebec.

We see families with only a father, or only a mother. We see families made up of individuals who previously belonged to other families. If we adopt the bill as presented by the hon. member for Fraser Valley East, this would mean ignoring a number of families that play just as important a role in bringing up their children as the nuclear family. These families would, to a certain extent, be discriminated against or overlooked.

My colleague, the member for Fraser Valley East, said this would not preclude steps being taken to foster the development of other kinds of families, but the fact remains that if we take the trouble to appoint an Auditor General for the Family who will be dedicated to the well-being of nuclear families, as it says in the bill, we are excluding a certain number of families. As many as 20 per cent of the families in this country do not correspond to the description of a nuclear family.

Yet it is in these families that children are often likely to need special programs. Not because their families are less competent than other families, but because the responsibilities of a single father or a single mother are tremendous. I think there is a case here

for government support. We see no indication in the bill of how these families would be helped by adopting this legislation.

The real problem, and the hon. member made this very clear, is the children. We want children to develop in a satisfactory family environment. I think that a satisfactory family environment, at least for many people like me, in the Bloc Quebecois, is first of all an environment in which there are sufficient resources to provide for the children's development, to clothe them, feed them and educate them. That is the kind of family environment in which a child has a chance to develop its potential.

I think that any steps we would want the Canadian government to take should be based on fighting poverty and maintaining social programs, if we want to support children who live in a family environment. It is vital to be clear on the problem: child poverty and family poverty cause young people to have health, social development and education problems. Therefore, I do not think the bill before us, despite the hon. member's good intentions, will contribute to improving the quality of children's lives in Canadian families.

Another problem I notice in reading the bill-and I apologize, Madam Speaker, perhaps many members in this House have heard this argument, these remarks, too often for their liking-but are again looking at a jurisdictional conflict between the provincial and federal governments.

In my opinion and in the opinion of many of the Bloc members, matters to do with family, marriage and families' private lives are more matters of provincial jurisdiction. So, once again, there would be a degree of conflict between an organization, an office of the auditor general, at the federal level and provincial institutions. Some provinces have family secretariats.

So again, we have not progressed from the stage where the federal and provincial governments often take contradictory or parallel measures, to the detriment of families and children needing care and support.

Even my colleague from the government said in his speech that daycare services should be set up. This would perhaps be more important at that point for the well-being of children living in a family setting. Daycare services, however, come under provincial jurisdiction. So we face the same dilemma, we are in stuck in this situation. I think there comes a time to put a stop to it.

Finally, and my colleague for Fraser Valley East mentioned it as well, there is the matter of taxation, a problem that can be detrimental to family life. Every year, in Quebec, as in Canada, there are reports and studies which tend to demonstrate that people with families are disadvantaged from the taxation point of view.

This leads us to again bring up the question of tax reform in Canada. Every year we hear the Minister of Finance, people from the health department and human resources development, government members saying that, yes, we will have to address the taxation issue in order to help families and to ensure greater equity, greater fiscal justice, in Canada. Good intentions still and again, but we have seen nothing concrete in the two years that we in the Bloc have been here.

We will vote against a measure such as this. The first reason, as I said at the start, is that it is aimed at the nuclear family and we believe, in light of recent changes-in the past ten, fifteen, twenty years in Canada we have seen major changes-we must not give preference to the nuclear family, despite all of its merits over the centuries, which it continues to have.

Second, this is an area where overlap with provincial jurisdictions is such that, in the long run, it would only fuel further argumentation and might cancel out certain pro-family clauses in provincial legislation.

Let me state once again that I am very much aware of the good intentions of the hon. member for Fraser Valley East. However, for the reasons I have just set out in my address, I personally, and the members of the Bloc Quebecois, will oppose such a measure.

Auditor General For The Family ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Roseanne Skoke Liberal Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today in the House in support of private member's Bill C-322, an act respecting the auditor general for the family.

