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House of Commons Hansard #105 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was care.

Topics

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned because I did not hear a commitment to not for profit. As I know and as anybody who has looked at this file knows, if we do not commit to not for profit we are inviting big box corporate child care to come into Canada and take over. I know that the minister himself is concerned and I know that there are provincial ministers who are concerned.

As a matter of fact, in the first two agreements with Manitoba and Saskatchewan they insisted that there be a very definite commitment in writing to the not for profit, because they know, as do many others, particularly the communities that have been waiting for this national child care program for so long, that if we open it up to the for profit sector, we invariably will get the big box corporate interests coming into Canada and scooping up the public money that is now being flowed to actually put in place much needed child care spaces across this country.

What is the minister going to do to satisfy us or to give us comfort that if the government continues down this road of allowing the for profit model to play a role we will not in fact end up with big box child care--

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think I mentioned in my remarks that a lot of it is under provincial jurisdiction. I think I was clear in my remarks, and I would like to reassure the member, as I want to reassure the members in this House.

We have to ensure that families across the country have access to high quality early childhood learning and child care programs that can help them put their children on the path to success later at school and in life.

That is why quality and development are two of the leading principles of the initiative.

We are working together with our provincial and territorial colleagues. The government is very confident that it can ensure its investments support high quality early learning and child care programs, that these services meet the needs of the children and their families and that there is a partnership between our provincial and territorial colleagues and the federal government.

Income Tax ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been withdrawn. The House will now resolve itself into committee of the whole to study all votes under human resources development, social development, in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006. I do now leave the chair for the House to resolve itself into committee of the whole.

[Continuation of proceedings from Part A]

(House in committee of the whole for consideration of all votes under Human Resources Development (Social Development) in the Main Estimates, Mr. Strahl in the chair.)

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2005 / 6:35 p.m.

The Chair

I would like to open this committee of the whole session by making a short statement on this evening's proceedings.

Tonight's debate is the second being held under Standing Order 81(4)(a) which provides for each of two sets of estimates selected by the Leader of the Opposition to be considered in committee of the whole for up to four hours.

The debate is also held under the motions adopted by unanimous consent yesterday and earlier today.

Tonight's debate is a general one on all of the votes under Human Resources Development (Social Development). Each member will be allocated 15 minutes. The first round will begin with the official opposition, followed by the government, the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party.

After that we will follow the usual proportional rotation.

As provided in the motion adopted earlier today, parties may use each 15 minute slot for speeches or for questions and answers by one or more of their members.

In the case of speeches, members of the party to which the period is allotted may speak one after the other. The Chair would appreciate it if the first member speaking in each slot would indicate how the time will be used, particularly if it is to be shared.

When time is to be used for questions and answers, the Chair will expect that the minister's response will reflect approximately the time taken by the question since this time will be counted in the time originally allotted to the party.

Though members may speak more than once, the Chair will generally try to ensure that all members wishing to speak are heard before inviting members to speak again, while respecting the proportional party rotations for speakers.

Members need not be in their own seats to be recognized.

I would remind hon. members that, according to yesterday's motion, during this evening's debate, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be entertained.

As your Chair, I will be guided by the rules of the committee of the whole and by the motions adopted yesterday and earlier today. However, in the interest of a full exchange I am prepared to exercise discretion and flexibility in the application of these rules.

It is very important that the traditions of this House in relation to decorum be respected and that members make their remarks and pose their questions in a judicious fashion. The Chair will expect all hon. members to focus on the subject matter of the debate: the main estimates of the Department of Human Resources Development, social development.

I would also I also wish to indicate that, in committee of the whole, ministers and members should be referred to by their title or riding name and of course all remarks should be addressed through the Chair. I ask for everyone's cooperation in upholding all established standards of decorum, parliamentary language and behaviour.

At the conclusion of tonight's debate, the committee will rise, the estimates under Human Resources Development (Social Development) will be deemed reported and the House will adjourn immediately until tomorrow.

We may now begin tonight's session. The House in committee of the whole, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(a), the second appointed day, consideration in committee of the whole of all votes under human resources development, social development, in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the minister and the deputy ministers for being here this evening.

