House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.


Business Of The House
Government Orders

March 7th, 1997 / 12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

The hon. member for Mount Royal informed me in writing that she would be unable to present her motion during private members' business, on Monday, March 10, 1997.

It has not been possible to arrange an exchange of positions in the order of precedence. Accordingly, I am directing the table officers to drop that item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence.

Therefore, private members' business will be suspended and government orders will begin at 11 a.m.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Government Orders

12:40 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the eve of International Women's Day, it is appropriate to take a look at the current situation. I would love to be able to tell you that I am pleased that progress has been made. Unfortunately, I cannot do so in reference to women, and the children for whom they are responsible, in Quebec and in Canada.

In fact, the new unemployment figures released this morning reflect a situation that women have been experiencing for the last three years. Indeed, this morning we learned from Statistics Canada that 44,000 full time jobs were lost last month, while-and this is no compensation, far from it-14,000 part time jobs are said to have been created. The net loss for women is 30,000 jobs.

It would be one thing if this was just a blip, just a bad month in a period during which the situation was improving for women, but it is not the case. Since this government came to office, in fact since one year after the beginning of its mandate, only 10,000 full time jobs have been created for women, compared to 140,000 part time jobs. The reality for women is that a large number of them are part time workers because they have no other option.

In Quebec and in Canada, the majority of part time jobs are held by women. Also, the unemployment rate for certain groups of women is higher than the national average. We know that women are in jobs that have traditionally been reserved for them, and for which they are often paid less than the average salary for men.

In 1993, women's earnings represented 75 per cent of the average salary for men, a proportion which remains basically the same year after year. Given these conditions, and knowing how hard it is to find full time jobs-with these being usually low paying occupations that pay less than men's occupations-one realizes the importance of social programs for women.

But what have we seen since this government came to power? Not just an erosion, because "erosion" is a word suggesting slow breakdown; and "illusion" does not really describe the situation either. What we have seen is a radical decrease in the coverage provided by social programs to women and women with children.

Whether it is employment insurance, the successor to unemployment insurance, slashed deeply by this government, or the equally radical decrease in social transfers that forced the Government of Quebec to cut social services, education and welfare, social programs have been very hard hit.

I was struck by a passage in the finance minister's budget speech, enthusing how proud he was that Canada had gone from the bottom spot among the seven richest countries, the G-7, to the top. Why was he proud? Because of the fight to bring down the deficit. So Canada is congratulating itself because it is the most successful in bringing down the deficit.

But I asked him the other day why he was content to be near the bottom, not this time of the richest countries, but of the 28 developed countries in the OECD. Canada is bringing up the rear, with New Zealand and the United States. And this is on the basis of the 1990 figures, which do not take into account the radical cuts we have seen over the last three years.

There is a widespread myth in this country that Canada's social programs are extremely generous. This is not the case. Compared to other developed countries, our social programs are anaemic. So when we see the Minister of Finance crowing because Canada now tops the list of countries that are making cuts in order to lower their deficit, with no concern for the effects on women and children in particular, on families, on the most disadvantaged in society, when

Canada was already lagging behind in this social protection, there is cause not just for concern but for real distress.

There is also the fact that many women are poor, not only women who are heads of single parent households, but also women who are in a relationship and who are obliged, because of the many cuts to the social programs, to invest more of their time in addition to the effort they put into looking for a job, even a part time one.

What they find is that unemployment insurance is less accessible than it used to be, that the tax benefits for children the government promised will in fact increase by only $33 per child in poverty this year and that, as far as the rest is concerned, this election promise is just as empty as the promise of a national daycare service, for which not one single cent has been forthcoming.

When we see the effect of the measures on the poor and the reduction in welfare because of cuts, the life of women who are heads of households and those who live with a partner, who may be just as poor or who is a part of the middle class, and they want to have children or are having a difficult time giving the child a reasonable education, we realize that the situation for women has deteriorated. It is distressing. It is worrisome. I have a hard time swallowing the government opposite's smugness in the face of the void that women are having to face.

Employment is hard to come by and it is poorly paid. Employment insurance is hard to get and available for a shorter time. Maternity leave is not so readily available, and welfare has been cut and is hard to obtain. I hope next year's status report is different.

Count on us to be a vigilant and effective opposition. We will not let you out of our sight. The women we represent today have enormous needs.

