Madam Speaker, it is my privilege today to speak on Reform's supply day motion which reads:
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.
Canadians have told us that they want a tax system that is fair to all families. Let us take a look at the taxes paid by families today. The average family pays an incredible 46 per cent of its income each year in taxes, almost half of its income.
High taxes have stripped families of the disposable income they need to plan for their future and exercise choice in how to arrange their lives. A Reform government will provide real tax relief for all Canadians and simplify the tax system to make it fairer for families at all income levels.
Children are this country's key to the future, but more often than not the policies and programs of the federal government have a negative impact on Canadian families. We must give parents greater freedom to spend time parenting and to succeed economically while doing so.
That is why Reform will extend the following child care deduction to all parents, including those who care for their children at home: $5,000 for every preschool child and $3,000 for every child seven to twelve years of age. To make this as fair as possible for families at all income levels we will turn the deduction into a tax credit so everyone gets the same savings.
These changes are necessary since fiscal burdens and government intervention both mean that Canadian parents have fewer choices about how to raise and care for their children. Big
government programs such as universal day care, which the Liberals promised in the 1993 election campaign, only add to the burden of government debt and high taxes and contribute to removing choices away from Canadian families.
The Reform Party believes that parents are the people best equipped to make these decisions and wants to leave them as much choice and decision making power as possible. Reform believes that returning money into the hands of families will provide them with the choice and the flexibility they need to make the best decisions for their children.
Reform therefore opposes state run day care, supporting in its place child care programs that subsidize financial need, not the method of child care chosen, and that subsidize children and parents, not institutions and professionals.
These initiatives are important because more parents are choosing to stay at home to look after their young children.
According to Sherry Cooper, the chief economist for the Canadian investment firm Nesbit Burns, birth rates are rising in Canada and traditional families, father working and mother at home with the children, are growing from a record low of 28 per cent of all households in the 1980s toward the level of 44 per cent by the year 2005. Demographic trends, she says, point to the resurgence of traditional family life. Canadian parents who want to stay home to raise their children find that government policy penalizes them for their decision. Consequently many spouses are forced to work outside the home even if they do not want to.
Given today's unemployment rate of 10 per cent surely the government would have enough sense to realize more jobs will be available for the unemployed if working parents can stay home and raise their children rather than go out to work and take up the jobs that are in the marketplace.
Consequently Reform supports a revision of the federal income tax regulations to end discrimination against parents who provide for child care at home.
How does Reform view Canadian parents? We are convinced that the majority of Canadian parents are caring, are capable and are responsible. They know what is best for their own children. What is more, they demonstrate it every day through the large and the small sacrifices they make, that the well-being of their children is their top priority.
In the case of divorced parents we want to see fair and equal treatment for all parties involved in a support ruling. It is vital in any child access or custody settlement that the needs of the child and the parents' ability to pay are the first consideration. This government constantly puts forth flowery phrases of how supportive it is of family. Yet its actions makes lies of its words. Children need the loving care and visits from all family members.
Yet this government, in contradiction to Canada's acceptance of the convention of the child and of a child's right of access to their families, voted down the grandparents bill which would have given grandparents the right to ask the judge at the time of divorce if they could continue to see their grandchildren.
How could this government do this, knowing that many of our seniors have already died without seeing their grandchildren in their later years? How could it be so cruel as to continue to deny families the right of access?
This government cares about families, we heard the Liberal member say a few minutes ago. Oh, yes.
What about this government's promise to remove the GST on reading material and thereby enable families to have reading material in their homes without paying GST on those essential? Remember, the Deputy Prime Minister promised that there would be no GST on books which were as necessary as food.
The member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell said it would be undemocratic to put GST on books. Yet Atlantic Canadians are now paying 15 per cent on books at retail book stores in the Atlantic provinces. That is not helping families.
Who are the victims in the terrible crimes across this country? Good law-abiding families have been made to suffer while the rights of criminals have been upper most in Liberals' minds since 1971 when the Liberals at the time decided that the rehabilitation of criminals was more important than the victims of crime and the families of victims.
What did the government do when Mr. Niven, a good family man, was kicked to death outside a 7-Eleven store just outside my riding? This government passed Bill C-41 which dealt with sentencing. It stressed that the murder of a gay deserved a stiffer sentence than the murder of a family man like Mr. Niven.
The new Bill C-41 deals with punitive measures for support payments in arrears. Once again this government did not help families. This government was concerned only with punishment. It could have dealt with a comprehensive package which would have included access and visitation rights.
In the American legislation under the Florida statutes its package was comprehensive. It did deal with all those issues. This government did not even care about families. What is worse, this government took the drawing up of guidelines out of the hands of parliamentarians. It ended up with inflexible and unrealistic guidelines.
Elected members of Parliament could have ensured that families were encouraged to make realistic settlements, settlements which
dealt with the needs of the child and the ability to pay and add that these agreements be considered first by the judge rather than going first to the inflexible guidelines, which is what that bill instructs the judge to do at this time. That is a recipe for failure.
In the guidelines there are a number of omissions and additions that would result in many unfair awards. For example, the lack of an adjustment of awards for the time the child spends with a non-custodial parent. However, that is not in there. There is also the completely different and extreme treatment of joint custody situations, which is getting very common in our country today.
Mr. Bouchard, co-ordinator of the National Alliance for the Advancement of Non-Custodial Parents, stated: "Fair and equitable guidelines would go a long way to bring some consistency to support awards". Support awards must be paid and it is essential that parliamentarians be responsible and set guidelines which will help prevent future arrears in these necessary support payments.
In fact, the Equitable Child Maintenance and Access Society stated that the federal, provincial and territorial task force was supposed to deal jointly with the issues of custody, access and maintenance. This government ignored two-thirds of this mandate and gave the area of child support preferential and exclusive treatment.
Studies in the area of divorce show that children suffer more from the custody and access conflicts and therefore priority must be given to these areas in conjunction with financial support.
The result is that Bill C-41 is designed to specifically exclude the paying spouse from the definition of family. The finance minister brags about all the wonderful things this government is doing for families.
What about the new tax treatment of child support payments? No deductions and no inclusions. Who benefits from this set up? It is not the families, Mr. Finance Minister. It is a major tax grab at the expense of families. The spouse paying support, usually the higher earner in family settlements, will now not be able to claim deductions and consequently will pay higher income tax to the government, causing him to have less money to look after his new family and his first family.
In short, by eliminating the deduction inclusion system there is less money to go around for divorced families and both sides suffer while government revenues obviously rise.
It is essential that we as parliamentarians put families first. In this way we do not only help to build character and self-respect in our children, we also help our literacy rate to rise and help prevent crime.
By including those parents who are able to stay at home and raise their children without state run day care and by giving them child care deductions which can be turned into tax credits, we are also helping those who are unemployed in our society. After all the fanfare this government made about supporting families, it seems it is up to the Reform Party to raise a motion in the House to reinforce support for families.
It is time to make a fresh start for families. Therefore I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting the word "should".