I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from Simcoe--Grey in this first round.

On December 10 in this House the minister said:

Mr. Speaker, the way in which Canadians look at important programs like education, health care and child care is that those are things that should be available to all Canadians...That is why we are going ahead the way we are going ahead.

It is clear that we are getting two tier day care here. The Liberal program will not be available to all Canadians. The Liberal program will have winners and losers. Why can parents not have a fair financial choice when it comes to choosing how to raise their children?

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Ken Dryden LiberalMinister of Social Development

Mr. Chair, what I said in December had to do with the goal of a national early learning and child care system to be something that is as available and as ambitious as the other systems we have created in this country in terms of health care and education.

In terms of two tier, I do not understand that comment at all. This is a program that is there and available for everyone who wants to choose it. As I will say later in my remarks, it is also a program that is not all or nothing. Parents can choose to use it not necessarily eight hours a day, five days a week, but for mornings or afternoons or a lesser period of time as well.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Chair, parents want choice in how they care for their children. Unfortunately, parents in rural areas have less choice than those in urban areas. When I say two tier, I mean that there are parents who are not going to be able to access the program the way the minister is talking about. Therefore, the minister is favouring urban families, because many rural communities cannot sustain formal child care centres. In many cases it is flexible, seasonal child care that rural families require, not regular nine to five workday care.

Why will the minister not allow the creation of a truly national program that treats children everywhere equally within a framework based on flexible parental choice and family needs?

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, first of all the delivery of this system is through the provinces and through the territories. It is up to them to try to find the answers in terms of delivery everywhere. The purpose is that the delivery is everywhere.

One of the great flexibilities of early learning and child care is the fact that the scale is small. The scale can be two, four, five, or eight places. It does not require a massive infrastructure or a massive number of kids in order for it to happen. It would be very much like rural education would have started in the country. One finds the space where something can be created in the space.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Chair, the Conservative Party of Canada at its recent policy convention in Montreal passed a resolution calling for the creation of a national disabilities act similar to those in other developed countries.

When I asked the minister in committee if the Liberal Party shared our priority and concern for Canada's disabled, he was noncommittal. Now that he has had time to consider the benefits of such an act, would he be willing to work with the Conservative Party to bring forward such a piece of legislation?

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, as I said in the committee, and I was not noncommittal, I said that an act has been enacted in the United States and that it was something I was very interested in finding out more about. In fact I asked the committee specifically if the committee itself would be interested in investigating more fully a potential national disabilities act.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Chair, my questions have to do with our proposed day care program. Why does the minister have no confidence in Canadian parents to raise their own children and to make responsible child care choices that suit the needs of their particular circumstances? Why does the minister support a one size fits all child care regime that takes away a parent's right to choose?

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, on the contrary, I know, hon. members know and the public knows that the central developmental relationship of children is with their parents. Early learning and child care is another tool the parents have to assist them in raising their children, to use or to not use, to use as much or as little as they wish. It is not a one size fits all at all. That is what we were talking about earlier. There are different circumstances, different sizes of places and different needs, but the same ambitions and goals because there are kids that have the same possibilities.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Chair, Laurie from my riding e-mailed me to say that she was very confused. Prior to announcing the budget, it was her understanding and many of her friends' understanding that the majority of families were asking for the tax system to be made more fair so that families and parents who want to stay at home to raise their kids can do so rather than putting their tax dollars into institutions.

She personally had made some changes over five years ago to move into my riding of Simcoe—Grey but because taxes, utilities and the cost of living were so high, she was not able to continue to stay at home and is now back working again.

Mr. Chair, I want to ask the minister why he is so insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of Canada's young families. There are many Canadian families who would choose to have a parent remain in the home and care for their children. However, the government is completely oblivious to their needs and is setting up a program which these parents must fund through their tax dollars but can never take advantage of. Can the minister please explain why his program discriminates against so many hard-working Canadian families such as Laurie's in my riding of Simcoe—Grey?

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, the early learning and child care system that we are looking to encourage and help create is something that is available to anyone, as an education system would be and as a health care system would be. One could decide to use it more or less as in health and education.