Government Orders

12:50 p.m.


Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I think all members would agree the economic autonomy of women is an important issue, not only to talk about but also to act on.

I raise for the member's consideration another aspect of the consequences to women and to children. We talk in this place about child poverty. The member will know according to the Vanier Institute that 50 per cent of marriages break down in divorce. When we consider the breakdown of common law relationships which are not reported in those figures we could conclude the Canadian family is in crisis. We need to address family issues as part of a strategy to address the economic issues related to women.

The reason for this is that children are involved in 60 per cent of divorces. The custody arrangements by the courts are basically automatic. Women are awarded the custody of the children. The courts and society as a whole have decided that women are in the best position to care for children.

We know that 23 per cent of all families in Canada represent lone parent families. What is worse is that those 23 per cent of families account for 53 per cent of all children living in poverty.

Would the member care to comment on whether she feels the Canadian family is in crisis and the role or the economic condition of women might be helped if we were to help find ways to make the Canadian family stronger?

Government Orders

12:50 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I must say I am somewhat surprised by what the member opposite has just said. Tomorrow is International Women's Day and I would have liked him to address this issue for once. What concerns him is that so many marriages end up in divorce and that there are so many common law relationships.

A caring society provides families, single families and couples alike, not only with emergency help but also with the means to meet their needs. Down through the centuries, the family has evolved, and if it is evolving now it is largely due to the fact that the industrial society has become post industrial and disruptive.

It is not up to society or to the government to decide what constitutes a family, and to spare no effort to make sure it remains that way. In any event, even if it tried, the government would not succeed. What we have to expect is that society will evolve to adjust to changes, and that the elements therein will follow suit.

I agree with those who say we must help couples, but we cannot prevent society from evolving. We could mention education too; and I agree. Obviously, since relationships are not forever, we should teach men and women to put the well being of children first. I did say men and women. But this will never be an excuse for not providing a minimum of help to find employment, get an education, and support women and children. This will never release society from providing the bare minimum.

Government Orders

12:55 p.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on the hon. member's motion, which deals with the government's lack of action to improve women's living conditions.

I want to put this issue in a global context and go back to the federal cuts and their harmful effects on health, social assistance, employment insurance, old age pensions-not to mention the forgotten promises made regarding employment and health-be-

fore finally discussing the federal government's inaction regarding the problems women are facing, particularly violence, poverty and children.

The federal government cannot merely appoint a Secretary of State for the Status of Women and think that women's problems are automatically going to be solved. In spite of the valiant efforts of the secretary of state, any government action to help women must get the support of all the ministers, particularly the Minister of Finance, otherwise it is doomed.

Recently, we noticed problems in several departments, including national defence, where a woman, who might have become Canada's first woman to reach the rank of general, was forced to leave the military because her colleagues were giving her a hard time. Women know how hard it is to be a woman in a woman's world, and even more so in a man's world. When it comes to work, we all know that women must do more to find their place in the sun.

I feel strongly that concerted action by the government is necessary to further the cause of women. What we see is that the government has unfortunately failed to deliver. It has not really undertaken any concerted action and has considerably reduced funding for various social programs that might have helped improve the cause of women in this country.

Some cuts and their effects: there are still, theoretically and legally, one and a half years left in the Liberal government's mandate, and we are hearing a lot more about the likelihood of a spring election than about new programs to try to keep a few promises.

Has the government kept its promises to protect and to promote the rights and the cause of women? Unfortunately not. Women were the first to be hit by the Liberal government's never-ending cuts in funding for health, social assistance, unemployment insurance and education, as well as by the announced reform of the pension plan.

In the area of health, in 1995 the federal government announced a revolutionary new program: the Canada Social Transfer. What this program really boiled down to was $7 billion in cuts in transfers to the provinces for health, social welfare and education.

These federal health cuts are coming at a time when the aging of the population requires an increase in resources aimed at seniors, such as home care. Older women will pay the cost of lowering the government's deficit.

As for social assistance, tighter eligibility criteria for employment insurance and continued high unemployment have forced many women to go on welfare. In 1995, Quebec held the dubious record of 485,000 households receiving income security benefits.

As for employment insurance reform, which bases eligibility on the number of hours, not weeks, worked, this penalizes part time workers, and we must keep in mind that 70 per cent of these are women. These workers will now contribute to the system from the first hour worked, but will have little chance of accumulating sufficient hours to qualify for benefits if they lose their job.