The bill would establish the position of the auditor general for the family, tasked with identifying and examining federal programs, exposing programs and policies detrimental to the well-being of the nuclear family in Canada, and recommending changes through an annual report to Parliament. The office would be analogous to the auditor general's office, serving the same function on behalf of the nuclear family in Canada. Unfortunately, this bill is non-votable.

I congratulate the hon. member for Fraser Valley East for taking the initiative to advance this private member's bill in defence of the rights of the traditional family.

On many occasions I have spoken both in the House and in public forums across the nation in defence of the rights of the traditional family. Unfortunately, it is not enough to just speak about family, family life, and family values issues. It is time the House gave formal recognition to the rights of the traditional family.

The family unit is the basic institution in life and the solid foundation upon which our forefathers have built this great nation. The protection of families, family life, and family values must be a priority with the government.

The conventional terms of debate in matters of political, social, economic, and legal issues tend to focus on individual rights and the rights of the state and not the rights of the family. This is unfortunate and must change, for the family is the most important reality in our lives.

The rights of the family are being seriously undermined and eroded. Families have inherent rights. Families have inviolable rights. Families existed before the church. Families existed before the state.

Parliament has no jurisdiction to redefine traditional family or to enter into the realm of sanctity of marriage or sanctity of life. It is important to be reminded that family is the basic institution of life. Life begins from the moment of conception and continues until natural death. The inherent and inviolable rights of family must be protected, defended and safeguarded by Parliament.

Bill C-322 is offering the government a mechanism to identify, examine, expose, and amend policies and legislation that encroach on the rights of the traditional family.

Parents are the primary educators of their children and are solely and fundamentally responsible for the emotional, psychological, physical, social, spiritual and moral development of their children. It is time the government funded the family and stopped funding agendas designed to undermine and destroy traditional family values.

For the government to promote and encourage institutionalized child care by providing tax benefits is both inequitable and unjust. It is removing the economic freedom and flexibility of families to make a conscious choice of what is in the best interest of their children and their family by imposing an economic hardship on single income families.

The traditional two-parent family is under relentless attack from special interest groups and others who regard the traditional family as an impediment to their goals. For example, the feminist agenda requires careful scrutiny, as the continuous quest to conquer the alleged male oppression of women has placed pressure on society to move the focus from family rights to individual rights and rights of special interest groups. The advancement of the feminist agenda in government policies has advanced an ideology predicated upon equality of women that is more concerned with achieving formal equity and has forsaken substantive equity. By doing so, the feminist movement has done a great disservice to women, motherhood, to our children, and to the traditional family.

The Canadian position advanced at the Beijing conference appeared to be advancing and protecting the equality of women. However, the Canadian position that was advanced called for gender, not the family, to be the most important criterion for determining government policies.

It is the feminist position that family is the initiator and cause of the inequity between men and women, together with their failure to recognize the importance of the role of women and motherhood within the traditional family unit. It is against this relentless attack upon the traditional family that government must protect and safeguard.

In conclusion, the family is the basic institution of life and the solid foundation upon which our forefathers built this great nation. The protection of family, family life, and family values must be a priority with the government.

Auditor General For The Family ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-322, an act respecting the office of the auditor general for the family, developed and sponsored by my colleague from Fraser Valley East.

The Reform Party has long recognized the importance and value of the Canadian family through our policies and actions, such as we see here today in Bill C-322. As my colleague earlier so well stated, few topics are as important to this nation at this time.

This bill seeks to establish the office of the auditor general for the family. The mandate of the auditor general is based on the premise of evaluating and assessing the impact, performance, and effectiveness of government policy, programs and administration.

Clause 4 of this bill outlines this proposed auditor general's duties. The auditor general for the family shall examine federal programs and institutions to determine their impact on the nuclear family in Canada; expose programs and policies that are detrimental to the well-being of the nuclear family; and recommend through his annual report to Parliament changes to federal government programs and policies that would enhance the well-being of the Canadian nuclear family.

Like the Auditor General of Canada, the auditor general of the family would be an official officer of Parliament and would report to the House on an annual basis. The auditor general of the family would also be empowered to make special reports to Parliament on "any matter of pressing importance or urgency" as outlined in clause 5 of the bill.

