House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.


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11:25 a.m.


Doug Peters Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, first I would like to tell the hon. member that these are not benefits. The child care expense deduction is not a benefit. It is an expense deduction. If the expenses are not incurred, then the deduction is not allowed. So it is not a benefit and the whole argument has been stood on its head.

Second, we have a 10 per cent unemployment rate and yes it is far too high. Yes, interest rates are low. What would the Reform Party do about this? It would raise interest rates and ask whether that would increase employment. That would increase unemployment. As usual, the Reform Party's policies are mistaken.

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11:25 a.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, before commenting on the Reform Party's motion, I think it would be helpful to viewers to repeat the text of the motion, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House-and there was an amendment-the government should provide tax fairness for all Canadian families by extending the Child Care Tax deduction to all families of all income levels and converting it to a credit, thereby removing the tax bias against parents caring for their own children.

My first comment takes the form of a question. In the motion, we are not told whether this deduction will be converted to a refundable or a non-refundable credit. The motion does not say. However, if our information is correct, the Reform Party would like this deduction converted to a non-refundable credit, which means that a person paying tax could benefit from a deduction, whereas a person not earning enough to pay taxes would be deprived of this assistance for child care.

In other words, this could mean that a person or a couple earning $100,000 a year could be allowed a deduction for child care, but a couple earning $20,000 a year and paying no, or practically no, taxes, would not be eligible for a refundable credit.

The question then arises as to who is being helped. Is it those most in need of child care assistance, or those least in need of it? That is the first question.

However, if we consider the spirit of the Reform Party's motion, our conclusion must be that there is indeed a real problem, but we could still agree with it. There are people who need help, and we want to help them. The reference is to a policy, a policy on the family or an anti-poverty policy. Reform members tell us that this motion is part of their family policy.

At this point, perhaps we should consider the concept of family as seen by the Reform Party. As far as Reform members are concerned, a family is a group of individuals who are related and whose union is recognized by the state. We are therefore talking about a group of individuals related by blood, marriage or adoption. Clearly, Reform members, who are ultra-conservative, are dreaming of a concept that hardly applies today.

Some families today are single-parent families, but families nevertheless. With a concept as obsolete as the one held by Reform members, obviously their solutions to family problems will differ vastly from what we might expect of people with a more modern outlook.

Although we agree that Reform members are addressing a very real problem this morning, we do not quite agree with the way they intend to deal with that problem.

First of all, the Bloc Quebecois feels that providing assistance to families should be strictly a matter of provincial jurisdiction. What has the federal government done about all the promises it made during the last election campaign that it would help our families? The Liberal government promised to spend about $700 million to create 150,000 new daycare places. What did the Liberal government do about the promise it made in the red book? What did the Liberal government try to achieve? A fraction of that promise. The Liberal government claimed that because no agreement was reached between the federal government and the provinces, that was ample justification for the government to withdraw its commitment.

The Liberal government could at least have taken the money it had promised to spend and transferred it to the provinces, which would then have been able to implement the daycare plan or create spaces for children according to a plan of their own choosing and adapted to their own needs. The bulk of the responsibility for the lack of a family policy lies with the federal government, led by the Liberal Party.

It is also perhaps worthwhile at this point to indicate that, wishing to make this a provincial responsibility, Quebec and other provinces have recently been looking at family issues. In the wake of an economic summit at which this was much discussed, the Government of Quebec has taken certain steps. It is, I think, worth mentioning that Quebec's policy puts its children first.

If the federal government acknowledges that this is a provincial responsibility, it might be worthwhile to look at a picture of the Quebec family of today. Although the family plays as fundamental a role in our society as it did in the past, the changes that have occurred in Quebec society must be taken into consideration, and this is what was proposed at the summit.

These changes indicate just how necessary a new family policy is. I am defining the present family situation in Quebec because our commitment at the time of the election was to work in the interest of all Canadians, particularly Quebecers.

At this time, there are 1.66 million children in Quebec, one third of them under the age of six. They belong to 960,000 families, 20 per cent of which are headed by single-parents.

Twenty-three per cent of our families have an income of less than $25,000, while the average family income is $50,000. In 70 per cent of two-parent families with young children, both spouses work, while 20 years ago the figure was 30 per cent, so that the family profile has changed significantly. Furthermore, a steadily increasing number of people are self-employed or work at non-typical jobs, that is to say, jobs that are unstable, involve irregular working hours or are strictly casual employment.

These changes oblige us to rethink our policies and adapt them to the new needs of our society, to make them fair, consistent and sensible. That is why Quebec's family policy will be revised and restructured around three central themes, and we hope the federal government will recognize the relevance of these changes.

The policy's first theme is how we provide services for young children and includes the following: first, plans for making full-time kindergarten available to all five-year-olds will be implemented as of September 1997; second, accelerated phasing-in of part-time educational services and free daycare for four-year-olds from disadvantaged families; and the phasing-in over a six-year period of low cost daycare for all young children whose parents are either employed or going to school.

Phase one of daycare for four-year-olds will be implemented as of September 1997, while phase 5 for children under the age of one will start in 2001.

The second central theme of this program will be to improve financial support to families as follows: a comprehensive allowance covering the essential needs of all dependent children of low income parents, whether they are employed or on welfare. This new allowance will include the Quebec family allowance and that part of social assistance payments that is used to cover children's needs. This will be in addition to the federal tax credit, for the time being, provided the federal tax credit does not disappear sometime in the coming months. That may be the case when the next budget is brought down by the Minister of Finance.

The third component is a parental insurance that will provide, upon the birth of a child, benefits equivalent to 75 per cent of net earned income, for a period of 25 weeks. Here is a measure that will help families and pregnant women who want to look after their children but still have the possibility of returning, within a short period of time, to their job outside the family home. This parental insurance will also provide additional benefits for a period of six months, starting with the third child. It increases from $39,000 to $49,000 the ceiling for eligible earnings, and it provides an insurance fund that will be funded partly by recovering part of the contributions made by employers and employees to the employment insurance fund, as provided for under federal legislation, and partly by collecting additional contributions from workers who are not covered by the employment insurance program.

Again, we hope the federal government will co-operate and allow the Quebec government to take advantage of the federal provision that authorizes the use of the employment insurance fund for such purposes.

The Quebec government will also provide substantial help to children and young families. The beneficiaries of this reform are the people who immediately come to mind: women. For several years, women's groups in Quebec have been asking for concrete measures to help women reconcile their roles as mothers and active members of the workforce, without penalizing them.

The biggest winners of this family policy are the 550,000 Quebec children who are under six years of age, including those living in socioeconomically disadvantaged environments. Early childhood services include half-day classes and free child care for disadvantaged children under four. This is undoubtedly the best solution to ensure that all children benefit from equal opportunities, and to prevent teenagers from dropping out of school in such large numbers.

This policy also promotes a better balance between work and family. In a society where both parents work, adequate and available child care services are an absolute requirement. Educational and child care services are essential in a modern society, but they are insufficient.

The Quebec government wants to ensure that child benefits are based on the principle of fairness and constitute an incentive to work. These premises guided the development of the new integrated allowance that will better meet the basic needs of all children from low income families.

Finally, the new policy takes into account the profound changes that have occurred in the workplace, by proposing the creation of a new parental insurance program. This new system will be more accessible and more generous than the system now provided through employment insurance.

Furthermore, one of the most important indirect benefits of the new policy is that the rapid growth of day care services will encourage the development of the social economy, as well as facilitate the battle against the underground economy. For the Province of Quebec, as for Ontario and other Canadian provinces, this has become a very serious problem in recent years.

It must be pointed out that the proposed family policy shows that, despite a difficult budgetary context, which exists in Quebec as well as in Canada, we in Quebec at least have shown that we have the imagination and creativity to remain a progressive society that puts its children first. It is in this perspective that, in Quebec, the government has decided to adapt so as to continue to be a tool for social development and the key to its future success.