By depriving numerous women of a replacement income between jobs, while the unemployment insurance fund surplus will total $12 billion in 1988, the federal government is choosing to make women who are working, and women who are unemployed, foot the bill for part of its deficit reduction.

As for seniors' pensions, the federal government plans to bring in a system for calculating pensions according to family income in the year 2001. The calculation of how much pension a woman will receive will, therefore, depend on her husband's income.

This measure will mean less money for couples, but also less independence for women. After all the years of struggle to obtain the recognition of women as persons in their own right, seniors will be treated differently depending on how much their husband's income is.

Yet, 44 per cent of women over the age of 65 are living below the poverty line, compared to 25 per cent of men. Why, then, reduce women's pensions?

A few promises have been forgotten. On March 4, 1994, the government voted in favour of the Bloc Quebecois motion urging the government to recognize the principle of economic equality between women and men and to implement measures to guarantee equity in employment, wages and living conditions for women. But the federal government has never put its money where its mouth is, despite its great eloquence on the matter at the time.

A federal pay equity bill was passed, in 1977 according to our sources, but in 1978 according to the minister's, and the government is dragging its feet unduly on its implementation. The Public Service Alliance estimates that women may be owed in excess of $2 billion.

The federal government's inaction in the area of job creation affects women in particular for they are, more often than not, the ones in precarious, underpaid, temporary or part time jobs. Women hold 69 per cent of part time jobs, but not by choice, for 500,000 of them would like to have full time work. Only 20 per cent of women have a full time job which pays more than $30,000, compared to40 per cent of men. Women, whatever their level of education, earn less than men. Even female university graduates make only 75 per cent of the salary paid to their male colleagues.

In the health and employment sector, the Liberal government also failed to keep its promises. It considerably reduced transfers for health care and did nothing to create jobs, although in its red book, it said on page 81, and I quote: "The social and economic experiences of women provide the context within which their health needs must be reviewed. Canadian women are poorer than Canadian men, and there is a clear link between poverty and poor health".

The government's inertia continues. The government has done nothing about certain major problems that affect women, including violence. Community agencies that provide support and counselling for women who are victims of domestic violence, as well as the shelters for women and children have been severely affected by federal cuts in community assistance. The very fact that this sector was not spared by the government proves that violence against women is not a priority concern for the Liberals.

In 1994, 70 per cent of poor people in Canada were women or their children, which adds up to 2 million women and 1.3 million children, and under the Liberals, the situation continues to deteriorate. We now have 1,600,000 poor children, and the average family income dropped by about $1,000 between 1994 and 1995. The government, instead of taking vigorous steps to deal with this problem, has reduced transfers to the provinces for social assistance, plans to provide minimal amounts that would be barely enough to survive and suggested that disadvantaged citizens go begging in the streets.

When the latest budget was brought down, the Minister of Finance realized all of sudden that child poverty was a problem. I would like to point out that to fight child poverty, we must first help families with employment policies, social security and community support.

The Canadian Institute of Child Health calculated that the best way to improve the standard of living of our children would be to develop a national job creation strategy for adults who have to support a family. That is pretty obvious. To improve the circumstances of women and their children, the government should listen to the suggestions coming from the official opposition and many women's groups, and act on those suggestions, and act positively by creating jobs for women and stopping cuts in social programs. Although theorically and legally women have equal rights, only economic equality will make them truly equal. Then maybe we will no longer need March 8.

Government Orders

1:05 p.m.


Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Bloc for her comments and concerns in this area. We all have a vested interest in the whole question of the equitable standards that women live and work in.

There are three women in my family whom I love very much. Two of them are working. They would like to see from government a greater reduction in the taxes they have to pay. They look at their paycheques and they would like to see more expendable income left for them to support their children and buy the goods and services they need. I believe every working woman in the country would like to see that. That is how to strengthen the economic stability of working women.

What has happened? The government participated in taking50 cents in taxes in one form or another from every dollar a working woman earns. I think this is wrong.

In addition, in the next six years or so working women will have to pay another 9 or 10 per cent on their Canada pension contributions. This is what is weakening the economic stability of working women. Over the last month these policies have resulted in 44,000 women becoming unemployed and their children living in poverty.

