Madam Speaker, first of all, I want to point out that I will be sharing my time with the member for Beauport—Limoilou.
It is as critic for families and caregivers, as well as a woman, a mother and also the grandmother of two wonderful grandchildren, Alexy and Tiffany, that I am speaking this afternoon to the Conservative Party motion. The Bloc Québécois categorically opposes this motion because we have established a very good system in Quebec.
It is simple. First, child care is part of family policy and that falls exclusively under Quebec's jurisdiction. In this matter, Quebec and the other provinces should at any time be able to opt out, with full compensation, of the federal program the government is trying to implement.
Second, the money to be used for setting up the child care network should be transferred to Quebec and the provinces, since family policy is a provincial jurisdiction.
Third, by giving money directly to the parents, the federal government would be going against the concept of respecting jurisdictions.
The Conservative motion is totally contradictory. On one hand, they advocate respecting provincial jurisdictions, while on the other hand they want the federal government to intervene directly with the families.
It was already clear in the Liberal Party's election platform that this system would be established with a lot of conditions that would infringe directly on the provinces' areas of jurisdiction. Four standards were established: quality, ensuring that the provinces would regulate the daycares and their staffs; universality, making the daycares available to all children; accessibility, establishing a program that is affordable for all parents; and child development through learning. These are standards that have already all been achieved in Quebec's day care system.
The Bloc Québécois had to ask a number of questions in the House in order to get the government to acknowledge the expertise and effectiveness of the day care services in Quebec and honour its commitment in the Speech from the Throne to fully respect the provincial jurisdictions.
In fact, we asked more than 18 questions in the House to determine the real intentions of the Liberal government, namely whether or not it would respect the jurisdictions of Quebec and the other provinces in this regard. We are still waiting for the answer.
However, several Liberal ministers have expressed their views to the media in this regard. I quote the Minister of Canadian Heritage, who said in Le Soleil of June 4, 2004: “The money will go to Yves Séguin without restrictions and it will be up to Claude Béchard to negotiate with him. ...Mr. Séguin can decide to use this money elsewhere.” In addition, on two occasions when the Prime Minister was being interviewed on Radio-Canada, once on June 3, 2004, and another time last December 14, he said that Quebec would receive its $5 billion share without any conditions. Finally, my honourable colleague from Human Resources and Skill Development said in this House last November 1st:
The Liberal government of Quebec is capable of sharing common objectives with the other provinces and having comparable indicators, as it has shown in the case of health, while having an agreement tailored specifically to Quebec's priorities. This is what we are going to be doing.
Let us hope that they will say the same thing here as well and that they will finally give us a clear, unequivocal answer.
Quebec has had its own plan since 1998. All we want are the funds that the federal government owes us to enable us to develop the 30,000 places that are still missing in order for us to achieve our objective of 200,000 places by 2006.
As Ms. Jocelyne Tougas said so well at the Canadian Council on Social Development's national conference:
—It is in an environment of stress, pollution and conflicts of all sorts that we have to raise our children and provide them with every opportunity to develop and grow, in the full knowledge that development and growth are only possible for those who belong to and identify with the group.
That is why structured childcare is important, so children can succeed at school, grow healthy and strong and become independent.
The OECD believes that Quebec has the best child care system in Canada and one of the best in the world. Why? Because Quebec's approach to childcare services is based on the social economy, which means that economic development goes hand in hand with social development. The Minister of Social Development himself has nothing but praise for our system.
Child care has five major functions.
First, it has an educational function by being a place where children acquire the knowledge and skills they need to develop and reach their potential, both physically and intellectually.
Second, it has a practical function, by ensuring that children whose parents work are cared for.
Third, it has a social and cultural function, by continuing to transmit values taught at home. Children develop their vision of the world, learn to socialize and function in a group.
Fourth, it has an economic function, because child care services provide thousands of people with a workplace where skills are recognized and where working conditions improve each year to ensure that job quality is maintained. It allows some parents to remain in the workforce, while others are able to continue their education or improve their job skills before returning to the work force. These measures contribute significantly to fighting poverty.
Fifth, it has a democratic and civic function, because everyone is admitted, without regard for gender, origin, religion or financial situation, which signifies a healthy environment in which children can develop. They benefit from a system where equal opportunity and justice for all is a daily reality. A policy for families including quality child care with a strong focus on all these functions allows many underprivileged children to get a better start in life.
That is why the Bloc Québécois supports the other provinces that want to have a child care system. Nevertheless, the Bloc Québécois cannot support the Conservative Party's motion, because Quebec already has the expertise, the network and the contacts to identify and meet the needs of its citizens. That is why we want a firm guarantee in the budget, which will be tabled on February 23, that Quebec will get its share of the $5 billion, unconditionally, as soon as the funding is in place.
In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois members cannot approve of the Conservative motion, which would give money directly to the parents or of the conditions a national law would impose on us. Finally, we are against anything that could prevent achievement of the objective of receiving full compensation from the federal government for continuing the exceptional development of the network of child care services in Quebec.