Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to talk about this important bill. Bill C-22 will have important ramifications on the social fabric of Canadian life. It is a good thing that at least we are talking about it. We will go to committee next and that will open up some more discussion, more debate, and potentially bring some improvements. However, the jury is out on that right now and we will see what will happen.
I would like to address a couple of comments that were made by the government side this afternoon with regard to its role, its involvement, and its thoughts on Bill C-22 and what to do next.
The first deals with comments made with regard to prevention. The words that were chosen related to the first person to dare to take this way to talk about the actual prevention aspect of divorce, and front end was also used with regard to that. This is a bigger issue with regard to the family unit and it also touches the front end. However, the government has done a horrible job at keeping families together. It has done a horrible job of ensuring that people have the opportunities to succeed, not only in the family unit but also in the economy.
One of the examples the member mentioned, and I agree it is an improvement, is employment insurance. It enables women on maternity leave to stay at home longer and spend a longer period of time with their infant. As well, there are expansions to parental leave. I think these are improvements, but it goes without saying that the government has robbed workers and employers of these funds for years.
It has taken credit for balancing the budget and deficit cutting off the backs of those very people. It has been very proud in talking about that aspect and at the same time it is offering a crumb back to the people. It is important to note the importance of a strong family unit.
Another issue is day care. Why not universal day care? Absolutely. Where has the government been on day care? We know that most women right now cannot access day care that has a format and actual standards. There are lots of issues with day care.
I recently went through that issue. I have been very fortunate. There is someone who is providing care for my young daughter. We lucked out. There are settings out there that are very difficult to get into. Parents are scrambling around at the last moment and there is a lot of pressure on them, and women in particular, because they must balance the child and the workforce. That gets even more problematic. It is important to recognize that the government has not taken the lead with that.
With regard to the new family unit, there is student debt. I have spoken about this and want to highlight it a bit as well. We are talking about younger families getting involved with procreation and creating the opportunity to start a family. They are doing so over a longer period of time now, from the time they finish their education to the time they enter the workforce. Their undergraduate degrees take them to a certain point in time with a certain amount of debt. Then from that, a graduate degree is often required now.
People are finishing an undergraduate degree, which one almost needs for a minimum wage paying job right now. One needs an undergraduate degree for just about everything now. Then they have that debt that they have to pay back. They are already in their young twenties. From that they go on to a potential graduate degree and from that go into the workforce.
The opportunity for a young couple to start a family is delayed or challenged even further. That is an important thing to recognize because the debt that is incurred, the instability of the workforce, and getting a meaningful job that has benefits to support a family, is becoming increasingly harder in our country. It is becoming more difficult. That is setting people up for difficult problems.
By the government's own admission, it has identified economics as a major factor in the breakup of the family. A number of different colleagues across the way have identified that as an important issue. Therefore, when we are increasing the student debt on students and delaying their families, delaying the years they are able to create and plan out their full lives, we are setting them up to certain conditions which are very difficult.
There was also reference to reuniting families. Specifically, the member was talking about new immigrants. I agree with the member that it is a very important issue. I can tell members from my past experience working with new Canadians that the head tax is a welcome to Canada debt that they have to pay. When they add up their family members they are in debt. We have set them back. They have to find employment, training, understand the community they are living in, and they often have language barriers. All of these circumstances make it difficult for people to move and be able to create a strong family and future.
I think it is in the interests of Canadians to ensure that they thrive during these difficult times, that they prosper and are able to plan. We look at their contributions across the country and it is one of the major reasons why Canada has become such a great country. However, we are delaying and creating problems whereas we could be supporting the family unit a lot better.
Another regressive issue that we have is the GST and how it is applied on all the different things that relate to families. The GST is a regressive tax. I know the government wanted to get rid of the GST. We are still waiting. Nevertheless, regressive tax measures such as the GST are not good and not positive for family units.
I will touch on Bill C-22 and the legislation, as well as some of the other factors that can be improved and need to be addressed. An objective that was identified in the throne speech was modernizing the family justice system. The first objective was to minimize the potential negative impact of separation and divorce on children. Second, to provide parents with the tools they need to reach parenting arrangements that are in a child's best interests. Third, to ensure that the legal process is less adversarial and that only the most difficult cases go to court.
Those were the three pillars. I think there should have been a fourth pillar relating to family justice. Family justice is about poverty, education, social involvement, and ensuring that we are supportive as a government to the family unit.
The government has a responsibility with regard to affordable housing and low income wages. The government must address the fact that Canada's minimum wage is ranked quite low and needs to be improved.
The government is still debating health care. I know the Prime Minister is meeting with the premiers right now. However, he will not attend a meeting including first nations and this is problematic. The reality is that health care is another strong pillar. I know that families have difficulties with regard to affordable prescription drugs and that too is an important aspect when raising a family.
I will now move to the actual bill itself and the services for families. The minister stated:
Services are needed to ease the conflict and stress that come with separation and divorce and help parents while they are making decisions about the care of their children. The Government of Canada will devote $63 million in new funding over five years to the provinces and territories for family justice services.
We have heard a lot about that before. I would like to see the promise fulfilled. However, there are other issues the government could be working on that would address that and one of them is taking care of the affordable housing issue in our country.
Right now we have the opportunity to create sustainable homes and environments that are positive for people that would have a long-lasting benefit to the family unit.
One of the things that campaign 2000 outlined was the creation of affordable homes. It advocated 20,000 new affordable home units each year for 10 years and the rehabilitation of 10,000 affordable units per year, requiring an investment of at least $1 billion per year over the next five years.