As I alluded to in my opening remarks, the family is the most fundamental institution in society. The family nurtures its members and provides for the security and needs of its members. The family provides for the transfer and protection of our values, our heritage and our culture. The family provides the stability and the prosperity

of society. It is most appropriate to think in terms of an auditor general in assessing the well-being of Canadian families.

Over the past decade the Canadian family has been under increasing social, political and economic pressures. These pressures originate from many facets of government policy direction. For example, the mismanagement of our nation's finances has created tremendous pressure both on the earning power and even the job availability of Canadians and their families.

The average family income in 1984 was $43,204. In 1993 it was $43,225. After tax income has actually fallen 6.5 per cent from 1989 to today. The tax bite out of money earned is over 30 cents on the dollar. The facts indicate that it requires almost double the paid working hours to support a family as it did 20 years ago. Translated into action that means two income earners in a family as opposed to one simply to survive.

Sixty-two per cent of mothers with children below the age of three are now in the workforce compared to thirty-nine per cent in 1981. Economic pressures can be devastating to family stability.

A recent study has found that two-thirds of parents presently experience moderate to severe levels of tension in balancing work and family commitments. According to a recent study teen suicide rates for young men has quadrupled since 1960. According to UNICEF in 1995 we now have one of the highest rates of teen suicide in the world after New Zealand and Finland.

Violent youth crime has been shown to have doubled since 1986. Meanwhile our divorce rates have risen tenfold to where Canada is second only to the United States with one divorce for every 2.4 marriages. Statistics such as these reveal what can only be described as a social revolution taking place in the heart of our homes. We as legislators in the House must do what we can to strengthen and improve the condition of Canadian families.

What concrete measures has the government taken to improve the state of families in Canada? Where are the legislation, the tax relief, constructive and effective programs? Where is the sincere commitment or are mere platitudes enough?

The Liberal government has been tragically absent and worse yet in some cases culpable in this crisis. Citing facts as we heard a few minutes ago that less than half of Canadian families are dual parent with children is grossly misleading, or saying that we must face reality and do nothing about ailing families.

Auditor General For The Family ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Mary Clancy Liberal Halifax, NS

Why is it misleading? Finish the clause. Why is it misleading?

Auditor General For The Family ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

To answer my colleague's question, two-parent families with children now compose approximately 80 per cent of families in Canada. That will answer my colleague's question.

Auditor General For The Family ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Mary Clancy Liberal Halifax, NS

According to whose statistics?

Auditor General For The Family ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

I ask my Liberal colleagues if they walk into a village that has been ravaged by some disease whether they would simply walk away from those who are suffering while muttering something like reality must be faced.

I shall highlight two specific and current examples of some issues that the auditor general of the family could examine.

I recently attended the world conference in Beijing. I was there to ensure that the views of the family and of family life were represented within the Canadian delegation and the conference itself. At the conference our government committed to the Beijing platform for action which requires that the government implement over 500 actions in the next five years. Although the conference was supposedly about women, the document introduced barely mentions family and when it does it is often depicted as a place of oppression and violence.

One of the actions discussed deals with children's rights. The document elevates children's rights above those of parents, including unrestricted access to "reproductive health services and education" and confers upon our children so-called sexual rights. Parental prerogatives and authority are replaced routinely with government and bureaucratic intrusion. The document ignores the value of family relationships, seeking to use words such as caretaker or girl child in place of beautiful words like mother and daughter.

This platform for action has not been tabled in the House. It has not been debated and it has not been examined by members of the House. In short, it has simply not received the scrutiny that it deserves. It is a Liberal government endorsed product without any reference to the Canadian people that will have and has a profound effect and impact on the Canadian family in society.

A second example is also related to the Beijing conference. Before the conference started the Secretary of State for the Status of Women publicly released a document entitled "Setting the stage for the next century, the federal plan for gender equality". The plan was released as the government's position on the objective of the conference while it simultaneously instituted gender equality and gender based analysis throughout the 24 departments and agencies of the government. I quote the plan from page 17:

A gender based approach ensures the development, analysis and implementation of legislation and policies with an appreciation of gender differences.

