Mr. Speaker, thank you for recognizing me today in regard to the motion of the Conservative Party of Canada, which is of concern to all members of the Bloc Québécois. I would like to re-read the motion:
That the House call upon the government to address the issue of childcare by fulfilling its commitment to reduce taxes for low and modest income families in the upcoming budget, and, so as to respect provincial jurisdiction, ensure additional funds for childcare are provided directly to parents.
I think that this motion is very inconsistent. The members of the Conservative Party of Canada said that they would respect the areas of provincial jurisdiction, but they table a motion like the one this morning for debate. It is hard to see how one can mix things like reducing taxes for low income families and instituting a national child care system, as the government wants to do. This question is of concern to us.
I think that there is bad faith here. The Conservative Party of Canada says that it wants to gain ground in Quebec. I would argue that with this motion, with this failure to respect Quebec's areas of jurisdiction and the general consensus in Quebec regarding parental leave and daycare, they are not going about it in the right way.
I can tell you that this is a very contradictory gesture, which in no way serves Quebeckers' interests or Quebec's jurisdiction, in particular. Intervening in this way, directly in families, is contrary to what we want now for Quebec.
The government wants to set standards and conditions for the national system, a Canada-wide system. Here too, we have a different opinion in Quebec, but we agree on the principle. We respect the desire of the other provinces for a Canada-wide system.
What Quebec wants is for there to be no conditions attached to this Canada-wide daycare system and none of the standards Quebec has put in place, namely: quality, universality, accessibility and development. We respect these four standards in Quebec and we have them already in place.
As a matter of fact, the Organization for Economic Development and Co-operation, the OECD, congratulated us on establishing a real daycare system that takes these features, these standards, into account. So why impose them on Quebec when we already have them? What we want is to have control over this daycare program, which Quebec established.
Following the Speech from the Throne, which was bristling with encroachments, the Bloc Québécois tabled some amendments. The amendment on respect for provincial jurisdictions was adopted. This morning's debate is of the highest concern to us in terms of this government's willingness to respect the jurisdictions and to resolve the fiscal imbalance.
I was therefore very surprised this morning to see the Conservative Party of Canada present this motion, which we will debate. Some of my colleagues are going to be questioned on this issue and will offer a number of arguments that might give the Conservative Party of Canada food for thought. As I was saying earlier, if the Conservative Party of Canada wants to make gains in Quebec it will also have to adjust to the consensus reached there.
I will provide some background to explain to the members of the Conservative Party of Canada where the desire for a child care system in Quebec came from. This service began following a consensus that had been reached in Quebec. In 1960, there was already talk of having a child care service in Quebec. In 1980, the Parti québécois minister, Pauline Marois, went ahead and contemplated replacing the existing community networks in Quebec. Neither standards nor basic framework existed. Furthermore, there was a lack of resources. They wanted to be much more consistent and to provide more help to families in need of child care.
As we are all well aware, there was an economic summit in 1996. All segments of society involved in the summit, whether unions or groups involved in the health or education, have contributed to the consensus on the implementation of a child care system in Quebec.
We refer often here in the House of Commons to that consensus in Quebec. We defend the interests of Quebec, not out of caprice or vanity, but because we respect that consensus. In fact, we are spokespersons for the progress made in Quebec toward the implementation of this child care system.
Political will was required, and we know the social development minister's own political desire to implement a national child care system has been challenged. As I have said, I can understand the needs outside Quebec, those in Canada, but he must not impose his conditions on us, nor the way this system will be put in place.
If the Conservative Party wants to lend an ear to what the public wants, it must focus on more than a single province. We know there is no unanimity on a Canada-wide child care system, and that is why certain Canadian provinces wishing to proceed on their own and implement different measures need to be respected.
This is what Quebec is calling for: flexibility, as well as respect for what it is doing. The Liberals, like the Conservatives, have a long way to go before they will understand the reality of Quebec. Quebec has 40% of the licensed child care spaces in Canada and, what is more, is the only place where there has been any significant growth in early childhood education and child care services.
The Conservative Party has just raised some questions of interest to us. They seem to be mixing up apples and oranges. This is not a debate on the quality of child-rearing by a mother, grandmother or a neighbour close to the children. The other day, we had a conference with some of the people involved in the OECD report, and asked the same question. We were told that there were few licensed child care spaces in Canada outside Quebec. I do not think that the way we were raised by our parents was being judged as good or less good, at least I did not take it that way. It was merely a statement with respect to the implementation of a system of licensed child care centres.
I think they are mixing things up. The Conservative Party once again wants to make us look bad when we talk about a child care system with supervision and qualified educators. We know that is an important element. Quebec developed its child care system with emphasis on personnel training. What existed prior to 1980 was well done, but Quebec wanted to adjust to changing times and to the obligation to look after the children.
The Conservative Party was saying it thought having a state-regulated day care system had no impact on the quality of the child's development. I would like to remind the Conservative Party that studies in Europe and the United States prove quite the opposite. In fact, child development improved. Moreover, every dollar invested bore fruit in the education and development of children. For example, in the case of delinquency and school dropouts, the more access a child has to resources, the more chance he has of being successful.