We sincerely believe that this is a progressive policy and that it confirms the dynamic role of the government to which citizens are so deeply attached. I wanted to highlight these statements by the Government of Quebec because it is what we would most like to see happen. The Reform Party motion proposes a very restrictive and limiting measure, and we feel that this is not the right approach.

The best chance for finding solutions lies in leaving this authority with the provinces, who are still in the best position to decide what is required so that the choices made by the provinces will better correspond to the real needs of their society, to the actual composition of their families, and will provide the best future for their children.

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11:45 a.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to make a brief comment and then pose a short question to the member. I thank him for his intervention on this issue.

He mentioned toward the beginning of his speech refundable and non-refundable tax credits. I thought I would speak to that for a moment to clarify the issue.

I believe that most people, certainly those who look to fairness and equity within the system, would agree that the present system of a child care tax deduction is not equitable and not fair to Canadian families. In fact, the benefit of that system goes to the more wealthy who pay the greatest amount of income tax.

The reverse of that would be a tax credit which would give an equitable benefit to all Canadians no matter what their income level might be.

A non-refundable tax credit could be used to reduce the amount of federal tax a person pays. However, it could not be used for a refund. For example, if someone were required to pay a tax of $2,000 and a credit were determined to be $2,500, that taxpayer would not receive a refund nor would they be taxed. The tax would be eliminated and they would not receive a refund. However, if the tax credit were deemed to be refundable, they would have a tax levy of zero and they would receive a payment of $500 in addition to that. That is the difference between a non-refundable tax credit and a refundable tax credit.

In our proposal we have not specifically said what kind of credit we would put forward. We are looking at the issue of a refundable versus a non-refundable tax credit. Assuming this is accepted by the House, we would lean toward a refundable tax credit for Canadian families. Indeed that would be our preference.

Either way, refundable or non-refundable, the issue of a tax credit over deduction would certainly be the choice of Canadian families.

My question to the hon. member is quite specific. Could he tell me what he feels is more important? In his speech he mentioned that he thought it more important to provide more day care for families. He thought this was a priority in the province of Quebec. Would he think it more important to provide day care spaces for families or to provide a choice for families as to whether they want day care or whether they want to stay at home with their children? Which would be the more important policy that a government should look at, simply providing day care or providing choice for parents?

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11:45 a.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for providing me with the opportunity to clarify the comments I have just made.

What is important for the members of the Bloc Quebecois in this issue is to ensure that all families, and all women, have an equal opportunity to raise their children. I mean all families, all women, all men, all couples. Whether families are poor or not, whether there are one or two parents in the home, what we want is for no one to be at a disadvantage for deciding to stay home, or to work outside the home.

No mother ought to be penalized because she has made one choice or the other. This is a fundamental freedom of choice we acknowledge for women, or for men who might be in the same situation.

We feel that rearing children must come first. We also feel that mothers, while providing this child-rearing, must also have access to the fundamental freedom to realize their potential by working outside the home or within the home.

We would not like to see a government policy which favoured one choice over the other. What we want is to see the fundamental policies designed and implemented in such a way as to ensure that a person is not penalized for having made a free choice. We would not like to see government policies advocating practices or programs that would encourage or discourage one or the other choice. We would like to see the individual's most basic rights respected.

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11:50 a.m.

St. Paul's Ontario


Barry Campbell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I was very pleased to hear from the hon. member opposite. He always has very cogent remarks to make in the debates in this House. I welcome his comments about not skewing the system one way or the other but I am confused about a situation that prevails in his own province of Quebec.

For many years Quebec governments have provided a significant benefit to parents for having children, indeed an increasing amount of money. They have expended tens of millions of dollars in this effort to engineer more births in the province of Quebec and I understand without much success. I wonder how that program squares with his comments about equity and not providing unequal incentives. What about couples who have chosen not to have children or not as many as the government of Quebec wanted them to have?

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11:50 a.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, if the hon. member opposite wants to discuss the family policies of the federal government and those of the provincial government, perhaps we should go back in history and see how the Government of Canada treated the Quebec government when in Quebec most families had ten children or more. The hon. member may care to recall what the federal government did at the time. What kind of choices were made then to help families?

In Quebec, families were raised without waiting for subsidies from the government. Quebec couples did not wait for subsidies to have children. They knew what their responsibilities were, and they believed in the future of the family. Family policies came much

later, and it was the Quebec government at the time that would have appreciated more flexibility to be able to help these large families, which was not necessarily the case in other Canadian provinces.

At a time when Quebec would have liked to see specific criteria for providing assistance in situations peculiar to Quebec, it did not get the federal government's co-operation. When we want the power to deal with our own problems, that is the kind of situation we are referring to.

Today, Quebec is in favour of a family policy that is in fact quite unique and quite different from what the federal government had in mind. We believe that Quebec's needs are different, and because they are, Quebec needs all the political resources available to meet those needs.

It always boils down to this: since we have different views on most of the problems facing us today, we keep asking for all the powers we need to implement our vision and guarantee the development of our families as well as our cultural, economic and social development.

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11:55 a.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, two of the issues that face families today are high unemployment levels and taxation. We constantly hear from across the floor the parliamentary secretary talking about all the jobs that the government has created. I find it very odd that when the Liberals came to power there were 1.4 million Canadians out of work and presently there are 1.4 million Canadians out of work.

It is not low interest rates that are causing the problem. Low interest rates should fuel the economy-

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11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Fraser Valley East.

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11:55 a.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to this supply day motion. It is always a pleasure to talk about issues involving the family. All of us here come from a family and so we all have an opinion on it and a strategy on how we would like to see families strengthened. That is what this debate is about. It is a pleasure to enter into that.

The Liberal speech from the throne was delivered in February of this year. It was 13 pages long by my count. It was read into the record about all of the priorities of the government, the direction it is taking, the things it wants to emphasize, the promises it says it is making to the Canadian people. Although the throne speech was 13 pages long and although it emphasized a lot of things within that text only once in the 13 pages did it mention the word family. Even at that it was just a passing reference.

The red book, which is the gospel according to the Liberals, mentions family only on one page in the entire book which is 100 and some pages long. Where it mentions the word family in the entire red book is on a page where it says that the Liberal government promises to create thousands of federally run day care spaces. That is their entire reference to the family.

I hope it is an error of omission and it does not reflect the priority that they place on the family, but we do notice a disturbing trend. It is interesting that Parliament has created an auditor general for finances, an auditor general for the environment, an ethics counsellor for lobbyists, secretaries of states for various functions from women to youth and so on. I do not know why but there does not seem to be anybody who wants to touch this issue of should we be concerned about the family. The Liberals it would seem do not want to touch that with a ten foot pole.

A couple of years ago I did bring forward a private member's bill which would have created a small office called the auditor general for the family. That office's role would have been similar to the other auditors general to check legislation that affects the environment or the finances of the nation and so on.

The office I conceived of would also check on the government to see how legislation affects families. For some reason that was defeated. The government did not want to see how legislation affected families and I to this day do not understand why.

In a town hall meeting today if I give a speech it is something like this: "The family today feels burnt out, stressed out and in crisis". I go down a list for the crowd which goes something like this: "Let me describe your situation for you. You are working two jobs or more. Both parents are working. You have no time to spend with your children. Your credit cards are maxed out. You are worried about your job. You wish you could spend more time teaching your children to read but you do not have that time any more. It seems it has been taken away from you. You are working harder than ever but are not getting further ahead".

When I make a statement like that a hush comes over the room. The people just start nodding their heads. They say: "You are describing my situation. That's the way I feel. I'm stressed out, I'm burnt out, I'm working harder than ever, and it doesn't seem like I'm getting ahead. I'm just not getting ahead".