When I hear the minister across the way speak as she did this morning about all the wonderful things the government is doing for women, I cannot help but fight the feeling and thoughts of hypocrisy that well up in my mind. It was reprehensible, pathetic rhetoric.

The best way to help working women and the children living poverty is by examining the policies that led to the situation. What policies over the last two and a half decades led to child poverty and were recognized by the government?

One child in five is supposedly living in poverty. If the child is living in poverty the family is living in poverty. How could we expect anything but that when the three levels of government are taking 50 cents from every dollar they earn? How can we expect anything but poverty for these women and their children?

I listened very carefully to my colleague's comments. I would like her to address the policies of the government that have led to family and child poverty which the government recently recognized exists directly as a result of the policies of the government.

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1:05 p.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is all too clear that the government opposite is arrogant and has a certain disdain for the people of Canada because of its absolute majority in the House. It may continue to think it has no opposition across from it. The papers continue to say that the opposition is not playing its role and that the government continues to do what it likes.

There will be a Grand Prix Sunday, because negotiations went on all night and all morning to reach an agreement with the government, which did not want to lose face and change things.

It is always the same with this government. It makes the policies it likes. It rises in this House to defend the health of children. We are not allowed to use the word that comes to mind. I have little time left and I do not want it taken away from me. To be able to claim to be protecting children's health, the government should have made fewer cuts. When it decided to cut transfer payments to the provinces, it decided to increase poverty. It would bust its britches with its own self importance and continue to make everyone poorer.

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1:10 p.m.


Beryl Gaffney Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in my place today to speak to the motion by the hon. member for Laurentides concerning the socioeconomic condition of women.

In the course of the debate I hope the House will not lose sight of the government's role to help women support their families. The issue of how Canadians care for their families should not be separated from a discussion about the socioeconomic condition of women.

I will outline how the government is moving on three fronts to improve the well-being of women who care for families. Maybe this will respond to the previous questioner's concerns. They are assessing the value of unpaid work, reforming the national child benefit system and ensuring that child support payments are made when a family breaks up.

The first issue is the unpaid work many women perform. It includes housework, care of children and care of other dependants such as the elderly. Most of this work is done by women, two-thirds according to Statistics Canada. This unpaid work provides the foundation of society. It keep our families strong. It serves as the bedrock of the social order upon which our paid economy can be built. This unpaid work is extremely valuable to society.

In 1994 Statistics Canada placed a monetary value on it of$285 billion. Even while it contributes so much to society and the economy, unpaid work often has a detrimental impact on the socioeconomic well-being of women. For many it means they do not have the choice of entering the workforce. For others it means their chances of advancing in their careers is limited. For some it means a double shift that can wear them out.

We need a better understanding of the role unpaid work plays in helping us promote the equality of men and women. It would help Canadians rebalance the sharing of family responsibilities.

The government has established an overriding, long term initiative to measure and value unpaid work. In 1996 we counted unpaid household work, child care and elder care for the first time in the census. We expect to see the results in 1998 and will add the information to the time use surveys and evaluation methods that have already been conducted.

Our efforts are now being directed toward a framework for evaluating the policy implications of unpaid work. Part of this is being developed through joint research with other OECD countries. In the years ahead we will use the information to improve our initiatives and to promote the socioeconomic equality of women.

While the government takes long term steps to promote better policy it has also taken immediate action to improve the socioeconomic impact of how women care for their families. Nowhere is that more important than in the case of child poverty, the second broad issue I will outline before the House.

Children's poverty is intricately linked with women's poverty. Many children live in poverty because they are under the care of a lone parent. That parent is usually a women and that woman usually has to make ends meet for herself and her children with a low paying job or with the support of the social safety net.

The government has moved on all these fronts. In the last budget the Minister of Finance introduced an historic initiative, the national child benefit, which will provide more money to families where lone parent mothers must care for children. It builds on the child support reform introduced last year.

Under the benefit system, a Canada child tax benefit worth $6 billion will be in place by July 1998. That is one step in a two step process to create the new system.

Every step involved in the working income supplement, which will increase in July 1997 from $500 per family to $605 for one child, $1,010 for two children and $330 for each additional child, is good news for low income families with children who want to get into the workforce.

In July 1998, one year after we increased the working income supplement, we will combine it with a child tax benefit. Benefits will increase to all low income families in which the parents have paid work as well as those who receive social assistance.

