Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your efforts and the challenges you have in the House. I gain appreciation for your position more and more all the time.
To carry on with my speech regarding the Bloc motion, I make reference to a publicity stunt we saw in the House some days back by a Bloc MP who carried his chair out of the House to protest government ineffectiveness in addressing child poverty and the gap between rich and poor. It is interesting that the Bloc comes back with this motion which proposes greater government intervention to address these problems.
However, let us continue to use this illustration or analogy with the chair. We do not need more politicians establishing programs which tell families what kind of, for example, chair they should have, which is what the Bloc seems to be proposing. Rather, this decision should be left to parents. Give them back some of the resources they had so that they may decide what kind and what size of chair they need.
The chair that a child needs is best provided for and decided on by parents. Parents and not government know what kind and size of chair their children need as they grow up. Going from that first chair with the hole in the middle, through the high chair, the stool up to a student's desk, parents are in the best position to make these decisions because they are closest to the children.
Parents know when to make the changes, big governments do not. Big government programs which promote a one size fits all approach serve to diminish the value of the individual and cost more than the benefit they deliver. The responsiveness of government is so slow and delivers a one size fits all solution that it never brings out the best of the individual.
One of the many Reform proposals to assist the family refers to changes to the negative tax treatment of families. We would extend the child care deduction to all parents, including those who care for their children at home, and put this decision in the hands of those closest to their children. Let the parents decide how to raise their children. It seems to make sense. We would increase the spousal amount to level the playing field for parents who choose to stay at home to look after their children and help their families meet the needs of this demanding time we all live in.
Why is this a good idea? Research indicates this is good for children. Polls indicate this is something parents intrinsically know and want. I refer to some polls.
In 1997 a research project done by the National Foundation of Family Research and Education, NFFRE, performed a comprehensive meta-analysis of current research on child development. According to NFFRE the core findings from this meta-analysis are that regular non-parental care for more than 20 hours per week has an unmistakably negative effect on social and emotional development, behaviour adjustment and the emotional bonding of young children to their parents. In addition, the report stated parental care consistently and significantly outperformed regular non-parental care for children prior to five years of age.
This high integrity research makes it clear that the best interests of infants and preschool children are served when they are in full time parent care. For many of us this is a “no brainer”, yet current government policies give tax incentives to institutionalized care but none to parental care. It seems upside down to me. It sends a message to parents that the work they are doing has no value. That is very destructive.
Clearly, parent and family time is important and governments need to respect this if we are to preserve the health and happiness of our homes.
To continue with more poll information and studies that have been done, parents want to make families a priority. I am referring to a national poll conducted by a research firm known as Compass Inc. Fully 94% in this national poll of Canadians identified that lack of time spent with offspring has, at least, a somewhat serious stress on family life.
In 1991 a cross-Canada poll conducted by Decima Research was the most comprehensive poll ever taken of Canadian women. Women were asked: “If you had the choice, would you stay at home to raise your children or work outside your home and use day care?” Not surprisingly, 70% said they would rather stay at home.
In 1997, NFFRE submitted to the Government of Ontario a study it was contracted to do regarding child care. By more than a 10 to 1 margin, 92% of Ontarians said it is preferable for a young child to be at home with a parent than to be in institutionalized day care. They do not see taxpayer funded government programs as being the answer for child care or the child poverty question.
Of parents who had put their children in non-parental care, 77% in this same study indicated they would have preferred to have provided parental care in retrospect.
Let me be clear. No one is proposing that parents have to stay at home to raise their children. That is not what I am saying. But surely the government should not penalize them when they do and that is the reality we are living with today. This is doubly tragic when the polls underline the fact that parents want to stay at home and the research indicates that it is a good idea for the health of the child. Why does our government policy so stringently work against something the people want, which makes so much sense?
Reform wants parents to be allowed to make the choice which best meets the needs of their family without tax unfairness. Unfortunately the government does not seem to get it. In the last budget, for example, it increased the inequity stay-home parents suffer by raising the child care expense deduction by 35%, refusing to recognize any value for stay-home parents. It is tragic. It is actually destructive. It works against families and some children.
I would like to point out that the Bloc motion deals with child poverty in terms of material wealth. As I have indicated, what many Reformers are concerned about is another form of poverty which many children are suffering, the poverty of lack of time with their parents, the lack of a consistent caregiver. I could quote studies of the damage that does and the psychosis that develops in children when caregivers are constantly changed.
Government has done much to add to this kind of poverty by the mega-government, tax and spend, government will fix everything philosophy that this motion subscribes to. We need to focus on the well-being of the family and the whole child within the family; not just the material child, but the child who needs to spend time with their parents; not just the child alone, but the child and the family.
Strong families pass on our culture, language, heritage and values. Strong families train future citizens. In this context let us get it right and always remember that governments make poor parents, but strong Canadian families create good governments.