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House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parents.

Topics

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 14th, 2005 / 1 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today signed by a number of Canadians, including from my own riding of Mississauga South, on the subject matter of marriage.

The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that fundamental matters of social policy should be decided by elected members of Parliament and not by the unelected judiciary, and that it is Parliament's responsibility to define marriage.

The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to use all possible legislative and administrative measures, including the invocation of section 33 of the charter, also known as the notwithstanding clause, to preserve and protect the current definition of marriage as being the legal union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

1 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a number of petitions signed by the good people of Winnipeg Centre and more specifically the people in the area of Weston and Brooklands in my riding of Winnipeg Centre.

The petitioners point out that juvenile gang activity is a serious problem in their area. They are calling upon Parliament to enforce the current provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act more vigorously and to amend the act, so that youths 14 years of age and over may be charged as adults and that parents be held accountable for the criminal activities of their children aged 12 and under.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending June 23, 2005, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bill.

In view of recent practices, do hon. members agree that the bill be distributed now?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Conservative Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

moved:

That the government recognize that its current child care proposals creates a two-tier child care system because: (a) the government ignores the fact that each province is unique and faces different challenges with regard to assisting families in finding and providing child care; and (b) that the federal government is discriminating against families who choose to stay at home or find care outside of a publicly funded system or work shift-work, or who are on a low income

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Nepean--Carleton.

I rise today to speak to a motion that we believe will help rectify a wrong. This wrong occurred when the Liberal government decided to finally implement a promise that was in the works for over a decade.

Shortly after the last federal election campaign, the Minister of Social Development announced that the government would ignore the wishes of parents, families, and frankly our nation's children. The government decided that in the name of some, it was easier to leave out most.

The day care plan that is currently being implemented by the government is unfortunately two tier in nature. There is one tier for those who can actually access the Liberal program and another tier for those who are left, which are the majority, to fend for themselves. In contrast, the Conservative Party of Canada plan is universal. We believe in choice, we believe in equality, and we want to treat all families equally.

The Conservative Party of Canada strongly believes that any child care plan must benefit all children. It must be universal. It must especially benefit those who need our help the most. Whether a child's parents are shift workers, live in rural regions, or live on a low income, it is both the duty and an obligation of the government to look after them. We on this side of the House have not forgotten that.

We have watched the minister put together a patchwork child care plan. We are already witnessing some of the pitfalls of this approach. Instead of the promised national plan, we have numerous side agreements between the federal government and provincial governments that are neither equitable nor equal among our federation.

The Conservative Party of Canada is offering a universal and enhanced child care policy that would be inclusive as opposed to exclusive. Our approach, and we sincerely hope that by passing today's motion we can begin to go down that road, is one that would provide choice and recognizes the needs of parents in the 21st century.

By finding ways to get the much needed money into the hands of parents, they will become financially empowered. This debate is about empowering parents, families, and other essential caregivers, and financially empowering all families equally.

The government should have explored other innovative policies, as the Conservative Party has done, such as providing tax incentives for businesses and employers to build child care facilities on-site instead of relying on an existing framework that frankly needs new ideas in order to be sustainable. As a government we should explore long, low tax solutions as opposed to always relying on high spend alternatives.

The greatest travesty with this program, and I have mentioned this before, is that it discriminates against those who actually may need it the most. There is no flexibility or financial support for stay at home parents. Stay at home parents will be paying into this system, but because they choose an alternative to institutionalized day care, they will have no access to the Liberal child care program or financial support.

There is no flexibility or support for shift workers. The Liberal child care program is designed for families with parents who work 9 to 5. Parents who work the graveyard shift or any other odd hours will be unable to access this child care program. What will a waitress who works shift work do for child care? Why are his or her choices not as deserving of much needed financial support from the government?

This program offers no flexibility or support for rural communities. The Liberal child care program is designed for families who live in cities because the infrastructure is just not there to provide the service in rural areas. Some child care experts have suggested that the $7 per day system found in Quebec be used as a model throughout Canada. However, there are those falling between the cracks in the Quebec model as well.

Even though many believe that those families with a higher income should perhaps pay more for child care, and that subsidized day care should be available only to low and middle income families, the Quebec experience has actually demonstrated that it is often families with the higher income who are benefiting from the subsidized spaces.