As a result of these measures, more than 1.4 million Canadian families will see an increase in federal child benefit payments by July 1998. That represents 2.5 million children. Many women will see their socio-economic condition improve and find themselves able to take better care of their families.

The third broad area where the government has moved to improve the socio-economic condition of women through family initiatives involves the support payments for children should a family break up.

Recently this House passed child support legislation based on the premise that when parents separate or divorce, a child's standard of living should reflect the means of both parents. Children are a shared responsibility. Both parents have an obligation to support their children.

The legislation changed the way that child support payments are taxed. Child support paid under a written agreement or court order made on or after May 1, 1997 will not be deductible to the payer or included in the income of the recipient for tax purposes. Therefore the new tax rules will apply to all new orders or agreements made on or after May 1, 1997.

The legislation also introduced measures to complement provincial and territorial efforts to enforce court orders. As a result, in a province's effort to enforce a court order, federal licences can be suspended and federal pensions can be diverted.

Federal data bases, including Revenue Canada's, can be used to track defaulters. Passports can be suspended if a debtor is in persistent arrears.

We also introduced child support guidelines to make the system more predictable and offer a simpler means to update awards. They have three main elements: child support payment schedules, rules to adjust the award to reflect four types of special child related expenses, and rules to adjust the award in cases of undue hardship.

Part of the reason for introducing these guidelines was to cut down on the legal costs of determining child support. Money that is spent on lawyers would be better spent to support these children.

These changes in child support legislation were long overdue. Soon lone parents will begin to benefit from them. In many cases these parents will be women, many of whom must struggle to keep their children fed and clothed.

The burden of caring for a family under these hardships adds an enormous strain to the health and well-being of these women. It is a burden that contributes greatly to the socio-economic inequalities that women face.

This is International Women's Week. It is a time to rededicate ourselves to the challenge of creating socio-economic equality of women. We acknowledge that much remains to be done to advance women's equality.

The advances must be an inclusive process that engages all sectors and individuals to make changes happen. Governments cannot do it alone, but this government under the Prime Minister has taken some very important steps to help ensure that we will all get there together.

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1:15 p.m.


Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the speech by my hon. colleague, for whom I have great respect and who has given considerable thought to social concerns in general.

I would like her comments on the fact that, in Canada, one in five children still lives under the poverty line and the number keeps growing. I would like her comments on the 10,000 jobs cut at Canada Post, the majority of which were held by women.

I would also like to know what she thinks of the cuts in social housing made since this government took office, the fact that housing used to be subsidized but now government no longer spends a red cent on developing social housing. It has passed the buck to the provinces. Add to that cuts in transfer payments, which interfere with the provinces' capacity to maintain their own social safety net.

As she pointed out earlier, initiatives like the child tax benefit were indeed put forward. But, for a single mother raising two or three children, an extra $800 per year is not enough, when the time comes to pay rent at the end of the month, pay telephone bills or the groceries, if she wants her children to be well fed. Without adequate housing, when cuts are made, there is less for health, food, and so on; that is where the money has to come from. I would like to know what the hon. member thinks about this.

I sincerely believe that all the policies that have been put in place will never compensate for the lack of focus on the needs of women, and therefore children, because they are the ones looking after the children. I sincerely think that the provinces should get more, they should get their fair share. The provinces are not asking for handouts. They want what is supposed to be theirs, the transfer payments they are entitled to, and to be able to meet the needs of women and children, within their jurisdictions.

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1:20 p.m.


Beryl Gaffney Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member from the Bloc Quebecois for her kind comments.

I do not think any government in history has been as concerned about the lives of women as this government in trying to improve the lives of women and to decrease the amount of poverty among women and children.

When the finance minister was preparing his budget every government department was asked to look at every issue where there was a proposed cutback or whatever it was with regard to gender equality and gender issues. It was one of the most important things a government could be concerned about. It is too important to leave to one person, as the minister responsible for women's

issues said this morning. We have to draw in all government departments.

Maybe the member from the Bloc Quebecois was not listening too carefully to me. I outlined many areas where this government is concerned with women's and children's issues and the poverty in this country.

I have time to expand on a couple of them. When one in five lives under the poverty line that is not acceptable, I agree, but if she had listened to what I said there are many measures that we are putting in place to try to decrease that amount.

