Mr. Speaker, I welcome the interest of the hon. member in the child care issue. It is a matter of great concern to all parties in the House. Whatever our political stripes, many of us have had to confront the challenge of assuring quality care for our own children.
For all his concern, I cannot support the member's motion which suggests that the government should not spend public money on non-parental day care initiatives. This measure would restrict rather than improve child care choices for Canadian families. Such a proposition is not only unreasonable but unrealistic in today's world. I emphasize unrealistic. It seems to me that the member and his friends are still operating as if they were in the 1950s and not in the world that we live in today.
Before debating the merits of this motion I am obliged to point out that the delivery of child care services as well as the regulation and licensing of child care falls under provincial jurisdiction. The federal government indirectly funds social service programs such as child care through the Canada health and social transfer.
Unlike its predecessor, the Canada assistance plan, the CHST does not attach conditions about the way those federal funds are spent. Each province has the discretion to determine the level and nature of funding for child care. Most provinces ensure that subsidies are directed to those in greatest need, particularly low income families.
Federal involvement in child care includes: the child care expense deduction; under the Employment Insurance Act part II, funds can be directed toward supporting child care expenses; the First Nations and Inuit child care initiative; and finally, the child care visions research and development program.
In areas where the federal government does have influence, it has taken a very flexible approach. Canadian parents are able to decide how best to meet their individual family needs. This government strongly supports parental choice, not some sort of weird interest in telling people that they have to stay at home whether or not they would like to. If that was their choice, a lot of people would, but obviously in today's environment that is not always the case.
The family of the 1990s is very different from the traditional two parent, stay at home mom variety many of us grew up with. Clearly a one size fits all approach to child care could not begin to meet the many demands facing dual income families, single working parents or adults trying to move off social assistance and into the labour force. Accessible and affordable quality care outside the parental home is crucial to these people.
This government recognizes the challenges facing Canadian families. That is why there are no stipulations as to the type of care that can be declared under the child care expense deduction. Families can claim any form of non-parental child care so long as they provide receipts for their expenses.
The federal government has introduced a number of new measures that support families with children. Changes to child support regulations in the Income Tax Act will protect the interests of children by ensuring that non-custodial parents live up to the responsibilities and provide child support payments.
The maximum annual level of the working income supplement designed to help low income parents meet the extra costs related to working will double over the next two years from $500 to $1000. Starting on January 1, 1997, an innovative family income supplement will increase employment insurance benefits for low income claimants with children. These measures complement the child tax benefit which is specifically targeted at low to middle income families.
Nowhere, and I stress nowhere, is the need for federal support greater than among Inuit and First Nations families. The Government of Canada is providing $72 million over three years for the First Nations and Inuit child care initiative which will lead to the development of 6,000 new or improved spaces in these communities.
We have also invested another $18 million over three years in the child care visions research and development fund. This fund will seek new solutions to balancing work and family responsibilities by supporting studies into the adequacy, outcomes and cost-effectiveness of child care practices and offering insights into the most appropriate types of care.
No one denies that in an ideal world probably the care of children would take place by one parent in the home. In reality that is not always possible. I stress reality.
In 1993, 70 per cent of families have two earners compared to 30 per cent 20 years ago. Labour force participation of women with children under six has increased from 47 per cent in 1981 to 63 per cent in 1993. Whether by choice or of necessity, these women and their families depend on having access to quality, affordable care for their children outside their homes.
These parents want the assurance that they are putting their little loved ones in the hand of trained child care providers who can nurture the social, physical and emotional development of their young children.
Reformers would like to turn back the clock but we cannot. In 1950 just 30 per cent of couples with children were in the workforce. By 1990 the number of families with both parents working had increased to 70 per cent. This is today's reality. The majority of Canadian families want and need access to quality child care, often community based centre care or regulated home care.
I suggest to the hon. member that what is really important is not who is getting paid, but ensuring that whoever provides the care is offering the best quality of care for Canada's children.
At the first ministers' meeting last June there was broad support for governments to work together to develop a national child benefit. The federal government is collaborating closely with the provinces to determine how such a benefit might be implemented.
I hope the hon. member will be a part of this important process. I encourage him to set aside his unnecessary motion and instead work with the government as we try to improve the well-being of Canadian children.