Mr. Speaker, I am almost loath to interrupt the wonderful, enlightened flow of consciousness from the member for Winnipeg—Transcona. He has really hit the nail on the head in addressing the issues in the throne speech that concern us. I am very happy he has agreed to share his time with me so I can provide some feedback from my perspective and the perspective of our party with regard to the throne speech.
I listened earlier to the new Minister of Human Resources Development. We hope to see some significant improvements to EI and the national children's agenda.
Hearing the minister's comments about living in a wonderful country with such tolerance and compassion conjures up the image of Liberals looking up at the blue sky with the clouds rolling by. I think of my own community of East Vancouver which is predominantly a low income community and what people are really facing. I have to say that what I heard in the throne speech, what I heard from the Prime Minister, what I have heard from the new Minister of Human Resources Development in no way comes close to dealing with the realities of what many people in Canada are facing.
Many times we have heard the Prime Minister say how proud he is that Canada has been rated by the United Nations as the number one country in the world in which to live. But let it also be said that the same United Nations has condemned Canada for its failure to live up to international covenants, for its failure to deal with homelessness, to deal with equity and equality, to deal with the growing gap between people who are getting wealthier and people who are getting poorer.
When I listened to the throne speech I wanted to hear on behalf of my constituents some clear realistic objectives and commitments that would see a government prepared to bring in a national children's agenda, to bring in program and income supports that would reverse this downward spiral, this race to the bottom that we are in. Apparently the government does not care about this. I was disappointed by what I heard.
I have received feedback from people in my riding, people who are really hard pressed, parents who are working at more than one job, part time jobs, struggling to find child care with their kids on waiting lists. These people are being threatened because their housing is going to be demolished or 30%, 40%, 50% or in some cases 60% of their income is going toward rent. These are the families I deal with. I know that not just in East Vancouver but in other communities hundreds of thousands of Canadians are facing this reality.
I listened to the Leader of the Opposition and his response to the throne speech and his view of Canada. He has such a narrow definition of what a family is or what a family needs. I look to my own community to see the diversity of single parents who are struggling to make a go of it. They may be on income assistance or working in a low wage job in a service sector and do not have enough money to pay their rent or feed their kids. I heard the Leader of the Opposition with his anti-government message that if we just put a few pennies in our pockets through a tax saving, somehow we will have solutions. We can see that the Reform Party is bankrupt in its ideas in terms of addressing the substantive issues in our society.
When we look at the messages in the throne speech and the unfolding of the so-called national children's agenda we have to question why a national children's agenda exists but there is no child care program. Why does a national children's agenda exist but there is no commitment that the poorest of the poor will have the benefit of the national child tax benefit? Why do we have a national children's agenda that supposedly speaks to the well-being of early childhood development and the well-being of Canadian families but it does not contain any substance to develop affordable housing, the most basic human right for all Canadian families and all people?
We have to be very clear. We cannot accept that a children's agenda will exist without a national child care strategy. For decades numerous groups in this country have advocated for the adoption of an early childhood development program, a national child care program.
When we compare the government's commitments today with what was in the red book in 1993, it seems to me that we are moving further and further away from any kind of program the government is committed to, to actually make child care a reality.
In 1993 the Liberal Party promised 150,000 child care spaces. Where are they? Six years have gone by. Where are those child care spaces? Why are there tens of thousands of kids on waiting lists to get into child care? Less than 10% of kids who need child care have access to the regulated spaces.
The Liberal government has failed on that score. Its national children's agenda is not worth anything more than the paper it is written on unless there is a substantive financial commitment by the government to work with the provinces to produce those child care spaces.
We have some very good models and examples to look at in terms of what has been developed in the province of Quebec. Why are we not sitting down with the province of Quebec? Why are we not sitting down with the other provinces to make those child care spaces a reality?
I will touch on the issue of housing and homelessness. It is ironic that in the throne speech more time was devoted to the issue of endangered species than there was to the issue of people who are dying on our streets because of homelessness, or people who are living in totally inadequate housing.
It is simply appalling that we have had a minister responsible for homelessness who has yet to produce a single unit of housing. It is appalling that in the throne speech there was not one specific commitment to say that the federal government will produce a national housing strategy.
I have a motion that is coming before the House which calls on the government to commit 1% of the federal budget to housing. Where is that commitment from the other side of the House? Where are the specifics? Where are the housing units that need to be developed?
When it comes to other members of society like students, again in the throne speech we heard platitudes and very lofty ideas about access to the Internet and the knowledge based economy. But what about the students who are trying to get through school? What about the students who are suffering from a massive debt load? Has the Liberal government addressed that issue? Not one line in the throne speech has shown any understanding of the very harsh realities facing students who are trying to get through school.
We were hoping to see a commitment to a national grants program, to a tuition freeze and to a recognition that post-secondary education should be accessible to all young people. That would be a real commitment to building our future, but instead we saw again the lofty ideas and the clouds passing by in the sky in terms of the Liberals' ideas of what the future is. It is a future that leaves behind young people. It is a future that leaves behind poor people. It is a future that has abandoned the commitment to end child poverty by the year 2000. It is a future that apparently has left women off the list.
Yes, we have had some announcement about parental leave but what about the eligibility requirements? What are parents meant to do after that one year of leave? Where will the child care spaces be so that they can return to work?
After examining the throne speech and seeing exactly what is and is not there, then I would agree with my colleague for Winnipeg—Transcona that it is empty and vacuous. It is from a government that has failed to address the real priorities of Canadians. It is something that we will continue to take up in the House.