It is no wonder that in a recent Angus Reid poll, 63 per cent of people said that the family is in crisis. People are not just stressed out but they feel that the family is in crisis. No doubt there are a variety of responsible factors. But the list I went through is part and parcel of what determines that crisis.

I mentioned how families are not emphasized in this place often enough. We talk about all other categories of people. We seem to put them all in little slots. We have royal commissions, investigations, priorities, auditors general, you name it; but we do not do the same for the family. That is one of the things that differentiates the Reform and Liberal parties as we head into the next election which will likely be in 1997.

The Reform Party has decided on some principles concerning the family. Those principles are important to the framing of the debate today as we talk about child tax credits, tax benefits and tax relief for families.

The first principle could be stated as follows: That the family is the fundamental building block of our society. It is the primary institution for the transfer and protection of beliefs, culture and social stability. The first principle of the Reform Party in the foundation of our beliefs is that the family is key. The family is key in crime prevention. It is key in education, in providing financial benefits to children and in providing for its own financial prospects down the road.

Study after study proves that the family is the key institution for passing on attitudes, beliefs, respect for others, educational opportunities, standard of living, you name it. That is why the strengthening of the family unit is a cornerstone of our social policy. I re-emphasize that the state, the government, is not the fundamental building block of society. It is the family.

The second Reform principle is our belief that parents must have the primary responsibility and opportunity to nurture and provide for their children. It must be re-emphasized that the state does not have that primary responsibility. The state does not bring people into the world. The state does not form a family. The state is not the primary building block of society. It is the family. It is not the welfare worker, although they are important. It is not the teacher in the school. It is not the legal system. It is not an advocacy group. It is not the Reform Party of Canada. It is the family that has the primary responsibility.

The family not only has responsibility and obligation but it also needs opportunity. It needs governments to move out of its way. As someone put it, government should be doing for the family only what the family cannot do for itself. In other words, the government should fill in where there are cracks. Obviously some programs are needed to look after people across Canada.

The family needs to be reinforced, encouraged and endorsed, patted on the back both morally and financially to do the job it does best if it is to fulfil its role as a primary building block of society.

In exceptional cases the government does need to be involved, for example, in situations of child abuse or child neglect. We have a collective obligation to ensure that the least protected in society, the least able to defend themselves, have the protection of the state. Obviously we need adequate legal protection and a welfare system in the country to ensure the well-being of those children who are being abused.

We have been studying this big problem in British Columbia. The Gove commission and others have made recommendations in an attempt to ensure those cracks are not so wide that children fall right through them. However, those interventions should be kept to a minimum and not try to impose a national government idea of what that family should do or how they should behave themselves.

I get repeated letters and phone calls from people who are concerned about the government trend to interfere in the lives of families. For example, there is a concern, at least at the United Nations, about the government interfering in a families' right to exercise fair discipline. Families are saying that how they raise their children, as long as they are not abusing or physically hurting them, and how they exercise corrective measures in their home is their business. I agree with them.

We have had many questions about what is a family. How does one define a family? For the purposes of government benefits, which is often what we are talking about, I ask the question: What is a family?

The Reform Party defines a family as follows: Individuals related by ties of blood, marriage and adoption. When I was in a different position here, I had a member from the NDP jump up and tell me that a family is anybody who is related by close emotional ties. That was her definition of a family. That is not a family. I have close emotional ties with many people. I sometimes feel quite emotional about quite a few things. I can even get quite emotional about the people at the Table but we are not a family and it is not a family relationship.

A family is people related by blood, marriage and adoption. Just so we are clear on that, does that mean a single parent with children is a family? Of course, they are related by blood. If somebody adopts children are they a family? Of course they are a family. If somebody is related by marriage is that a family? Of course.

The definition is important because we are now going to get into benefits that are offered by the government to those people.

We also need to talk for a few minutes about marriage because I am going to talk about spousal benefits in a few minutes. What is a definition of a marriage? The current definition of marriage, which is used in all existing federal statutes and should be retained, is that a marriage is a union between a man and a woman as recognized by the state. It is important to have those definitions in place because benefits derive from those definitions.

We ought to resist all attempts to redefine marriage. The Supreme Court of Canada backs up this position in the Egan v. Canada case in 1995. Justice LaForest stated:

-marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of long standing philosophical and religious traditions. But its ultimate raison d'être transcends all of these and is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship.

We simply agree with the Supreme Court of Canada when it made that statement a year ago and when it talked about benefits that this Parliament gives to married couples.

Obviously marriage, by definition, also includes common law couples. Again, that is recognized by the state. One does not have to be married in a church, although that is my experience and what I have gone through, but the state does recognize common law relationships and church or civil marriages and that is what we should stick with.

We also agree with the Parliament of Canada. We debated a private member's bill about whether spousal benefits should be extended to same sex couples. A private member's bill was brought before the House. We all spoke to the issue. It was then defeated by all parties in the House, including the Liberal Party and the front bench, who said that Parliament was not going to redefine marriage like that and spousal benefits would not be extended for that. I think our party voted unanimously against it. The Liberals voted against it and cabinet voted against it. I also agree with the Prime Minister. He said in Winnipeg that he does not agree that marriage should include same sex couples. That is not his idea of marriage. This is unusual. Parliament, the Prime Minister and the Reform Party all agree. It has all been debated in the House, voted on, passed and is a matter of record.

Although it is a matter of record, what has transpired since then is also a matter of record and it has not followed the wishes of Parliament or the wishes of the Prime Minister. That is why we know that the definition of marriage is going to come under attack and has come under attack. The reason is Bill C-33.

The justice minister said in the House that Bill C-33 was not about entitlements and repeatedly denied that the amendment would lead to same sex benefits. He said that time and again and promised it time and again. But what has followed has proven him wrong.

Just to get it on the record again, in the Montreal Gazette of May 9 he was reported as having said: Everyone should be clear on what this amendment is not about. It does not confer benefits on same sex couples or on homosexual individuals''. However, it was reported in a magazine in my end of the country, the <em>Extra West</em> magazine, a gay magazine from Vancouver:If the government takes the position that you cannot discriminate, it follows as a matter of logic that you have spousal entitlement to benefits''. That is what he said outside the House in Vancouver.

The redefinition of marriage and spouse has begun on that side of the House in contradiction of the wishes of Parliament. I think that is unfortunate. If Parliament wanted to do that, it should bring forward a bill, have a debate on it, pass it and let people know where it is heading and what it wants to do. That is fair and we can all live with the consequences. I would argue and vote against it.

But when all that was done and the private members' bill defeated, the government did not listen to the will of Parliament. It sneaked in its own definition of spouse and marriage through the back door, and we see the results of that today.

The human rights tribunal has now demanded of the government a list of all laws that will be changed when the definition of marriage changes. It is being compiled. I do not know how long it is going to take because many statutes state the definition of marriage is the union of a man and a woman as recognized by the state. The Minister of Justice got into this and got himself into a mess.

Why then do we need this change in the child tax credit? We need it because the average family income has dropped $3,100 since 1993. We need it because Canadian families deserve the option of how to raise their children. In other words, if families choose to raise children at home, they deserve as much of a tax break as those who choose to put their children in a day care centre.

Families deserve to see some light at the end of the tunnel, so that instead of decreasing family incomes and increasing stress and diminishing their time with their children, they will be able to see down the road they are going to have more money, more time and some options.

This motion is about options for families. It means that we believe that the state does not have the answer for families. Canadian families should exercise their options and not be restricted by tax policy to do what the government wants, but that they should have the freedom to do as they wish. That would happen if this motion were passed. I urge all members to support it.

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12:15 p.m.

St. Paul's Ontario


Barry Campbell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in today's debate.

