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.