Critics also argue that the Quebec experience indicates that federal figures concerning the cost of the program may not be accurate. In Quebec alone, it costs $1.1 billion per year to subsidize 234,000 spaces, and there are 33,000 Quebec children on wait lists right now.

Canadians must therefore question whether or not $5 billion over the next five years will be enough to create a child care program across the country, and whether the program will end up costing taxpayers a great deal more than originally anticipated.

The provinces were also asking for some flexibility. I remember the comments of Premier Lord from New Brunswick. He said:

We should truly meet the needs of children in New Brunswick and not just get caught up in one-size-fits-all that everything's about day care. Everything is not just about day care.

I have received countless letters, emails and phone calls from concerned parents regarding the child care issue. Parents such as Kate Tennier, the founder of an organization called Advocates for Childcare Choice, are asking quite simply for choice. Ms. Tennier stated in a recent Globe and Mail article:

--Advocates for Childcare Choice, along with other groups across Canada, believes parents must retain decision-making power in how their children are cared for. We believe choice must be the cornerstone on which any new child-care deal is predicated.

And the vast majority of middle-class families have no real choice, either, as they are hampered by a regressive child-care tax policy that the government has shown no indication of changing. The new program will severely limit choices; with tax dollars directed to the universal daycare model, parents will not receive equal funding for their own choices.

Those of us in the choice movement are tired of being portrayed as working against the common good of children and society. We find the government's social engineering to be regressive. The rhetoric that charges that a vote against universal daycare is a vote against children doesn't apply to us. We are just asking that the billions of dollars about to be allocated for child care in Canada be given to parents, so they can secure the kind of care and early-learning experiences they believe their children need and deserve.

Ms. Tennier and other members for Advocates for Childcare Choice are not alone. A survey released by the Vanier Institute found in general that Canadians felt that day care was their least favourite option for child care. As well, 90% of working mothers and 84% of working fathers would prefer to work part time if they could afford it.

In addition, a 2002 strategic council survey found that 76% of respondents across Canada stated that they would prefer to have a parent stay at home with their children rather than have them in some other form of care if money was not the consideration.

Rather than heed the voices of concerned parents, the Minister of Social Development has chosen to ignore them. In fact, he has made light of their concerns stating in a previous supply day motion on child care in the House of Commons:

As parents we all feel guilty about the time we are not spending with our kids. However, if we asked the same group of people or any group of people if they would like to lose weight, 90% would say yes. If we asked them if they would like ice cream once a week and chocolate twice a day, about the same percentage would say the same.

The Minister of Social Development has chosen to listen only to those who share his views on child care and disregard the legitimate voices of concerned parents. The future of our society rests upon the shoulders of those who are too young to even realize it. For that reason we must create the conditions for our young to succeed and flourish while preparing them for all the challenges and obstacles that lay ahead.

The Conservative Party of Canada has clearly recognized the importance of early child care. We want all Canadians to be treated equally and all choices to be respected. I sincerely hope that all hon. members will join me in supporting this motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Ahuntsic Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Social Development (Social Economy)

Mr. Speaker, I am having a difficult time understanding, even though we have debated this issue many times, what the hon. member means by choice.

We are giving Canadians a national system of early learning and child care, not babysitting as the opposition has stated, and not only day care but early learning. We are doing that in collaboration with our provincial colleagues. There are five provinces in fact which have already signed an agreement in principle.

The hon. member talked as if money was not a consideration. Unfortunately, money is a consideration for many low income and middle income families across this country. That is why we feel we must have a universal system in order to give children a good start in life.

My children were privileged. They had the benefit of their mother at home and they had the benefit of their grandmother, and also an early learning and day care centre. I have had that experience as a woman, one who chose to work. In general, the women that I speak to, and the groups which the minister and our department have consulted with, feel very strongly about giving the right choice.

The only choice that the opposition has given is a tax break of $400 which does not even buy half a space, as far as I know, either in Toronto or Montreal. But the hon. member and her party have also said that they will honour the agreements in principle. What is really the Conservative policy? Is it going to honour the agreements in principle that have already been signed or is it going to scrap the whole thing and only provide the band-aid solution it provides to every problem in this country, a tax break?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Conservative Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

Mr. Speaker, when I refer to what parents are saying, I refer back to many of the polls and surveys that have been done that indicate that almost 100% of working parents have said they would like a choice if money was not a consideration. What we are pointing to is the choice factor. Parents who are working would like the choice of whether or not to work or stay home part time if they would like. Right now they do not feel that choice is financially empowered.

