Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to an issue that affects Canadians in every area of this country. Raising children can be a challenge but changing demographics have only served to highlight these situations.
With new challenges come new problems and new opportunities.
Today, families can be blended, both parents usually work, families are separated from support systems by distances unseen just 25 years ago and many only have one parent.
No party in the House has a monopoly on care and love for children. No person in the House, no matter what party they come from, can be accused of not wanting the best for our children.
These matters are not up for debate. What is up for debate is the path we, as a government, can and should take to achieve what we believe is best for Canadian children.
Let me state what the biggest difference is between the Conservatives and other parties in the House on this matter.
The Conservative Party of Canada recognizes that parents are in the best position to determine the care needs of their children, not the federal government. Parents should be able to do so in an environment that encourages as many options as possible. The government should not be limiting options, but encouraging options. Any child care strategy must be achieved in a manner that does not discriminate against those who opt to raise their children in family, social, linguistic and religious environments. Parents must be given the freedom to choose what is best for their children, their families and their priorities.
Very importantly, we also recognize that the delivery of education and social services are provincial responsibilities under the Constitution. We intend to not only support the provinces, but to encourage the provinces to implement services that best serve their own citizens.
We believe that support should go to parents and families raising children, especially to lower and middle income parents. It is completely unfair for those needing assistance to hear that resources are limited, especially if they need help and see it going to those who do not need it.
All existing levels of support will be maintained and improved, if necessary. We would not reduce spending in this regard. This is very important. This is an important enough issue for all Canadians that we should all have a say, not just the Liberals.
Much of what we hear from the NDP and the Liberals today is very different from what we heard in the past in the Liberal minority report on child care. The current members of Elmwood—Transcona and Niagara Falls sat on the committee. Back then, the Liberals called their report, “Choices for Childcare: Now and the Future”.
At that time, the Conservatives and the Liberals both believed in parental choice. The Liberals said:
...there is high support for a number of locations for child care, including school facilities, child care places, licensed private homes, the child's home and the workplace.
The Liberals said:
A choice as to the location and setting of child care is extremely important in meeting the individual family's needs. The key factors are quality, parental involvement and convenience of location.
On flexibility, the Liberals said:
...services must be sensitive to this need, as it varies from community to community.
At that time, the Liberals saw the need to prioritize low and moderate income families and to offer employer incentives to stimulate workplace day care.
In fact, the Conservatives at that time recommended a 100% tax write-off for such facilities. The Liberals said that was good but that the write-off should exceed 100 percent.
At the same time, the Liberals said:
Good parenting requires time to spend with children. We must also provide for better recognition and services for the full-time parent.
The Liberals went on to say:
Quality child care must be designed as a support to good parenting, not a substitute for it. As such, it should provide for strong, positive parental involvement....
The Liberals at that time also commented on the delivery of day care by saying, “such a system undoubtedly would be a mix of profit and non-profit centres”.
Why? The Liberals said that it was because:
...the federal government must be mindful of varying provincial fiscal capacities; varying letters of existing service and programs to expand child care; geographic or culturally based differences....
Then the Liberals demanded that:
...any new federal spending arrangement must be properly accountable to Parliament; that is, should receive authorization through an act.
Those were their words, but not the actions we see today.
The Liberals said:
The system must be accountable, on an ongoing basis, to parents and taxpayers. As the...system expands, adequate measures will be required for ensuring that parents, taxpayers and employers receive value for money. As well, parents must have mechanisms to ensure quality and to call the system to account in cases where the child's best interests have not been served.
The Liberals call for regular reporting, a system of indicators for regular long term measurement and continual parental involvement.
The Liberals insisted services be available to all families.
The Liberals recognized choice and said “...there must be first a system of quality choices from which families can choose” and that provides , “quality, accessible and affordable child care that does not vary unreasonably across Canada”.
Why have I so heavily quoted the Liberal minority report? I have done so to point out that the Liberals have lost their focus on this issue.
Often my own kids would make the right decisions, head down the right path and have a focused goal. Then, all of a sudden for no reason, when it came time to do the task, they would head in the opposite direction. As a parent I would turn to them and ask them what they were thinking and I would think a lot of other things. Seeing the Liberals' new direction I cannot help but ask the same thing.
The Liberals used to value parental choice, governmental accountability, quality care, parental involvement and the flexibility of delivery. Why not now?
The Conservative Party is very supportive of measures that will actually assist parents to provide a quality upbringing for their children. This is an important issue that must be handled properly. We cannot afford to throw good money into a bad plan.
A child care solution that only helps some children, some parents or some provinces is not much of a solution. Conservatives want a program that takes care of all children because nobody should be left behind.
The Conservative Party of Canada recognizes that parents are in the best position to determine how to care for and educate their children, not the federal Liberal government.
There is no one size fits all system of child care that could possibly be created by the Liberals to meet the needs of all Canadian families and children. This is a matter of provincial jurisdiction and they need the proper tools and resources to meet their unique needs.
Access to quality learning programs and child care are critical to the future of Canada's economy and social well-being.
The Conservative Party recognizes that these programs can be delivered through a number of ways, including through direct tax payments to parents through tax deductions and other policy matters. The current plan is a failure. Alberta is opting out. Quebec is expected to opt out and New Brunswick has requested autonomy for their system.
With the advancing systems in Ontario and Manitoba, it is obvious that the Liberal program does not meet the needs of Canadian parents or the provinces.
The Liberals have been promising Canadians a national child care program for over 10 years. However it is clear that once again they have put forward a plan that is not workable.
The Minister of Social Development has been attempting, without much success, to create a large government program at taxpayer expense. For the sake of our children and the Canadian taxpayer let us get a good plan before we rush ahead. He has failed so far, not because we, or the provinces, or average Canadians do not care about children, but because the plan is not sound.
Will the Liberal government now work with the rest of the House and the provinces to properly build a sound, sustainable child care strategy?