As the hon. member knows, the great majority of young families in this country, like Laurie's, both parents are in the workplace. That is a fact. That is the reality. It is almost assuredly going to be tomorrow's reality. The other reality is the challenge of children growing up with the best possible opportunities at learning and development.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Chair, I note that the minister is talking about what is fact; there are more working two income families and we see that increasing dramatically. However, he is failing to recognize that the reason is that Canadians are being overtaxed.

We do not continue to overtax them and then build institutions where not everyone has access to put their children into child care. In my riding of Simcoe—Grey they are not going to be able to access institutionalized day care. It is just not going to be a reality for them.

I belong to a party that respects a parent's right to choose. We support parents who choose formal child care arrangements. We support those parents who actually have unique child care needs. We also support those parents who choose to stay at home and care for their children.

Why does the minister not believe in equality for all Canadian families? Why does he continue to mislead Canadians in thinking that everyone is going to have an opportunity when it is just not reality?

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, on the contrary, the only thing that is misleading that has been said tonight is the fact that this is a system that is not available to everyone. It is available to everyone. It is up to people to make that choice as to whether they want to take part in it or not. The great majority of families have chosen to have their kids in some form of care. The challenge for us is to improve that form of care to make it that much better and that much more affordable.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Chair, I still think that the minister does not understand that the reason there are so many more two income families and why two parents have to work is that we are overtaxing Canadians. We cannot continue to overtax Canadians at the level that we do and then expect to start paying for a child care system that not all Canadians can access.

Look at the billions of dollars of surplus we have in the country and try to tell Canadians that they are getting a better bang for their buck. They are not. Introducing this program is just going to reinforce that message.

I really think that the Liberal Party and the government need to understand that they are really failing on this communication strategy because it is not working for them.

Constituents like mine will never ever be able to access it. It will never be up in Simcoe--Grey. It will only be in the big city centres.

I challenge him to explain this to my constituents and show them how they will have access.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

Trinity—Spadina Ontario

Liberal

Tony Ianno LiberalMinister of State (Families and Caregivers)

Mr. Chair, I would like to respond to the hon. member. Unfortunately before she became a federal member eight or nine months ago, and I guess a while before that, the hon. member was with the provincial Tory government that made tremendous tax cuts. Yet poor Laurie and her family still had the problems.

Imagine tax cuts alone if they were the solution. We would have all the problems solved. We would not be discussing that issue.

What we have is an opportunity to create an early learning child care system that yes, is only the beginning but will allow young children and their families to have the opportunities that many other families in our country have if they have money.

This is a great opportunity for the future of extending the system at the provincial level depending on the regions and what they institute.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Chair, what the minister of state has ignored in his response is that there is not a province across the nation that is not crying for the dollars to be returned to it rather than the surplus that the federal government has right now.

Yes, having worked for the provincial Conservatives in Ontario, we cut a lot of taxes. With that we increased job creation and job growth and we increased tax revenue. We were able to increase spending in certain areas, even though the federal Liberals had decreased dramatically the money going into the provinces, which I point out is evident in the billions of dollars of surplus that we have had since 1997.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Ianno Liberal Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Chair, taking into account that when the Mike Harris government in 1995 went in and from that point on there are three million more jobs in this country, 25% more Canadians are working today. It is because of good economic policies, but we also have a social conscience which is unlike the other party. We believe that Canadians have the opportunity. We have created opportunities from a good fiscal policy to ensure that all Canadians and children especially have all the opportunities for a good education to fulfill their dreams and our country's dreams.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Chair, I would like the minister to tell me his vision of a rural child care or day care centre, for northern Saskatchewan, let us say. What is his vision for that?

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, first of all, it is up to the province of Saskatchewan to decide exactly what it would look like in a small town. The member would know small towns very well. Small towns have neighbours, people who provide assistance for children within that small town. The small town might be bigger than that and able to have a space that is that much larger.