That then leads into equitable and universal policy. Our policy is universal because we would financially empower all parents equally. That is the difference. The Liberal plan would only financially empower a parent to make one choice. We are financially empowering parents to make any choice they think is best suited not only for their children but for their communities and their families. I hope that explains it a little better.

Yes, our policy in the last election surrounded a tax credit. As everyone knows, we have released a policy that is much more enhanced and much more comprehensive. Part of that includes cash subsidies that go directly to parents, in addition to a comprehensive tax regime and policy, tax reforms that will help families to better meet their child care needs and in other areas of family.

In addition to that, we also have a comprehensive package on tax incentives that work with employers and workplaces to create more infrastructure, which is the other challenge the government is not acknowledging and has absolutely no innovative policy to address.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Party has initiated a debate on a very important motion, one that is important to Quebec families.

I am not surprised by the route proposed today, but I am a bit surprised by the inability to recognize that a child care program—we will not talk about a national child care program but rather about child care programs that could be created in the different provinces—is essential. If we want an inclusive program, families need to have choices.

In order to have a real choice, the idea is not to not have national child care. Not having child care is not a real choice. Perhaps we can discuss the $5 million over five years. This amount is insufficient. I agree with the member; it is not enough.

However, at the same time, we have to bring the debate into the 21st century. If we want to do that, we must also realize that, for thousands and thousands of families, child care is essential so that women can work.

We saw, in Quebec, the creation of a child care system that cost us $500 million. That was the amount set aside to set up the child care program. Now, it is $1.7 billion. People have really taken to it. The need is clear. We needed a child care system. Not allowing such a program in the other provinces means denying thousands of women access to a child care system.

I want the member to reconsider her vision of a child care program so that it would be an inclusive program and not an national child care program. It is not an inclusive system if we talk about having the provinces adopt a national program.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Conservative Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to address the member's misconception of our policy. I think it is very important for the member to recognize that the Conservative Party supports all forms of day care, which is why we talk about choice. We support any parent's choice to use formal day care but we also support the choice of using informal day care if it meets the needs of the family. The bottom line is that we think parents are the ones who should be making that decision.

I would like to point out to the hon. member that the proposal by the Liberals is far from universal. It only increases regulated subsidized day care spaces from 7% to 10%. This is only a 3% increase. In our estimation this does not even begin to scratch the surface of the child care challenges in this country.

As in Quebec and every other province, we think we need to offer innovative policies and options for parents so that we can actually address the true challenges in the child care arena. We are coming up with a universal program that will offer options and choices for parents to actually meet these challenges head on.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in the House today in support of a motion that stands for the principles of parental choice and responsibility.

Right now the Minister of Social Development has proposed a $10 billion to $13 billion day care scheme that will mean higher taxes for families and, thus, fewer choices for parents.

Where do I get those numbers, $10 billion to $13 billion? They come from the supporters of the minister's program. They say consistently that in order to finance a massive day care scheme of the size and scope that the minister proposes, one would need to spend 1% of GDP.

Our national GDP at this time is in the neighbourhood of $1.3 trillion, meaning that 1% is $13 billion. The minister has tried to tell this House that he can finance his day care scheme with $1 billion a year, meaning there is at least a $9 billion gap in his day care scheme. The program will actually cost $10 billion to $13 billion and he has allotted $1 billion.

Therefore we ask how this $9 billion to $12 billion black hole will be filled. We know the answer to that question. It will be filled through higher taxes on working families and, thus, fewer choices for working parents.

When parents have fewer dollars left in their pockets, they can afford less choice. There are fewer options available to them when their financial positions are constrained. To impose a $13 billion tax obligation on working families and on parents would dramatically diminish the scope of child care options available to those families and to those parents.

I am proud to support a different policy that takes dollars and puts them directly in the pockets of the millions of child care experts who already exist. Their names are mom and dad. We believe in mom and dad. We believe in parents and we believe that no one loves the nation's children more than the people who gave them birth. It is they who ought to have the right to decide what is in the best interests of their children.