The motion before us relates to a topic dear to every member of this House and to Canadians everywhere: the well-being of our children. Indeed, the matter is so important that we must be especially vigilant to ensure that we think about it as clearly as we can. Unfortunately, the motion as proposed tends not to clarify but rather to obscure some very important points about the purpose of the child care expense deduction, about genuine tax fairness, about

fiscal responsibility and about the important steps this government has taken to advance the well-being of Canadian children.

Let me begin with the first point, the purpose of a child care expense deduction.

As we have already heard, the child care expense deduction is designed to help modest income families with two working parents shoulder the child care expenses they must incur in order to earn an income or to study. In other words it exists to help ensure that the tax burden of these families is fair compared to those with similar incomes who do not face these additional expenses.

This leads me to another point that deserves to be emphasized. The existing system is designed to assist parents with modest incomes. In these tough fiscal times if not always, it would be unrealistic and even unfair to use taxpayers' money to introduce new benefits that would largely go to affluent Canadians.

These are issues that by themselves are sufficient to show why today's motion does not deserve the support of this House.

There is another important point I would like to turn to now. That is to remind hon. members of the important steps, the targeted steps our government has taken to advance the well-being of children, especially those of families in need.

In fact, despite the austerity we are forced to come to terms with, the federal government continues to provide significant support, through the child tax benefit, to low and middle income families with children. These benefits are tax exempt; they are revenue based and paid monthly.

Maximum payments go to families with net incomes below $26,000 and include a basic benefit of $1,020 per child, as well as an additional $75 for the third and each subsequent child in the family.

In addition, there is also the child tax benefit supplement which specifically helps parents who stay at home to raise their preschool age children. This supplement provides modest income families who do not have deductible child care expenses with an additional $213 for each child under the age of seven.

Beyond this, federal assistance to families with children is further enhanced by the working income supplement. This supplement helps low income working families meet some of the extra costs related to earning employment income. It is important to recognize that the working income supplement is not just limited to two income families but also applies to single earner families where one spouse stays home as the caregiver.

The bottom line for this program is both clear and considerable. The total annual cost of the child tax benefit including the working income supplement is over $5 billion.

It is also vital to note that these are not static programs. This government recognizes that the issue of child hardship and poverty is of growing concern to us all. That is why we have taken effective, targeted action to enhance them.

For example, until the 1996 federal budget the maximum value of the working income supplement was $500 annually. The budget doubled this benefit to $1,000 to be phased in over two years. Over 700,000 working families will benefit from the increased working income supplement. The average benefit they will receive will increase from $350 a year to $700. About 250,000 families will receive the maximum increase of $500. When this measure is fully implemented in July 1998, benefits to low income working families will be enhanced and enriched by $250 million a year. I would add that about one-third of the families that will benefit from the increased working income supplement are single parent families.

I would also like to mention another important measure in last year's budget which will help families with children. In fact it will help them with one of the most important investments a young person in his or her family can make for the future and that is education.

I am referring to the learning package, an additional $80 million a year in tax assistance to help students and their families deal with the increased costs of education. Students receive assistance with their educational costs under two tax provisions: the tuition fee credit and the education credit. As tuition fees rise, the amount of assistance provided by the tuition fee credit rises automatically.

In the 1996 federal budget the amount on which the education credit is based was increased from $80 to $100 per month. In addition, the limit on the transfer of tuition and educational amounts, for example from a student to her parents, was increased from $4,000 to $5,000. Moreover the annual limit on registered education savings plans contributions was increased from $1,500 to $2,000 and the lifetime limit was raised from $31,500 to $42,000.

Finally, we have also taken action to improve the child care expense deduction, the issue at the heart of today's debate.

The 1996 budget broadened eligibility for the child care expense deduction by allowing single parents studying full time to receive the benefit and deduct it from all other income. Families with both father and mother studying full time may enjoy this benefit as well.

Furthermore, and this is a first, the benefit is now available to parents completing high school. At the same time, the age determining deduction eligibility has been raised, thus enabling parents with older children to take advantage of the deduction.

The measures I have just set out have provided considerable support to many children and parents in Canada, but I am not claiming that these measures alone are enough.

Surely there is more that could and should be done but in this period of limited resources we have to make sure that we are doing the most good we possibly can do with every dollar we spend. On this score the measure before this House fails miserably. It is proposed without regard to cost; incredibly it is proposed without regard to need and without regard to impact. Everyone agrees that we must do the very best we can for our children. To that extent I appreciate the intent of today's motion, but is it really the best we can do? Would children in need derive the most benefit? I think not.

What is needed is for better thought out and better targeted proposals to be brought before this House. But typical of the party opposite, we have simple solutions offered to complex problems.

However, today's debate and for that matter every issue under debate in this House would be of national interest only if it were grounded on clear intentions and proposals of substance, which must be expressed in clear terms and accompanied by accurate figures. Today's motion miserably fails the test on both counts.

The Reform Party claims it is concerned about families, about family time, about providing a better standard of living and care for Canada's children, but in its proposals here today and in other venues it proves conclusively that it places no real priority on child poverty and has little true understanding about family life in the 1990s.

Families with two working parents exist for a number of reasons. Financial need is just one. The operation of the tax system might be another but it is not the sole reason that parents make a decision to stay home or seek work outside the home.

Reform has nothing to offer the majority of Canadian families who must or choose to have both parents work. Even more troubling, today's motion dares to suggest that tax fairness would be enhanced by providing a credit to every family irrespective of income level. This simply means to a host of families who enjoy material benefits which low and modest income families can only dream of that they would benefit even more.

The real agenda here is very clear. Reform has staked out a policy of a broad national tax cut, a policy that has not won the hearts of very many Canadians. Canadians see through the cheap appeal of Reform's tax proposals. Those Canadians are the ones with real common sense. They will not allow governments to buy electoral success by promising rapid and wide ranging tax reductions. Canadians will not be fooled by this phoney reform of the human face. When communism was collapsing in eastern Europe we started to hear about communism with a human face. That is what is happening here. Canadians will not be fooled by this political cross-dressing.

In closing, there is no politician who would not like to lower taxes as far as possible. But good government means acting with constraint and consideration and making sure that today's tax cuts do not come at the price of increased pain and suffering tomorrow for those who are most vulnerable. That is why this government has opted in its three budgets to take targeted action that works within our fiscal conditions and that serves those who are most in need.

That is what real political leadership and nation building is about. It is not about picking winners and losers. And because today's motion does not meet those tests of real leadership, does not increase real tax fairness and does not focus its benefits on those most in need, I have no hesitation whatsoever in urging all hon. members to vote against today's superficially appealing but essentially misleading motion.

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12:25 p.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, earlier I addressed questions to the hon. member's colleague. I would like to repeat them so I can clarify what the actual answer would be from the Liberal side.

I do want to make a comment before I ask the questions though. The member mentioned that he does not know a politician who does not want to lower taxes. I happen to know a bunch of politicians who do not want to lower government spending and that is a problem. They sit on the Liberal benches. They refuse to reduce the size of government and so refuse to allow the relief that Canadians need and want both in their personal lives and in their businesses.

Could the member please tell me who benefits the most from the existing child care tax deduction? Would it be someone earning

$20,000 or someone earning $60,000? Who benefits most from the present tax system: a dual wage earner family earning $60,000 or a single wage earner family earning $60,000?

As I may not have time to reply to his answer, I would say that it is the rich who benefit most from the present child care tax deduction and it is the dual parent family that benefits most by the income tax system.

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12:25 p.m.


Barry Campbell Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it somewhat incredible that the hon. member opposite would speak about members on this side of the House not being in favour of reducing government spending.