The challenge of the provincial government is to try to meet the needs of all of its children within that province. Bigger scale or smaller scale, there are still people who live in that smaller place. There are still kids who live in that smaller place. There are still the possibilities of the provision of early learning and child care in that smaller place.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Ken Dryden LiberalMinister of Social Development

Mr. Chair, as Canadians, we have certain understandings about what it is to be Canadian, what we expect of ourselves and for ourselves, what we expect of and for others. As Canadians we expect a chance and a second chance. We expect the opportunity of a full, rich, rewarding life. For some this does not happen easily, because of illness or accident, disability, poverty, age, because of personal or family circumstances, because of something that puts us behind when the race begins or somewhere along its way.

At Social Development Canada it is our job to see the gaps between those understandings and what is and with others to do something about it.

For me, our social policy rests on two main goals, ensuring the social well-being and the income security of Canadians. No single department, level of government or set of policies can do the job by itself. This is the reason that successful social policies and programs in our country have been achieved when the federal government has worked with the provinces and territories, worked with communities and worked with individual Canadians.

We simply have to work together to achieve anything big and worthwhile and successful. This partnership must recognize that Canadians want to be part of the decisions that affect them, that governments need to build on federal, provincial, territorial collaboration, that governments need to remain accountable to Canadians and need to enlist third parties to monitor social progress, and that research, knowledge and information are essential. Further, partnerships only work if they are founded in values and what Canadians stand for: shared community, equality and justice, respect for diversity, and a balance between rights and responsibilities.

Social Development Canada was created just 18 months ago, inheriting from other departments a set of policies, programs and services for seniors, persons with disabilities, children, families and caregivers, and communities, and inheriting all the values and motivations that set them in motion. SDC's purpose is to build upon all this to ensure income security and social well-being that strengthen Canada's social foundations and social cohesion.

In planning for the future, we need to take into account that we are living longer, healthier lives. We are living longer as seniors. We will live almost one-quarter of our lives after retirement, after our families are grown.

Being a senior can be a great physical, financial and psychological vulnerability; it can also be a time of great opportunity.

It is up to SDC to help seniors make the most of their lives. It is up to SDC to ensure that their public pensions are enough to underpin the basics of a life, and to ensure that those pensions will be there, next year, ten years, fifty years from now, when they and when we need them.

Several years ago the federal and provincial governments, as joint stewards of the Canada pension plan, agreed to significant reforms to ensure its long term financial sustainability. As a result, the Chief Actuary of Canada has stated that the CPP is financially sound for the next 75 years. Moreover, poverty rates for seniors have fallen from 21% in 1980 to 6.9% in 2002.

To put all this in perspective, according to the OECD, Canada's retirement income system, a mixture of public and private funds, is considered one of the best in the world in terms of equity, level of benefits and affordability.

However quality of life for seniors is not just measured in terms of income support. It lies in the purpose of every day. A program like New Horizons for seniors helps those who have reached their second life to share their skills, their experience and wisdom with others to make their communities better and in the process to make their own lives better as well.

Another area of concern for SDC is people with disabilities. Once people with disabilities were kept out of sight. Their disability defined them and was allowed to define them too often even in their own minds.

More than 20 years ago, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms reinforced our understanding of equality. It reinforced as Canadians our sensitivities to discrimination. Now people with disabilities want to live and insist on living fully and completely at school, at work, at play, in their moment to moment lives.

The Government of Canada has taken significant steps over the years, particularly in the areas of employment, income and taxation, to help persons with disabilities overcome many barriers to inclusion.

SDC brings together the Government of Canada's significant income support program, the CPP disability, with other programs and services offered by the Office of Disability Issues to promote the full inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of learning, work and community.

We know that we need to do more but we also know that we cannot do it alone. People in communities are finding innovative new ways to tackle old problems. At SDC we help. One such innovation is through the social economy, community based social enterprises that are entrepreneurial but not for profit.

While many Canadian communities have successfully identified their own unique approach to helping their residents, others are finding it more difficult. By doing research into what works and in sharing these strategies with other communities, SDC is working to help community based efforts that improve the lives of Canadians. Members will hear more about this later in the debate from my parliamentary secretary.

Over 2.8 million Canadians provide care to seniors, to adults and to children with disabilities, and to Canadians with acute and long term health problems. For some the demands are overwhelming. The Government of Canada recognizes that unpaid family caregivers need help and support. In fact, we think it is such an important concern that we have a Minister of State responsible for Families and Caregivers.