The social development minister would take dollars out of their pockets through higher taxes to finance a $13 billion day care scheme that those parents do not want. How do I know they do not want it? I know because the left leaning Vanier Institute, which conducted probably the farthest-reaching and broadest public opinion research of parents, told us so.

In fact, the number one choice among parents for child care options was to have one parent stay in the home. This choice was particularly popular among the female respondents to the scientifically conducted survey but there were a number of other options: having a family member provide child care throughout the day; having neighbourhood-based care; or having a church, synagogue or mosque provide the care throughout the day. All of these options found some support among parents but the option that the minister proposes finished fifth. It was one of the least popular options.

It is his position that we ought to take $10 billion to $13 billion out of the pockets of parents and taxpayers and put all of those dollars into the option that parents favour the least.

On this side of the House, we understand that the child care choice is not the minister's choice and it is not the Prime Minister's choice, but we have the humility to admit that it is not our choice either. It is not my choice or hers or his. It is not a choice for any politician. It is a choice for parents.

We will take those child care dollars and give them directly to parents because we have faith in their ability to do their jobs. We have faith in the love they have for their kids and their desire to see them grow and prosper.

Many of my constituents were deeply offended when they heard the minister refer to stay at home parents as being providers of mediocre child care and when he said that the desire of a young parent to stay at home and raise the kids was about as frivolous as wanting ice cream once a week or chocolate twice a day. That is exactly what he said before this House. He would be welcome to stand at any time and prove me wrong but those words are burned forever into the records of this House and they have done serious harm to parents who found them deeply offensive.

I think this debate will provide the minister with an opportunity to apologize for those very offensive and harmful words. It will also provide him with the opportunity to change course: to admit that his $13 billion day care scheme is unaffordable; to admit that it cannot be financed and will mean higher taxes and therefore fewer choices for parents; to renounce the whole idea and decide to put the dollars in the pockets of parents themselves instead. That would be a real act of humility but it would go a long way to restoring faith in this place.

I want to move on to some of the discussions that we have had in our party. A lot of young families are represented on this side of the House. We have a lot of young parents, some young mothers, and they have put forward some excellent ideas that are supported widely by the young families in my constituency. For example, how about a cash subsidy for parents directly? Let us send them a child care cheque so they can be helped with the daily child care costs they face. They can choose day care if they wish but if they decide to keep a parent in the home, that option would be supported as well.

Once again, that is not a choice for a politician to make. That is a choice for a parent. We on this side of the House understand that child care is not federal jurisdiction nor is it provincial jurisdiction either. It is parental jurisdiction.

The minister said that his plan includes choice, his government's choice. His government will choose how child care dollars are spent and, thus, the system has choice.

What he does not understand is that it is not his choice how to raise other people's kids. It is not his choice how to spend other people's money. However his $13 billion day care scheme takes other people's money and spends it on raising other people's kids. That runs contrary to basic respect of family jurisdiction, of the family unit.

Finally, he says that it is impractical to expect that parents' dreams of having one parent stay in the home and take care of the kids will ever be realized again. He says that is an old-fashioned idea, even though it is an idea that I understand his family used. I congratulate him for doing so. However he says that it is old-fashioned, that it cannot be done and, while parents are telling us that is what they want, that it just cannot happen. He says that statistics show that it does not happen. To whatever extent those statistics may or may not be true, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Government policy has made it impossible for parents to make the sacrifice of staying in the home. A much higher rate of taxation is imposed on a single income family than on a dual income family. If he really wanted to enhance child care options he would bring in income splitting, allowing parents to divide their income so that a single income family earning $60,000 would be taxed the same as a dual income family earning $30,000 each, meaning there would be tax fairness for those people who made the choice of keeping one parent in the home. That is a hopeful idea but it is the kind of idea that can inspire family life, rebuild communities and build a new sense of hope that one generation can pass on all the best to the next.

I would like to work with the minister to accomplish that. I hope he will stand in this House today and announce that we can get started today.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a subject matter on which I have done a fair bit of work over my career. We heard the member's last comment about the taxation burden on people. I want to try to dispel the notion by this question.