As the hon. member would know if she had read the last three budgets, or would recall if she thought about it, we took unprecedented steps in the three budgets we have presented as a government to reduce government spending to its lowest level in many years as a percentage of the gross domestic product; in fact, soon to its lowest level since the late 1940s.

I know that the hon. member opposite and her colleagues would like to see government spending go down even more. They have this small problem of telling us how that would happen without having an unfortunate negative impact on this country without leading to the kind of meanness and nastiness that my hon. colleague, the secretary of state, referred to.

The government will continue to stand alongside Canadians. It is not going to stand aside and out of the way. We are going to stay in the game, helping and working with Canadians.

The kinds of spending reductions we have achieved have been done in a reasonable, realistic and compassionate way, but not without impact and not without cost.

It is incredible that the members of the third party stand up day after day telling the government to cut further because it does not affect anybody.

As to the questions which were asked, I am going to respond in the following way. The hon. member asked some questions and then proceeded to answer them. I am going to ask her who would benefit most from the proposal that is in the motion before us. I would just note that it is proposed to be a tax credit. There is no indication that it is a refundable tax credit with the result that people without income would not benefit and it would not be available to them.

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12:30 p.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I still did not hear his answer. I assume from his non-answer to my two questions that he agrees with my answer, which rather flies in the face of everything we have heard in question period lately from a finance minister who rails on other parties and perhaps even casts us as a party that speaks for the wealthy, when in fact it is his very party in the present circumstances that gives the advantage to the higher income earner. That is yet another example of the spin or the duplicity of some of the comments made in the House. I find it most notable.

In our fresh start program we have outlined where government expenditures can be reduced. The government continues to require in excess of $150 billion a year in order to operate. That figure is far higher than we feel is necessary. Without undue stress on the population our fresh start program outlines where the cuts can be made to government and indeed would put more money in the hands of the tax paying public and not in the hands of government bureaucrats.

Again, does the member feel that money is better in the hands of bureaucrats than in the hands of taxpayers? What we propose would take approximately $5 billion out of the hands of government and put that $5 billion directly into the hands of families across the country.

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12:30 p.m.


Barry Campbell Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, very briefly. I find it fascinating that as we look at the opposition motion today, it is not costed.

I heard the hon. member state a great concern about spending and cost deficits, which we hear from that side of the House and which is a concern we share and one which we are acting on. As I reread the motion, there is no indication whatsoever about what this would cost. Estimates I have seen range into the billions and billions of dollars and the suggestion in the fresh start document that they would have to find only $12 billion would be blown out of the water. Some would look at the motion and say "if you do this along the lines you have been saying, your costs would be additional billions of dollars".

I find it really distressing that we are debating a motion of a party, which consistently is concerned about government spending, government revenues and taxation levels, which is not costed. It has offered us no indication today whatsoever about the costing of this motion.

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12:35 p.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, my simple question is why does the government continue to maintain the facade that program spending rather than tax cuts is the way to go.

Chapter 19 of the auditor general's report which was tabled in September 1996 dealt with the child tax credit in detail. He pointed out that in many cases the program appears to be spending money on child tax credits for children who, quite simply, do not exist. The department does not have the programs and the checks and balances in place to find out how many dollars are being paid to families that do not have children and that are not entitled to those moneys. That is the type of waste and abuse that we find in program spending, which tax cuts would prevent.

I would like the parliamentary secretary to tell us why program spending, his vision, is so much better than what we are talking about, which is tax cuts.

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12:35 p.m.


Barry Campbell Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member asked two questions. The first is why we address the deficit through program cuts rather than tax cuts The answer is simple: because it is working.

The second question that he asks is about the auditor general. I would reply by wondering out loud what the auditor general would have to say about this House's adopting a motion which is not costed in this fiscal climate.

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12:35 p.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, just following up on the question which I asked a minute ago, which clearly points out the fundamental philosophical difference between members on this side of the House and members on that side of the House, they believe in taxing and spending because Canadians exist to provide money for the government so it can turn around and give it back to whomever it wishes and under whatever basis it feels is appropriate.

This side of the House quite definitely believes that Canadians work for themselves, that Canadians feel that small government is important, that government should not be in their lives any more than it has to be and that they are prepared to pay a small amount of money toward government to ensure that some services and some uniformity of programs across the country are provided.

This is the point. Canadians do not exist to create wealth for the government so the government can turn around and give it back to them in some form or another. That is a fundamental philosophical difference.

When this government uses that type of program spending, as the auditor general pointed out in chapter 19, there is waste, there is mismanagement, there are bureaucrats to be paid, there are all kinds of overhead expenses. As I have said before, a tax cut with no administration cost could be implemented the day it is announced. That is the type of thing that people want. They want to take charge of their lives. Taking charge of their lives means they will pay less tax.

We have laid it out quite clearly in our fresh start program, step one and step two.

This country is in a financial mess. It is $600 billion in debt. We are running at almost a $30 billion deficit for the year ending March 31, 1996. When the Minister of Finance appeared before the finance committee and announced the results of the figures and a budget deficit of $28.9 billion, there was applause from the Liberals on that committee. It was incredible.

It all stems from the philosophy that government should take money from Canadians because they owe it to the government so

that it can turn around and deliver it back in programs. We say the opposite.

Our first point is to balance the budget and stop digging ourselves into a bigger hole. Once we have done that we want to help Canadians by giving them tax cuts. Step one, get the fiscal house in order. Step two, start giving back to Canadians control over their lives.

What are we proposing for families after the budget is balanced? We are proposing to make families our priority and to ensure that government policies and regulations are family friendly. That is from the Reform Party's fresh start booklet published a month ago.

We also said extend the $3,000 to $5,000 child care deduction to all parents including those who care for their children at home. It is a valid point and the essence of the resolution we are debating today. We want to extend the child tax credit of $3,000 to $5,000 which this government is currently giving to families that obtain day care services outside their homes.

We want to give people the choice. We want to give every Canadian parent the ability to make the decision of how they want to raise their child based on their family circumstances and not based on a tax policy imposed on them by the Minister of Finance. There is a fundamental and significant difference.

We want to give parents charge of their lives. We want them to make the choices that are right for their families. We do not want them to have to make a decision based on the tax policy of the Minister of Finance. We do not want him to dictate to families in Canada.

I forgot to inform the Speaker that I will be sharing my time with the member for Medicine Hat. I will take only 10 minutes.

We go on to strengthen families in other ways. From the fresh start program for Canadians, we are going to increase the spousal amount from $5,380 to $7,900 which will level the playing field for parents who choose to stay at home to look after young children. It will help families meet the needs of a more demanding economy.

Is that not a wonderful idea, that we help families to keep one spouse at home to look after the kids? It is better than having a tax policy that says "I am going to put my kids next door with the neighbour, the neighbour will put his kids next door and I will look after them, and if we do a swap we can meet the requirements of the Minister of Finance, but if I want to raise my kids in my house and my neighbour wants to raise his kids in his House, it cannot be done". The tax policy says you cannot do that.

Surely it is an incredible statement that you cannot raise your own kids, you can raise only your neighbours kids. I like to raise my own children. I believe that every family in this country would love to raise their own children. Yet the Minister of Finance by his

own tax policy which he is imposing on these families says "No, you cannot do that. I do not want you to do that. We are going to institutionalize your children and put them in day care. We are going to have them raised by somebody else because we feel that is the way to go".

As Reformers we say that is detrimental to families, that is harmful to families, that causes pressure on families. We have so much marital break-up and we know that marital break-up is horribly painful to children. They are the innocent victims of marital break-up. They are the young and the innocent who are involved in sometimes messy situations. They are pulled and dragged by each side. They are in the courts. People go to court to find out whom the children will be raised by, the mother or the father. It is a horrible situation.

I am sure the House would agree that anything that can be done to protect the family, to remove the tax disincentive, to keep the family together surely must be in the best interests of Canadians.