It makes gender, not family, a priority in all policy development and seeks to deconstruct "stereotypical roles" and replace them with a social revolution that shakes the very foundation of the traditional family. In dismantling barriers that supposedly impede the progress and equality of women, it denies the value of women and families anywhere outside the workplace.

The plan and its implementation would have far reaching consequences for families and society. That is what the minister intended when she wrote that "every aspect of our lives is being reshaped" by the plan. It is sad but true.

If there were an auditor general of the family he would be able to assess the impact of programs like the platform for action, report his or her findings to the House, make recommendations to the government and the House, and raise the profile of these issues. This Reform bill would do much toward attaining that goal in terms of providing information about the family and introducing greater accountability to the system.

Reports on the family would generate interest in family issues. They would cultivate a culture of respect for the Canadian family that is sorely lacking in federal legislation and throughout the federal government.

These are basic, fundamental and significant accountability measures that I believe will expose an anti-family agenda endorsed by the Liberal government. An auditor general would strengthen and improve the condition of the Canadian family.

Let me conclude by stating that Bill C-322 will do much to establish a family first philosophy that will establish a culture of recognition and respect for the Canadian family within government and here in Ottawa.

Moreover, by establishing an auditor general of the family it will do much to ensure that family friendly policies are developed and implemented. Current policies and programs would be examined from the perspective of benefit or harm to the family and not for special interest groups.

It is with these considerations that I urge the House to support the bill developed wisely by my colleague from Fraser Valley East.

Auditor General For The Family ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Halifax Nova Scotia


Mary Clancy LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak however briefly on the bill which I do not support.

I am a feminist. I am a very proud feminist. I am very proud of the government's record, particularly at the recent Beijing conference, particularly on supporting the plan of action, and most particularly on the matters mentioned by my hon. colleague with respect to setting the stage for Beijing and gender analysis, a policy which is long overdue.

I do not say that just to be combative. I do not say it just to disagree with my hon. colleague over there, or indeed with my hon. colleague from Central Nova. I say it because I think there is a deep misunderstanding in certain segments of society.

Before I became a feminist and before I became a parliamentarian I was a woman, a daughter and a granddaughter. I am still all those things. I come from an amazingly wonderful family. I was brought up by a single parent. My father died at the age of 39, leaving mother with heavy burdens because there was no medicare. My mother educated herself and she educated me. She brought me up to believe in tolerance and equality for all. She also brought me up within the context of a larger extended family, those aforementioned grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins to the third and fourth degree. It was a typical Nova Scotia and Cape Breton family.

On behalf of feminists across the country I resent the insinuation that we are not family oriented. Because we believe in gender equality, because we believe in freedom from fear and freedom from violence, because we believe in pay equity and employment equity, because we believe women hold up half the sky, I resent the theory that we should be told we are anti-family. We are not anti-family. We are the people who hold the flame every bit as much as my hon. colleague across the floor or my hon. colleague from Central Nova.

On this side of the House there are mothers, grandmothers, married women, single women and divorced women who have children of their own or who are loving godparents, aunts or whatever to many children. We care and we care deeply. No one has the right to equate feminism with an anti-family stand. No one has the right to question the way we feel about our families.

I love my family as much as I love my country and the two are interchangeable. It is shameful for anyone to suggest otherwise.

Auditor General For The Family ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I take the few remaining moments in this private member's debate to say that I am very proud to be part of a political party, an organization which stands unashamedly for the family.

As the hon. member opposite just said, family is very important. There is no doubt in anyone's mind in the event a father is taken away by death or even by divorce that there are many additional hardships on the mother who is left to raise the family as a single parent. I cannot help but say that we are not in any way desirous of adding any more hardships to the person who already has so many.

I presume I will have more time when this debate resumes.

Auditor General For The Family ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 96(1), the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

It being 6.30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.30 p.m.)