The member suggested that the tax burden of someone making $60,000 a year is greater than two persons each making $30,000 a year. Under our progressive system of taxation that is absolutely correct. The question is not whether or not $60,000 has the same tax burden as two persons each earning $30,000. We have to look at a family.

We look at a family and if one spouse is making $60,000 and the other is perhaps making $30,000, the question is not whether or not somehow we get $60,000 versus two at $30,000. It is whether or not someone gives up that $30,000 a year job to stay at home and care for their children, if that is the person's choice. Comparing two $30,000 a year incomes to a $60,000 a year income really is not a very good argument.

I want to ask the member about how we get money into the hands of families so that they can provide care for their children in the fashion that they wish. All families are different. I do not think we could put very many families into the same pigeonhole.

We have what is called the Canada child tax benefit and the national child benefit. Both of these programs provide, based on the number of children and their ages, right up to age 18, direct moneys on a monthly basis to families.

There is one difference from what the Conservatives are proposing. There is an income test. There is a means test. There is a certain level of income beyond which the amounts are reduced. The reason is that it is important for us to make sure that those in most need get the greatest amount of money.

The Conservative plan basically suggests that a tax credit be given to all regardless of their income, and it basically dilutes the amount that anyone gets. It gets down to the lowest common denominator and has nothing to do with a person's ability to meet those demands.

I would ask the member whether or not he would concur that there should be a means test for any kind of a benefit to the extent that it is delivered in a way, for instance, that the Conservatives suggest, so that the most needy in our society have the supports they need for their children.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, no, I do not. I believe that all families regardless of income should have some support for child care in those crucial early years. I believe that those dollars should go directly into the pockets of parents. Instead of sending the dollars to bureaucrats and public sector unions, we would give the dollars directly to parents.

It is interesting that the member asked a question about dollars allocated. The member did not mention anything about this, but I wonder what he thinks about the fact that in Quebec where the day care system is up and running, workers are going on strike. They are putting parents in a position of peril. Their position is being jeopardized. Those parents have come to rely on the system to take care of their children every day. They are paying for it through their taxes. Now it will not even be provided because the day care workers are going on strike.

Can we expect these kinds of strikes to occur nation wide? Can we expect nationwide day care strikes where parents have committed their children to attend a day care throughout the day? The parents rely on that service being there. A strike could suddenly be called and the parents would be left with no option, even though they had been forced to pay for the service through their taxes.

Those are the kinds of massive hurdles that will present themselves in this bureaucratic scheme.

I note also that the government member did not explain where the $13 billion will come from for the government day care scheme. Will it come from higher taxes? Will it require cuts to health care? Will it require cuts to old age security at a time when the baby boomers are moving into a higher age group? Where will this $13 billion come from?

Why is it that even though he has been questioned almost 10 times in the House of Commons, the minister continues to refuse to answer how much his day care scheme will really cost? He wants to keep it secret. He wants us to pursue a program that he admitted this weekend might never be able to work.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Ken Dryden LiberalMinister of Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak about the government's policies on families and early learning and child care.

All of these policies and programs emerge from the understanding that at the very centre of every child's life is his or her relationship with his or her parents. The centrality of this relationship has always been the case and it always will be.

Recognizing that a fair, 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 and to support and enhance the range of families' choices. It is into this context that the government's commitment of $5 billion over five years for early learning and child care fits and should be understood.

The Canada child tax benefit and the national child benefit supplement provide assistance for low income families. These benefits have been described as the most important social program since the introduction of medicare. They help more than 3.5 million families meet the cost of raising their children.

In 2002-03 the Government of Canada's total annual assistance to families with children through the Canada child tax benefit and the national child benefit was $7.76 billion. That number is projected to reach $10 billion by 2007.

Maternity and parental benefits are offered through the employment insurance program. Five years ago these benefits were extended to provide replacement income for up to one year while a parent stays home with their new baby or newly adopted child.

In 2003, 86.4% of women with children under a year old and with insurable earnings received maternity and/or parental benefits. These benefits are also becoming increasingly attractive to men. In 2003 about 11% of men with children under a year old either claimed or intended to claim parental benefits.

These benefits can make an immense difference to these families. They create an opportunity for parents to spend time with their child during the child's first days of life and spend time with each other to help create the habits of parenthood, the joys of family. When parents return to work, they return with a feeling and a memory with the growing instinct of family and with the growing desire for family life.