I cannot stress it strongly enough that we have to help families rather than thinking we are going to introduce all kinds of policies and programs to pick up the broken pieces. Let us work beforehand.

We are not asking for government intervention with a thousand more bureaucrats and programs across the country. We are saying to give back to families control of their own lives by removing the tax policies that want to put the kids somewhere else.

We heard the parliamentary secretary tell us that programs are the way to do it: tax and spend; take the money from Canadians and pass it through to the bureaucrats who try to put it back into this segment or that segment of society. There are programs for widows, programs for single parents, programs for kids and programs for businesses. Bombardier was given $87 million. Name it and there is a program for it. Let us leave people alone and allow them to make their own decisions without having to worry about taxes.

I picked up a pamphlet entitled: "Canadian Families: International Year of the Family, 1994" which was produced by the Vanier Institute of the Family. I am just picking out a few of the quotes. Under the heading "What counts in Canadian Families", it is stated: "The desire to spend more time with the family is unlikely to wane in the years ahead". Another quote: "Although Canadian families experience many problems, for better or worse, the majority of Canadian marriages do last for a lifetime".

It is an interesting little pamphlet about Canadian families. The whole concept behind the pamphlet is to give families the opportunity to look after themselves and they will likely do the best job in raising their kids. They will likely do the best job of looking after their own circumstances.

This is what the Reform Party wants to do. We want to give the control back to the families. This is only a small start in getting bureaucrats out of their hair, getting the taxation policy of the Minister of Finance out of their hair and allowing Canadian families to do what they do best which is to raise their own kids.

We all know that an institution is no substitute for a family. I cannot imagine being raised in an institution. My kids would hate the idea of being raised in an institution. A number of years ago when my son was in grade three or four, we put him in day care for one afternoon. It was tax time and I was busy so we had to put him in day care for a few weeks. We thought he was having a good time because as an older kid he was helping the younger ones. He still remembers that we put him in day care for a number of weeks and he would have preferred to have stayed at home with his mother.

The point is that our motion is concerned about doing something. It has the right idea. It gets bureaucrats out of the families' hair and lets them raise their kids. It lets parents love their own kids. This will help Canadians, Canada and everyone else.

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12:45 p.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure to rise in support of today's motion. I cannot stress enough how proud I am to be a member of a party that upholds the traditional place of the family in society as the most important institution in society, period. It is absolutely the most important institution in society. That is why I am just thrilled to be standing in support of today's motion.

I will start by talking about the tremendous importance of families for a moment. I heard my hon. colleague from St. Albert talk about his personal situation. There is no question that the family is the institution which people rely on overwhelmingly to supply their children with values. Rather obviously, people need to have good, strong values of some kind in order to be good citizens and contribute to society. These values come from families.

Families are needed to provide education. I was on the finance committee and people from the various groups promoting literacy were there. I made the argument that the most effective, the best and the most cost efficient institution for providing education in this country is the family. Only a family can really instil the joy of learning. Only a family can provide all that knowledge that people do not necessarily get through their schools. The literacy groups made the point that the people who do learn in schools are the ones who get a good grounding in education from their own families. It is vital for education that we have strong families.

Families provide security for their members. When people for some reason are thrown out of work, the best place for them to go, initially at least, should be their families. That is where they not only get monetary support and other resources but they also get the moral support they need in a situation like that.

Finally, families provide roots so that people can become part of a larger community which really contributes to their sense of well-being and their sense of purpose in life. If people are part of a strong family and therefore part of a stronger community, they feel that their life really does have a sense of meaning and a sense of purpose. It is vital that we have strong families just for that reason alone.

I want to make the argument that families do not get the recognition they deserve. If we were able to put a monetary value on what families contribute to society, it would certainly be a lot more than what governments at all levels put in in terms of trying to support families. There is no question that people today in families no matter how we describe them put a tremendous amount of value back into society. We must do whatever we can to ensure that those families are supported, that they prosper and that the children who come from those families go on to be productive citizens in society.

It is clear that today's families are under a tremendous amount of stress. The hon. member for St. Albert spoke about the broken families. Sociologists and psychologists have pointed to the negative impact of broken families. One of the reasons there are broken families today is that there is so much stress due to the fact that people's finances are tight. People have to work night and day. Both parents often have to work night and day just to bring home enough money to provide the basic necessities of life.

Here is how it works: People make their income; the finance minister gets half and then mom, dad and the kids get the other half to live on. The finance minister gets half the bowl of porridge and mom, dad and the kids get to share the other half of the bowl of porridge. Unfortunately in September, 6,500 Canadians went bankrupt; they could no longer live on that half a bowl of porridge. That is one of the big stresses on families today.

As a result of having to work all day and in some cases six and seven days a week, people simply do not have the time to spend with their children. I know they regret that very much. I regret how much time I have to be away from my family to do this job. It means that I cannot devote the time I would like to to be with my children, to do some of the things I have talked about: to provide them with the education that can only come from families; to give them a sense that they are part of a larger group, a part of a community and a tradition and a history in our own family; to give them the security by talking about the big safety net that a family provides. And of course we have to instil values.

All of that takes time. People come home after working all day and they are tired. It is extremely tempting to sit children in front of the electronic babysitter, the TV. It is not a replacement for people who actually give their children guidance. The family is under stress today.

I mentioned a minute ago all the debt which people are carrying. There were 6,500 bankruptcies in September, a 20 per cent increase. This country has record high levels of personal debt. Again people feel that they have to go out and work and work and work to try to pay down their debt.

As a result of the high taxes not only do we have personal debt at record levels and not only do we have all those bankruptcies, we have tremendously high levels of unemployment. Unemployment is about 10 per cent right now in Canada. That does not include the half a million people who have given up completely looking for work. It does not include the one in four people who are constantly worried about being able to find a job. Because of high taxes this country has a real problem with high unemployment.

We have unfair taxation policies. Not only do we have high taxes which are unfair, but we have taxation policies that encourage and have incentives for people to spend even less time with their children. Families are rewarded for having their children brought up outside the home as opposed to being rewarded for bringing them up at home where a lot of people would like to do it.

About a year ago in a Maclean's magazine poll about 70 per cent of Canadian families where both parents were working said that, given their druthers, they would have one parent at home. Seventy per cent. We are not talking about a minority. We are talking about a majority of families who have both parents working today who would like to have the option.

The facts are clear. When families have a tax burden that constitutes 46 per cent of their income, about half of their income, it is almost impossible for many families, especially low income families, to have one parent at home to spend time with their children. It makes it virtually impossible and it is getting worse.

In the last three years, since 1993, we have seen that families have been left with $3,000 per family less in purchasing power than when this government came into office. That is $3,000 a family. It makes it virtually impossible for people who are struggling to get ahead to be able to ever hope to spend more time with their children at home, especially in those early years when the guidance of the parents is so needed. Obviously there is a huge problem in this country.

I have heard government members today say that they have done this and they have given them that and they have done this for families. It is not enough. The problem also is that it comes at it from a bureaucratic, big government point of view. The government is saying that it has decided it will give back to parents money in such and such a form if they conform to such and such a behaviour. That is not right.

Families make a lot better decisions about how to spend their own money and about how to raise their own children than a big bureaucratic bloated government will ever do. Most people agree with that. It is time to shrink the size of government. It is time that we gave taxpayers and families more money in their pockets to decide what to do with their children, to decide how to raise their own children.

That is what the Reform Party fresh start for families is all about. That is what today's motion is all about. We want to give Canadian families that choice. They want that choice. We are not saying that both parents cannot go out to work. Of course they can.

In my own situation, for years my wife worked in the workforce along with me. It is not that we particularly wanted to have it that way but that is how it worked for a number of years, because we wanted to try to get ahead. People should always have that option, absolutely.