Besides, that is why we want a universal child care system, a system that does not discriminate based on social class. Children are entitled to the same service whether their parents' salaries are higher or lower.
That was the goal Quebec had in mind: to provide a child care system for all children from all social classes.
I think this is quite unusual, inconsistent and disrespectful of Quebec's wishes. The government has provided $5 billion over five years. I can describe this as a step in the right direction, a step towards helping Quebec. Quebec's child care system costs $1.4 billion; in 2006-2007, it will cost $1.7 billion. We can certainly imagine that there will be pressure to put in more money.
There is also the issue of stable funding and a policy permitting a view of things in the longer term. We think the government is making errors on this subject. Is five years enough for a long-term policy, and is it enough to allow the partners—the provinces, according to the minister—to get involved? In Quebec there is no problem. We will upgrade what is already there with the goal of reaching a total of 200,000 places.
I invite the Conservative Party of Canada to read certain studies that have been done since the day care system was introduced in Quebec, and see how the parents have supported this system. Quebec has been a victim of the success of its day care system, because many people wanted to take advantage of it. We know that 70% of women are in the work force, and where there are couples, both spouses work. It is also necessary to meet expectations, and Quebec has been able to do this.
The Conservative Party of Canada is out in left field with its motion today. That is not to say that we are against a tax reduction for low- and modest-income families. We have shifted the debate, we have moved on to somewhere else. We simply want to address the establishment of a consistent day care system that meets the expectations of the people of Canada. For us in Quebec, we are talking about $1.2 billion invested over five years.
In addition, to have a real family policy, there is parental leave, day care centres. The government could also take other actions to better meet the needs of the population and families. In 2005 we must not put our heads in the sand and tell women, “Go back home, there is no child care system. Take care of your kids.” I respect the women who want to do that, but on the other hand, to have a choice, there has to be a day care system in place. When there is no day care system, where is the choice? Under such conditions there is no choice.
As I was saying earlier, we shall have to follow the debate. We are a little disappointed at how slow the Minister of Social Development is in making a decision on funding. When is he finally going to give us his answer on the date when the funds will be available?
He was speaking of principles just now. This is a subject on which we cannot be in agreement. He said that there will be no conditions for Quebec, although not in so many words. We have asked about 20 questions in the House since we came back, since our election. We have asked the minister to explain his thinking. His thinking is rather shaky so far as due respect for the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces is concerned. This is something that is not clear to us. He often praises the work we have done in Quebec on day care centres, referring to a 100-page OECD study that comments on the administration that has been done.
Furthermore, in its report, the OECD indicates that the best way to establish a child care network is to make it a provincial responsibility, because local governments are much closer to the needs and the reality of individuals.
The Minister of Social Development missed a meeting on February 11 in Vancouver, where he was to indicate his financial commitment. As a result, he has put this off until a later date, because he was not prepared to reveal how he will invest. Furthermore, if we remember Ottawa's stance on parental leave, we know quite well that it takes pushing and shoving to get clear answers from this government.
In short, why have a child care system. In Quebec, as we know, child care costs $7 a day. I understand that caring for an infant elsewhere in Canada can cost approximately $558 per month. This is a great deal of money for a family where both parents work. As the minister mentioned earlier—I agreed with him—it would be attractive even to women who want to stay home or who want to have the choice to stay home. They have other obligations too, so it is important to have accessible, safe child care for their children, that provides a good education so their children can develop in a secure environment. That way, parents can leave feeling reassured, when they do not have a sister, cousin or friend able to come care for their child.
Perhaps that was the way things were when we were in that situation. However, young parents today need two salaries. We are hearing that it does not take much to get by on one income and to sacrifice the other to provide a better education. Some of the comments made during this debate are questionable. However, when the need is there and the service is not, one of the parents has to think about their social commitment.
The consensus in Quebec is clear. It exists. We see that a coalition has been created on parental leave. We are receiving more and more e-mails showing the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development the way and asking her to respect Quebec's consensus on parental leave and secure it with the money that was already negotiated and accepted in 1997 by the government at the time, which was a Liberal government.
There are messages. In fact, this morning, I have two messages to deliver; one is for the Conservative Party, on its consistency with regard to respect for Quebec's areas of jurisdiction and its needs and wishes. Further, I have a second message for the Minister of Social Development. We will not object to the creation of a national day care system, as long as it is done with respect for provincial jurisdictions and carries no conditions.
Since Quebec is held up as a leader, it is not at all apparent how it could be put in its place with conditions, standards, and accounting. In Quebec, there are child care centres, and there is also a complete family policy. If we are already investing $1.4 billion in the child care system, that is a lot. Will there be redistribution of the money once the public's expectations are met? There is a goal of 200,000 places. I am certain we will reach it. When it is reached, money will be invested matters of family policy.
In my opinion, Quebec is capable of managing its needs and listening to what the public wants. It is within this context and in this sense that we ask the federal government to establish this child care system.
Because we have reached the time for questions and comments, I await the minister's questions. I am sure he will have some questions for me.