SDC is working with the provinces and territories and has asked Canadians for their views on developing a comprehensive caregiver strategy. Again members will hear more about this from the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers later in the debate.

In all our planning for the years to come, Social Development Canada has a strong commitment to ensure that all Canadian children have the opportunity to get a good start in life. The well-being of Canadian children is a key component of our country's quality of life now and in the future.

We all know that the pressures on families have changed and will continue to change. As they always have and always will, parents still play a primary role in raising their children.

But no longer are the majority of Canadian families with young children supported by a single income. Seven out of ten women with children under the age of six are in the workforce. This is the reality.

Recognizing that a vibrant and productive society requires investment in our children, the Government of Canada has put in place a comprehensive set of policies and programs to assist parents as required and to support and enhance the range of families' choices and circumstances. They include $10 billion a year by 2007 for the Canada child tax benefit and the national child benefit supplement that helped 3.5 million low income families with the cost of raising their children, the child rearing dropout in the Canada pension plan which allows parents to stop working temporarily to raise their children without having a reduced pension when they retire, and the tax measures to assist families cover the additional cost of their children with disabilities.

However we know that even these measures have not provided parents of young children with the full flexibility and choice that contemporary life requires. SDC therefore was given a mandate in last fall's Speech from the Throne to increase access to the kind of quality early learning and child care programs that can help families put their children on an even better life path. The budget then announced $5 billion over five years to move us toward this goal.

Working together, the provinces, territories and the federal government have developed a shared vision for early learning and child care, and I have been working with each province and territory on bilateral agreements in principle that will move this vision from dream to reality. Five provinces have signed these agreements so far and we expect more to do so in the weeks and months ahead.

All of this said, there is not one provincial government, not one territorial government, not one municipal government nor one Canadian citizen who does not want to do better in all these areas. We at SDC want to do better too.

Canada is a federation. It is as a federation that we are able to best meet the circumstances and needs of the Canadian people. As Canadian citizens, with our families, our companies and our unions, we are able to meet most of our needs ourselves. When we cannot, we look for government to help. It does not matter that it is our federal government, our provincial or territorial government, or our municipal government. We do not notice, we do not care. We just need help and we expect it.

We are also a country of great disparities. At any one moment, even if as Canadians we may see some things, such as health care, early learning and child care, post-secondary education, a healthy environment and vibrant cities and communities, as clear and critical priorities for all, some provinces and territories may be able to deliver on these and some may not. This is where the federal government plays such an important role.

In the area of social development, seniors and income security, people with disabilities, early learning and child care, and families and caregiving, there are never enough resources to do what we, the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, want to do and what the public wants done. That means we absolutely must work together for good jurisdictional reasons and for better practical reasons. The public does not expect cooperation, it assumes it. It cannot imagine it cannot tolerate anything else, nor should it.

At Social Development Canada we respect jurisdictions. We also respect people's needs, hopes and possibilities. That is real federalism, living federalism. That is federalism that people understand. That is why this past week, at the meeting in Quebec City of federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for seniors, we agreed to work collaboratively and to meet every year rather than every 18 months as in the past.

That is why my department, working with the provinces and territories and the disability community is developing a 10 year plan of action to advance the full inclusion of persons with disabilities. That is why the five early learning and child care agreements we have signed so far are not the same and why the agreements we will sign in the weeks ahead with the other jurisdictions will also be unique.

The principles are the same, the expectations are the same and the ambitions are the same, but how each province and territory will deliver on these principles, expectations and ambitions will be different. We need to work with them. At the same time, all of us must place great emphasis on accountability, on what the public expects and demands of us. Simply, we must work together because the demands on any of us are too great.

Early learning and child care offers an example of federalism at its best. Where do we go next? As a department we will work to help build Canadians' faith in government. Citizens want to know that the programs they value will be secure and will adapt to their evolving circumstances. We will work with our provincial and territorial partners to develop flexible new approaches where they are needed.

We will not attempt to do everything on our own. Canadians do not support an old style approach where governments identify problems and devise solutions without listening to them. Governments make better decisions if citizens are involved in their plans and members of Parliament need to be an important part of this.