We are not saying they should not have that option. But we are saying that they should also have the option to stay home with their children. We are just asking that people have some freedom.

I heard the hon. parliamentary secretary for finance say that the Reform Party wants the Ozzie and Harriet approach to child care. That is a strawman and let us knock it down right now. What the hon. member is worried about is that this motion is striking a chord with Canadians. He knows how stressed out families are today. He knows that people want to have some options. He knows that people want to have the choice of being able to raise their families the way they decide, not the way the hon. parliamentary secretary, the finance minister, the government, the bureaucracy or a bunch of special interest groups decides. Give families the ability, the freedom to raise children as they choose. The best way to do that is to leave more money in the pockets of those ordinary Canadians who just want government to leave them alone.

The question has been raised about how that can happen. How can that be done? The deficit is $28.6 billion right now. In fact, the government is going to add about $107 billion to the total debt by the time its mandate is done. So far it has already added to the personal tax burden of Canadians approximately $3,000 per family.

What can we do when there is a deficit situation like that? We have said that we would balance the budget and we would run surpluses. We would shrink the size of government, get rid of all the ridiculous spending. We do not need to spend money on Bombardier. We need to spend it on families. We need to spend it on health care. We do not need to spend it on CBC television. We need to spend that money on families to ensure that people get to keep more money in their own pockets.

Our fresh start for families allows people to keep $2,000 per family by the year 2000. That is a great start. It gives people some hope that they will have the opportunity, if they so choose, to stay at home with their children so that they can provide them the guidance, education and the protection that many Canadian families want today.

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1 p.m.

Winnipeg—St. James Manitoba


John Harvard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, before I come to my point, I want to say that I am a father of five children, a grandfather of four and I am one who strongly believes that the family is the fundamental building block of our society. I think that families that are in a position to have at least one parent home when the children are growing up, especially in the formative years between the time of birth and when they go to school, are indeed very fortunate.

In my case, all of our children had the good fortune of having at least one parent, always their mother, at home in those formative years before they went to school. So I believe in that very strongly.

It is very interesting to note when looking at polls that only 7 per cent of women support the Reform Party. One might ask the question: With a party that is so strongly in support of the family, why would so few women support the Reform Party? I think I know the answer, as do most Canadians.

Women, perhaps more than anyone else in the country realize that if their families do not fit the certain preconceived model of the Reform Party, they are out. They do not care about them. Everyone knows that the Reform Party has a particular model in mind when it comes to the family and if you do not fit that model, you are nobody. For example, the mother who wants to work outside the house or who has to work outside because there is a need for additional income, does the Reform Party place any emphasis on that parent, on that woman?

I have been listening to the debate and rarely does the Reform Party ever say anything about the woman who either wants to work outside the home or who has to work because of financial needs. That is the reason why women do not trust that party. They have this funny notion that there is a particular kind of family and if the model does not fit you, just forget it. Your family is out in the cold. That is my observation about this party.

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1:05 p.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member may have been sitting there, but I do not think he was listening. I used my own family as an example of a family where my wife went out into the workforce, partially because she had a tremendous career. She was a very able person in her chosen line of work and she wanted to pursue it. Ultimately, of course she brought in income. That enabled us to provide some of the basic necessities for our family after the government had taken its half, which it always gets. It is ridiculous for the member to throw up that red herring.

I feel that I must also point out that we have many people in our caucus who come from all kinds of backgrounds. We have mem-

bers in our caucus who are single mothers. Maybe the hon. member was not aware of that. There are people in our caucus who are divorced. We have people who come from all kinds of backgrounds. We are sensitive to what goes on out in the real world. That is why we are offering people complete choice.

If the Liberals do not believe in choice, why do they not just state it?

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1:05 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak on this opposition motion today.

Members will know that I have had a very active role in the House on issues dealing with the family. I have advocated many of the things which members have spoken of today. I am also a legislator. I have a responsibility to do the job in the best way I can.

My first point is to advise the House that I will not be supporting this motion. I would like to explain to the House why.

The motion states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should provide tax fairness for all Canadian families by extending the child care tax deduction to all families of all income levels and converting it to a credit, thereby removing the tax bias against parents caring for their own children.

The first thing that members should be doing is assessing the motion. This motion says that we "should" provide this rather than the typical wording "consider the advisability of". This motion is an absolute. It says: "You should do this". When a motion says specifically that we should do something, it has to be judged on the merits of the motion; not on its intent or what the crafters of the motion were trying to say, but on what the motion says. That is what is before the House.

I support the concepts of equity and fairness in the tax system. However, when a motion contains errors or omissions it must be defeated. The error in the motion is the reference to the child care tax deduction. In the Income Tax Act there is no such thing as a child care tax deduction. There is, however, a child care expense deduction which is available to taxpayers who incur child care costs outside of the home.

The motion also refers to converting the child care expense deduction to a credit. There are two forms of tax credits. There is a refundable tax credit and a non-refundable tax credit. Just by brief explanation, a refundable tax credit-

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1:05 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Sounds like an accountant.

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1:05 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

I am a CA. That is right. I think it is important to explain the difference. It is an important difference. It is important to the acceptability of the motion.

A refundable tax credit is available even if a person has no income taxes payable. For instance, the GST rebate is a form of a refundable tax credit. Even if you have no income, you may file a tax return and get a refund for the amount of the GST credit.

However, there are also non-refundable tax credits which can only reduce taxes otherwise payable. They cannot generate a refund. On that basis and by virtue of the fact that this motion does not even explain who would be able to claim this credit, if it were a non-refundable credit, a spouse working in the home, managing the family home and caring for preschool children, who had no income would not get any benefit from this. This is precisely what I have been working against.

This motion has twisted the language in such a way that it could ultimately lead to something even worse than what already exists today. It could provide even further benefits in other situations and absolutely no benefit to a parent who chooses to stay at home and care for a family member.

Typically private members' motions state "that, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider the advisability" et cetera. As such the House is dealing with a principle without quantification of the financial implications. That is typically the private member's motion. It deals with principles. If the principles cannot be accepted then it does not matter what the dollars are. We have to first buy into the concept, then we can talk about how we can implement it.

However, this motion does not say "consider the advisability". It says "do it. This is what you have to do". But it does not explain the detail.

I want to thank the whole House for supporting Motion No. 30 on November 5, a motion which proposed a child care tax credit for those who choose to provide care in the home to preschool children, the disabled, the chronically ill or the aged. That vote passed in this place by 129 to 63.

If members look at the record they will see that the full cabinet and almost all of the parliamentary secretaries did not support the motion. I know why. They could not support the motion because of the absence of a reference to cost and because of the detail in the debate.

The intent of Motion No. 30 was not to impose an action on the government, but rather to ask it to deal with the principle, the advisability of giving a tax break to families who choose to provide care to a family member in need.

As a result of that, if the vote were adjusted for those who could not vote for it because of the technical nature, the vote would have

been something like 129 to 13. No matter how it is cut, on November 5 the House of Commons sent a very powerful message to the government that members, on behalf of their constituents, on behalf of all the people they encounter, knew in their hearts that investing in families was the right thing to do.

The motion suggests that tax fairness, the removal of tax bias, can be achieved by making the change it proposes. The National Forum on Health just issued a dialogue paper to which I will refer. In its press release on November 12, the national forum states: "The forum believes that there is an urgent need to invest in children. The draft proposals include a combined federal-provincial child tax benefit for low and moderate income families, a reduction in the tax burden on families with children and home visiting programs for preschool children at risk". That is a tremendous endorsement for Motion No. 30, a motion that was passed by this place.

It will provide ample support for the argument that the government must very seriously consider tax reform as it relates to children and families.

Members will know that in the reports just out from the Canadian Association for Social Development the child poverty statistics are unacceptable. One in four children is living in poverty in our country.

