Mr. Speaker, on March 4 I posed a question to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women relating to the issue of family taxation and whether the Income Tax Act was the only instrument that was relevant in that discussion.
The issue is much broader and the secretary of state I think made it very clear to the House that it was much broader. Not only do we have a child care expense deduction available to families, we also have a spousal amount, a non-refundable tax credit, that is available to families where there is only one earner. We also have the Canadian child tax benefit, which is not taxable, as well as the national child benefit program.
In addition, under the employment insurance program we have provisions for parental leave. We also have wage and training subsidies which are available for parents who have taken parental leave and would like to get back into the workforce. In that case we also provide benefits for families with children.
Finally, under the Canada pension plan there is what is referred to as the child rearing drop-out, which ensures that parents who withdraw from the workforce to raise children are not unduly penalized for having low income years of service in the calculation of their Canada pension benefits.
The minister is quite right. There are a broad range of issues that we must balance to ensure that we are fully aware of the whole menu of areas in which the Government of Canada, and in fact the taxpayers of Canada, support families with children.
This issue has now been referred to a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Finance to address the issues of fairness and equity and how we deal with families with children. However, it is a children's issue more than it is a tax issue. It is a children's issue and if we value our children we must also, as the minister knows, value our caregivers.
As the finance subcommittee does its work, there are some principles that have to be taken into account. We have to have some guideposts in the work we are doing so that we understand there are certain things that really should be reflected in the policy of the government on behalf of taxpayers. I had given some thought to some of the principles we might apply in developing policy. I would like to put them on the record for the minister's consideration. I am going to ask for her comment.
First of all our policy should be child centred and promote the best interest of the child to the greatest extent possible. Second, it should presume that parents are the primary caregivers and that they are in the best position to determine what constitutes the best possible care for their children. Third, our policy should provide flexibility, options and choices which will make it feasible for either parent to be a caregiver or to be in the paid workforce. The fourth item is that our policy should be inclusive and responsive to the social realities, circumstances and preferences of parents and their children. Finally, our policy should be fair and equitable and be seen to be fair and equitable and neither penalize nor compel specific caregiving choices.
I believe these are some principles that we can consider as a starting point in terms of how we should shape our policies so that they reflect principles and criteria which will be fair and equitable to all families regardless of their configuration, whether they be one income earner families, or two. No matter what the configuration, certain principles must guide us. I would ask the minister for her comments.