Madam Speaker, I will begin by going over the wording of Motion M-261 introduced by my colleague for Esquimault—Juan de Fuca, which reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should: (a) develop, along with their provincial counterparts, a comprehensive National Head Start Program for children in their first 8 years of life; (b) ensure that this integrated program involves both hospitals and schools, and is modelled on the experiences of the Moncton Head Start Program, Hawaii Head Start Program, and PERRY Pre-School Program; and (c) ensure that the program is implemented by the year 2000.
Far be it from me to question the good faith of the hon. member for Esquimault—Juan de Fuca and his noble intentions to prevent child and youth crime. We are all concerned about giving children a good start in life. We are all concerned about crime among young people, especially the fact that it is on the increase.
Either in their role as MPs or in their professional activities, all of the members in this House have been in a position to observe cases of youth crime. We all agree that the deep-seated causes of this must be dealt with seriously.
Once again, however, the Bloc Quebecois is forced to point out that this motion falls within an area of exclusively provincial jurisdiction, and that it inaugurates new national standards and directives we do not support.
The Bloc Quebecois is therefore opposed to the mechanisms proposed by the hon. member for Esquimault—Juan de Fuca to fight youth crime. We believe the provinces are better placed to identify and assess community needs and to put into place programs and various types of intervention with young people.
We know, and experience has shown, that each province has its own particular philosophy about the prevention of youth and adult crime. It may be a question of identity and culture. We have only to think of the debates in the House regarding the Young Offenders Act. It became clear that members' attitudes, reactions and solutions with respect to this legislation differed enormously.
The same is true in this debate. Quebeckers and Canadians often see things differently, as is evident from their approach to social issues. By setting up a comprehensive program such as the one proposed by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, the federal government would not only be interfering in areas of jurisdiction where it has no business, but would not be helping children and young people whose situation requires an adapted approach.
If the other provinces wish to have the federal government intervene and set up programs to keep youth from turning to crime, we respect that choice. Quebec's choice must also be respected.
It must be pointed out that a good start has already been made. I was most astonished to hear the Reform member who spoke before me just now speak about the Bloc Quebecois' paranoia, because we are opposed to this bill.
If Reform members were to come to Quebec and find out what is being done, they would perhaps not hold these views about us.
In fact, as I mentioned earlier, Quebec has already taken the lead in this area. In his health and welfare policy, the Quebec minister of health and social services has made the elimination of youth crime a priority. What we have seen is that there has been no increase in the number of young offenders in recent years, but that their offences have become much more serious in nature.
In addition, the causality and risk factors underlying this major change in youth crime have been identified. These include single parenthood, the absence and desertion of the father, poverty, drug addiction, social exclusion, school adjustment problems, the company of other young offenders, parental crime and conjugal conflicts. The causes are numerous and they were clearly identified.
Finally, Quebec advocates five priority measures to reduce the prevalence and seriousness of delinquency by the year 2002: making fathers more accountable; strengthening the father-child relationship; taking action in the school environment; supporting flexible interventions instead of rigid ones; seeking a better balance in the funds earmarked for boys and girls who are experiencing difficulties; giving special attention to girls and, among other initiatives, adjusting any new measure and action related to the Young Offenders Act.
As you can see, the approach taken by Quebec stakeholders speaks for itself. They identified the problems, along with their causes and risk factors. Then, they proposed solutions while also setting realistic goals. This approach reflects the reality of Quebec society, and more specifically that of young offenders.
This action plan was part of the national priorities on public health, on which all stakeholders were consulted, including the health and social services network, community organizations, professional groups, municipalities, and the education, environment, transport, justice and recreation sectors. All took part in the development of the program. Since it is the result of a consensus, the program is based on joint action and is very flexible. This would unfortunately not be the case if Quebec had to implement a program designed and developed in some federal administration back room.
Let us tell it as it is. In what way would the federal government be in a better position to resolve the problems facing young children when poverty has been on the rise ever since this government took office? There are serious child poverty problems in Canada. There are 1.5 million poor children whose basic needs are not met and who do not have what is needed to get a good start in life.
But remember that where there are poor children, there are poor parents. A study released in March by the economist Pierre Fortin showed that 58% of the unemployed who are not eligible under the employment insurance plan have no choice but to go on welfare. These individuals cannot qualify for EI benefits. They are therefore forced unto social assistance and on the way to living in poverty.
What has the government done to help eliminate child poverty? Not much. In fact, it has cut transfer payments to the provinces, attacked the unemployed from all sides to increase surpluses in the employment insurance fund and supported the finance minister in his accounting operations. Injecting a measly $425 million in the child tax benefit program will certainly not help children get out of poverty in the short term.
This centralizing policy which the Reform Party is putting forward will once again prove to be useless and expensive because of the overlap it will create in Quebec.
We must avoid falling in this trap at all cost. The federal government and the Reform Party must understand once and for all that Quebec can look after its own business and take care of its own problems as well. It does not need big brother looking over its shoulder to achieve its goals.
As I mentioned earlier, Quebec has already taken the lead in dealing with youth crime. The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca should come and see what is being done in this respect. Perhaps the members of the Reform Party would then change their minds.