The National Forum on Health report is a dialogue paper which includes their draft proposals and is available for public comment. The final report from the National Forum on Health will be coming out in early 1997. I encourage members and Canadians to inform themselves of this report and to make and to have an input. That is the kind of thing that makes changes in legislation and tax law that will affect the family, children and all things important to members as expressed in their vote on Motion No. 30.

The report states:

We believe there is an urgent need to invest in children. Failure to invest in the early years of life increases the remedial costs to the health, education, social services and justice systems. The problems are compounded when a separation or divorce occurs.

Members will know we just dealt with Bill C-41, dealing with the terrible situation of family breakdown. That exacerbates the situation but notwithstanding in addition to a recommendation to combine the existing child tax benefit which is not taxable, it is outside the tax system, with current provincial welfare programs. It means that the federal and provincial governments should be working together to start to consolidate many of these benefit programs that are in fact already available to families and children.

The National Forum on Health was started by the Prime Minister and he is the honorary chair of this forum. From the report I thought this one paragraph was the most important:

At the heart of pro-child and pro-family policies should be a recognition of social and familial responsibilities for the well-being of children. Currently, Canada is the only western country that does not take into account the cost of raising children when determining how much families with children should pay compared to those without children. Simply put, families are penalized by the income tax system for having children. The tax transfer system could be reformed in a manner which reduces the net tax burden of all families with children. That is a very important, major endorsement for Motion No. 30 which this House passed on November 5.

I want to conclude this section of my speech that I am opposed to this motion for technical reasons. I understand the spirit but as a responsible legislator I cannot allow a motion which has an error in it and which has technical limitations, no detail, no specificity. I know the cabinet could not possibly endorse this. The parliamentary secretary cannot and I cannot because I want the job to be done right the first time. I do not want false starts and I do not want things happening that are going to possibly make the situation worse.

There is a saying I enjoy quite a bit, that for every complex problem there is a simple solution. It is wrong. This is a complex issue we are dealing with. We are dealing with the complexity of families, with the complexity of addressing the child poverty issue and we are dealing with the concepts of positive and good health outcomes of our children. One motion in this form is inadequate in the extreme to address those serious problems.

We need to work together to seriously consider the broad range of initiatives that we can come forward with to make a meaningful and a vital effort to deal with the issues of family breakdown, child health, child poverty and a healthy country.

I consider this motion to be dysfunctional. It cannot be implemented in its present form and I cannot support it in this form. I am glad that so many members have risen in this place to talk about the family. We can see from the speeches from all sides there is no question the family is the heart of our country. Strong families make a strong country.

Members know I have been presenting petitions in this place, probably ad nauseam. One I have had circulating across the country since 1994. I am sure members can probably now recite it from memory. However, I would like to put it on the record once again. The petition simply states that the petitioners draw to the attention of the House that managing the family home and caring for preschool children is an honourable profession which has not been recognized for its value to our society. The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to pursue initiatives to eliminate tax

discrimination against families that choose to provide care in the home for preschool children, the chronically ill, the aged or the disabled.

I have had a wonderful response from Canadians on that petition. The reason I frequently presented this petition is when people hear that and hear the nice reaction it is given by members who are here to respond to petitions, it gives them hope that there are people who are actually thinking forward, envisioning the problems, how to solve them and what is going to make this country even better than it is today.

I look back at some of the things I have done. Like all members of Parliament, I keep a little tally on some of the issues I have worked on. One of the first bills I ever presented was Bill C-256, splitting income between spouses so one could stay at home and care for preschool children. That was back in 1994. It taught me a lot. I received a lot of correspondence from people and had a lot of members come to me and support this. However, it was not a votable bill. It involved the expenditure of money and did not meet the criteria and I understand that.

However, that bill did strike a chord back in 1994 and stills strikes a chord today. We know there are things we can do. It has to do with a tax break for families so we can provide more choice, more flexibility and more options because we have a complex social structure today.

I look further and I see Bill C-269 which was to provide Canada pension plan benefits to spouses who work in the home because it is a real job. Whether it is the man or the woman working in a home based business or simply managing the home and caring for children, it is a job and there is a contribution being made to Canada. We know intuitively that good quality parental care generates better outcomes for children. They are healthier, socially better adjusted, less likely to get into trouble with the law and solid Canadians who have a great start at being good contributing citizens to Canada.

Let us move down. I have Bill C-240. I love Bill C-240 because it states convert the child care expense deduction to an unrefundable tax credit, make it subject to income tax and extend the same benefit to those who choose to stay home and provide care in the home to their children. This is precisely the intent of this motion which has been brought before the House today. This is a bill which has been there since May. Unfortunately it has not been drawn for debate as yet.

I want to thank the Conservative Party and the Reform Party for adopting this in their own policy conventions they held. It transcends partisan lines. This is not a partisan issue. This is in fact a Canadian issue that is right. I want all members to know that I have met with the finance minister and have provided him with a plan under which we could re-engineer existing tax credits so that we could fund a caregiver tax credit.

I simply want to conclude my comments by reading a quotation from Dr. Benjamin Spock. He said children are made to love. Parents love children because they remember being loved so much by their own parents. Despite all the hard work, taking care of children and seeing them grow up to develop and become fine young people gives most parents their greatest satisfaction in life. To reflect on children, we see that this is creation. This is our visible immortality.

I thank all members for speaking on behalf of the family. Together we will achieve benefits for families that provide care to their family members.

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1:25 p.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend a sincere compliment to the hon. member. This is the first time today that we have heard a speech from the opposite side that was not filled with bombasts and vindictiveness. That is much appreciated.

Since he is a man who clearly espouses family values perhaps he would consider administering a spanking to the parliamentary secretary, but in a loving way. We have to avoid any suggestions of the brutalization of children here.

I have no quarrel with most of his speech. I would disagree that our motion is not technically feasible. I ask him, if that is his view and it is technically feasible, if he would join us to try, with his knowledge, to work out something which he would regard as feasible which we could then bring forward at a future date, possibly as a private member's bill.

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1:25 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his kind comments.

The member should also understand that the parliamentary secretary has a role to play and it is a very unfortunate role in this situation because the purview of the Income Tax Act belongs to the government, and the details. They are the ones who will have to determine what we do, how we do it and when we do it.

Simply on the basis of the tradition of this place the parliamentary secretary on behalf of the government has to oppose this motion. I am opposed to this motion on the technicalities.

If this motion does not pass that is really not of much consequence because Motion No. 30 did pass. Motion No. 30, the caregiver tax credit for those who provide care in the home for preschool children, the chronically ill, the aged or the disabled, was embraced by this House. The finance minister now has before him a recommendation on how to implement that. It includes among other things converting the child care expense deduction to a tax credit, making it subject to an income test and extending it to families that provide care in the home.

That current benefit is worth about $400 million. The spousal non-refundable tax credit, which is available to one spouse working where the other one is at home, is worth about $400 million but it has no relevance whether or not there are children involved here. I believe that should be made available for this funding of a child caregiver credit.

The equivalent to married exemption actually benefits families that split apart more than it benefits families that stay together. It is worth about $600 million and it should be looked at to see how we can re-engineer and refocus this.

If we take these items they would be about $2.2 billion of current government spending or investment in Canadians. They were brought in a long time ago when family configurations and choices were clearer.

The caregiver tax credit, including seniors, would cost according to the finance department only $1.6 billion. I am absolutely sure that we can direct real dollars to families so that they can have a tax break, so they can have more choices, more options, more flexibility. That is already before the finance minister, before my caucus and before those who are contemplating other policies that the government can consider.

I am very confident that it is going to get the best consideration given all other things that are going on. I thank the member for the question. I think that what the Reform Party is asking for today is already in process and already has the support of the House.