We will never forget the understandings that we share as Canadians and never let others forget and work always to close the gap between where we are and where we expect ourselves to be.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Chair, before addressing more administrative aspects of funding for the new Department of Social Development, I would like to discuss a more structural matter.

The Bloc Québécois does not support the creation of the new Department of Social Development, because there is an unstated goal. With the creation of the department, the government is infringing on the provinces' areas of jurisdiction, in this case, social development.

We know that Quebec did not sign the social union framework agreement in 1999. The federal government's intent was clearly to pave the way for meddling in areas of provincial jurisdiction, especially social development.

I could suggest more ready sources of funding so we would not have to study the votes of the new department today. It involves first settling the whole question of the fiscal imbalance. The minister says he is very attuned to the problem. He may be. However, I do not think he is taking the right approach to meeting the expectations of the various provinces. Obviously, he has raised a very important question. The provinces have a variety of avenues and objectives, according to public pressure, which is expressed in different ways.

We all know that, when one of the institutions established in Quebec has a shortfall, people take to the streets. The big demonstrations are held in Quebec. They took place in connection with health and school funding.

I would invite the minister to examine the whole question of fiscal imbalance. The government has generated surpluses of $70 billion and has $140 billion in manoeuvring room to develop new initiatives, including a number in social development, probably.

The Minister of Social Development was saying that the government wants to be accountable to Canadians. What do they think the provinces want to do? Report to their people. With the threat of the fiscal imbalance, it is impossible to properly respond to expectations.

I would remind the minister of a comment by the National Council of Welfare. It pointed out that the government should not base its family policy on intervention programs, because these federal programs “add further complications to the tangle of fragmented programs and policies that are within the jurisdiction of the provincial and territorial governments.” It is clear from the 1867 Constitution that social issues are a provincial matter.

Thanks to this new department, the minister will have all the latitude needed to interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction. This minister envisions these programs being cost-shared equally. That was how it worked 25 years ago.

I think it is a matter of vision. Quebec does not think that this new department is interfering with regard to cost-shared programs; it is interfering with regard to Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. These are not areas of joint jurisdiction, contrary to what the Minister of Social Development thinks and says.

First, I want to ask him a few questions. Apparently, it will cost $53 billion to administer this new Department of Social Development. About 97% of that will go to income security and the guaranteed income supplement, leaving about $1.5 billion or $2 billion for initiatives in areas under provincial jurisdiction. We know that there are different categories of objectives: inclusion and participation, dynamic communities, investing in children and families, service innovation. There are various programs under each of these different sectors of activity.

I want the minister to tell us whether, in addition to the $53 billion and the $1.2 billion set aside for these initiatives, additional funding will be provided.

It was not very clear when I looked at the budget. There are some blanks spaces under the minister's new initiatives where we see, for example, the amounts for operations. However, there is still no funding set aside for children and families. There is no funding set aside for grants and contributions under the transfer payments. There are some blanks in the 2005-06 budget.

I am very concerned, because we were told that this department would not cost much and that its purpose was to increase efficiency and better respond to the different client groups. We were told that it would involve the transfer of public servants. Some 12,000 public servants have been transferred; almost 11,000 remain with Human Resources Canada.

So this is an attempt to increase efficiency and diligence with regard to all the target client groups. Many people are targeted: families, children and the handicapped. There are many client groups.

If 97% of $1.5 billion, which appears to be the budget allocated, goes to the guaranteed income supplement and old age security, there is not a lot left over.

I foresee close to $500 million for operating the various components of your department, so you are left with approximately $1.2 billion. Do you think you can get any more? You have an ambitious project, to help natural caregivers. I see the minister is here, perhaps to help you answer all these questions.

My assistants and I—they are not here this evening—have tried to understand the numerous blanks that have been left. There is, for instance, nothing to tell us how much you are going to inject into dynamic communities, or how much in grants and contributions will go to the transfer payments. There are some major gaps. The same thing goes for investing in children and families.

And where are you going to get the budget for child care? I will get back to that in my second question. We need to look at where your budget is going to come from. Do you have other new funding you are planning to announce in the coming months?

Do I now yield the floor to the minister? This is my first time in committee of the whole, I would like some answers.