Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate this morning. Before I begin, I must clarify the motion of my Reform colleague. On the one hand, the Reform party wants the government not to spend any more public money on non-parental daycare, in other words to keep the funds earmarked for it at the same, limited, level. We must bear this point in mind. On the other hand, they want all of the existing expenditures for child care to be used to subsidize parents rather than institutions and professionals.
As for the first aspect, all provinces will agree that the money currently being spent on daycare is insufficient. Now that we are aware of the situation families are facing, these sums ought to be raised considerably in order to provide quality services. Most definitely, choices must be made. Should this money go directly to parents, or to a daycare system that is already in place and monitored?
We in the Bloc Quebecois feel that, at this time, the daycare system already in place-which is of course, as I have said, under-funded-ought to be improved. This is the way to go to provide better services to children.
I will take a closer look at the concept of having child care funding go directly to subsidize parents, rather than to institutions and professionals. My Reform colleague may think that this motion is the solution to all of the problems of insufficient daycare spaces. Not so.
Even this government, the Liberal government, managed to sell the public during its 1993 campaign on its plan to increase the number of daycare spaces, a promise they have not yet been able to keep-nor will they before the next elections.
Proposing such a motion indicates a very poor understanding of the problems faced by parents who have to work.
The problem will not be solved by giving the money directly to the parents. On the contrary, I think this would only make the problem worse. At this time, our child care centres are effective and provide an important service to parents who rely on them to care for their children.
There are different types of child care. There are both public and private facilities, as well as small centres caring for fewer than nine children in residential neighbourhoods in each of our municipalities. These centres offer an ongoing presence and promote child development. In fact, their activities are focused on the social development of their small charges.
Child care centres do not serve only the parents who, for various reasons, choose to send their children there. They also help other parents who must turn to them on a periodic basis because they work or go to school, or because of illness in the family.
In Quebec, this is an area of provincial jurisdiction. As we know, the federal government transfers money to Quebec so it can run the child care network. The hitch in all this is that, in transferring this money, the federal government sets certain conditions the Quebec government must meet.
As you probably guessed, I would like the federal government to completely withdraw from this area of jurisdiction and authorize the transfer of tax points directly to the provinces, which will then
be able to set up the system they want. If the federal government insists on continuing to transfer money without giving us the tax points, it should stop imposing so-called national standards that simply confuse the issue.
To help parents and the child care network, the Quebec government gives the money to the child care centres themselves for certain reasons. First, it helps preserve the quality of services. This approach assures parents their children will be in an environment that will allow them to develop normally.
Quebec's child care centres must meet certain standards and undergo inspections by a monitoring agency to ensure that these standards are being maintained.
If, as the Reform motion suggests, the money were given directly to parents, would the exact same level of service be provided? Of course, it is another option, but would controls be available? Why change something that is working well as it is?
If we really want to make child care more like that provided by the parents, we could draw inspiration from the child care project underway in my riding, where a not-for-profit organization offers home day care services in rural areas. The services are provided under the supervision of an agency which, as I just said, is a not-for-profit organization. The purpose is not to make money, but to make sure the services parents are entitled to are available everywhere. Visits can be made to these homes to ensure the children are receiving the services they are entitled to. As I said earlier, existing day care centres promote the social development of children. They do more than that: they teach these children how to live in society.
As we all know, today, families have few children, often a single child. In this context, daycare centres will a void. They focus their action on the modern family concept.
I think that the social integration of children should be fostered from a very early age and that daycare centres are one way of achieving this. This is a place where young children can prepare for entering the school world. If we think back to this time of our lives, we will remember that it was not always easy. Daycare centres play a role in helping children and, indirectly, their parents. As far as I am concerned, daycare centres are useful, efficient and necessary.
The problem, of course, is the lack of day care spaces. Unable to meet the promise it made in 1993 to create day care spaces, this government will have to review its position on this issue as well as on social housing. In fact, it has taken the same approach to day care as it did to social housing, completely withdrawing financial support. There is indeed a need for daycare centres.
My hon. friends from the Reform Party are headed in the wrong direction with this motion we have before us today. There is also a danger. Subsidizing parents could create a new problem: parents could use the money for themselves, as it will certainly happen. Not everyone will do it, but some parents might use the money to hire people who are not always qualified for this type of work. Such an arrangement would also promote moonlighting. As we know, no level of government can currently afford such schemes. Governments are trying to stop clandestine work in other areas, but to bypass the daycare structure would actually open the door to such activity.
Hiring a good person to look after the children is probably a parent's primary concern. Sometimes though, mistakes can be made. Sometimes, people do not have the proper qualifications to do the job. People who work through the daycare system are, of course, paid a salary. This salary is taxed, which means it is easier to monitor the situation.
Moreover, daycares often provide support for single-parent families which, as we have often said it this House, are usually headed by the mother. Whether we like it or not, the fact is that, more often than not, these women have to rely on social assistance. Therefore, they must have access to quality services.
However, I think there is room for improvement in daycare services. A lingering problem in my region is that few daycares take into account the needs of parents who work in the evening, at night and on weekends. We must absolutely look at this issue and provide services seven days a week, 24 hours a day. This is an improvement that must be made as quickly as possible.
As I said earlier, Reformers are again headed in the wrong direction, because daycares come under provincial jurisdiction. If the Reform Party wants to do something about this issue, it should team up with the Bloc Quebecois to ask the federal government to completely withdraw from this area, and to pay fair compensation to the provinces. The federal government is far from taking this position.
During the federal-provincial conference held in September 1995, the federal minister even went so far as to say he was prepared to co-operate with the provinces, provided that-