With regard to transfers to the provinces I can only speak for the province of Ontario, the area I am most familiar with. In terms of transfers to the province of Ontario, and I assume it is the same with the province of Quebec, the federal government has decreased the transfers since 1993 to today by as little as $1.5 billion. That is less than what our government departments were asked to cut back. I think it is around 11 per cent. Each government department has been cut back by 15 per cent.

Why would a premier of a province then initiate a tax benefit to the people of Ontario? Who does this tax benefit or tax cut go to? It goes to the wealthy in the province of Ontario. They are the ones who are benefiting. Who are the ones who are being hurt in the province of Ontario? It is the poor people who are not benefiting. In addition, why has the premier cut back in education and hospitals? He must come up with $4.5 billion to cover his tax cut in the province of Ontario.

Let us not blame this on the federal government. It is not our fault. That is four times the amount of money that the federal government has cut in transfers to the provinces. It is about time to put the onus where the onus should be, back on the premier of the province of Ontario.

With regard to the 10,000 jobs lost at Canada Post, I have to assume the member is referring to junk mail.

It is my understanding that that those 10,000 jobs will be picked up in another area with regard to the private sector which will then be providing the same quality of service. I hope that will be the case.

With regard to the cutbacks in social housing, it is not my understanding that there are cuts in social housing. We are working with the provinces to increase social housing in this province. In fact, we are very concerned about some of the aspects of what different provinces are doing. Again I cannot quote on Quebec, but I know that in Ontario there is talk about privatizing and we are very concerned about any effort to privatize social housing in Ontario.

I hope I have responded to her concerns.

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1:25 p.m.


Sharon Hayes Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I just want to ask my hon. colleague a couple of questions specifically about gender analysis.

I am aware that because of the fourth UN conference on women, to which Canada was a signatory, it was recommended that there be a review in every federal department. It was interesting to note that the hon. member suggested that it was going forward and was in place at the present time.

We should review all legislation as to how it affects women in particular, which is called gender analysis, although I think the secretary of state would say it is men an women, but it specifically goes to issues dealing with women.

I know my hon. colleague is very concerned with families in Canada and certainly realizes their importance. I would ask if she feels that a similar kind of review should take place as to how government policies affect families in Canada. Are they not as important an institution as any other in this country? Should there not be a similar kind of government activity addressing how government policy affects family units in Canada?

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1:25 p.m.


Beryl Gaffney Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Port Moody-Coquitlam.

I addressed in my speech how the child tax benefit helps families. I outlined the different amounts of moneys. Maybe the member was not in her seat at the time but I would be delighted to repeat what I said.

Through the working income supplement and the enriched Canada child tax benefit program, the 1997 budget will help to improve the assistance available to children in low income families who are the ones who most need help. This will be increased by $195 million in June 1997. This will provide a maximum supplement of $605 for the first child, $405 for the second and $330 for each additional child.

If this is not a major benefit and a major expense that this government is putting forward to help children, families and moms and dads, then I cannot understand her question. This is a major effort on behalf of this government.

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1:25 p.m.


Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, just for the record, this has been a great day where we all had a chance to make some brief and some lengthy comments concerning International Women's Day. However, we certainly all recognize the fact that notwithstanding what every government has done over the years, a lot of work still needs to be done.

As my colleague from the official opposition very eloquently put it, in Canada, the richest country on earth, where we still have over one in every five children living below the poverty line, it is clear that our work is not done.

However, one could say that at least we know the task has not been completed.

Over the past three years the government-it has only been in power for about three and a half years-has done a tremendous amount of things in order to address many of the concerns that were raised by my colleagues. It has taken a number of initiatives to restore confidence which was one of the most important elements and concerns that faced Canadians over the past nine years. That was done.

The second initiative undertaken by the government was to put its house in order. I would suggest, and my colleagues would agree, that our house is in order. The deficit is controllable. It is below$19 billion. The economy has grown at an incredible rate, higher than any other country in the western hemisphere. Interest rates are low and inflation is low.

The next move is to invest. I would suggest with the budget discussion that was initiated by the Minister of Finance the government is now moving toward investments. Before I sit down, I would suggest that with another mandate I am sure many of the concerns raised by my colleagues will be addressed.

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1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Since debate has now ended, the proceedings concerning the motion before the House are completed.

It being 1.30 o'clock p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.