To ensure that parents who take time out from full time work to raise their young children do not experience reduced pensions later on in their lives, the Canada pension plan has a child rearing dropout provision. All of this is to encourage and not to discourage the development of this important early parent-child bond.

In order to provide families with a handicapped child with financial assistance, the Government of Canada has introduced certain targeted measures such as the new child disability benefit and other tax initiatives.

We are also helping to improve and expand early childhood education programs via joint initiatives with the provinces and territories. Under the 2003 multilateral framework on early learning and child care, the Government of Canada is transferring $1.05 billion to the provinces and territories over five years to help them improve and expand their programs and services. By 2007-08, this commitment will represent $350 million annually.

One year ago we decided to do more. We decided the time had come to build on the important work of many dedicated people. We made a commitment to develop a system of early learning and child care in every province and territory in the country. One year ago the members opposite were not talking about building early learning and child care in this country. I am glad that early learning and child care has risen to the top of the national agenda. It is time.

As I said earlier, at the centre of a child's life is the relationship with his or her parents. That has always been the case and will always be the case. The lives of families can and do change over time. The challenge for a child to develop and learn to his or her fullest potential remains the same.

Early learning and child care is not, was never intended to be and never will be the only answer to a child's development, just as elementary school and high school are not understood as the only answer to learning and education. Simply put, early learning and child care is a tool, one of many for a child's development and for parents to use as they see fit.

As I have said on many occasions, as the members opposite know, early learning and child care is the way we live in this country. Seventy per cent of parents with children under the age of six are both in the workforce. The great majority of those kids are in child care of some form, but not in a form that is good enough. Only 20% are in regulated care and not in a form that reflects the importance of learning and development in a child's early years; not in a form that utilizes best the opportunities of all those hours of a day, days of a week, weeks of a year, years of a life, all the possibilities. This time is this an opportunity to be realized or an opportunity missed? We want to make this time work.

One year ago in this country early learning and child care was nowhere near that. Outside Quebec none of the other provinces or territories had the capacity or had as a priority to build an important ambitious system. The party opposite had no interest.

In last year's election, the Liberal platform commitment was for $5 billion over five years to help build a system of early learning and child care across the country. We were on our way. Then for a few weeks not long ago, when it appeared the opposition might not pass the budget bill, it seemed we might not be. The stakes were enormous. As the executive director of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada said, “We are so close. I just can't imagine being this close again. I feel I have been waiting my entire professional life for this moment. If it slips away, I don't know how I will carry on”.

We kept going. We signed several bilateral agreements with the provinces. The first one was in Winnipeg. The Prime Minister, the premier of Manitoba and the Manitoba minister for social services were there. The room was jammed. Every person who was there had inside them that quote, but there was also an agreement. We were on our way. The event was a celebration. In Regina, Hamilton, Gander and Halifax, it was the same, because Canadians, provincial and territorial governments want an early learning and child care system in every province and territory in the country. They know how important it is. They know that this is an opportunity too important to miss.

To provide a context, what the $5 billion over five years represents is a 48% increase in what all governments are currently spending on child care in this country. By the third year, midway through this five year program, what it will mean for the province of British Columbia is a 105% increase; for Alberta, 121%; for Saskatchewan, 95%; for Manitoba, 48%; and for Ontario, 69%. Even for Quebec, with all the money it put in, it is a 21% increase. It will mean for New Brunswick, 132%; Nova Scotia, 90%; P.E.I., 85%; Newfoundland and Labrador, 130%.

These agreements set out: the overarching national vision, principles and goals for early learning and child care; clear and measurable objectives; funding levels and eligible areas for investment; strong accountability through public reporting; a commitment to collaborate with each other on information, knowledge and best practices; and a commitment on the part of provinces and territories to develop an action plan in consultation with citizens and stakeholders for the period of federal funding.

These are the common elements, but we also recognize that every province and territory is unique. We recognize that in each province and territory early learning and child care is in a different stage of development. They have different immediate priorities. Their needs and circumstances may vary, so in addition to a common set of principles and parameters, we have also built in the flexibility to allow provinces and territories to meet the requirements of their citizens.

There is great flexibility in an early learning and child care system because the scale is so small and the system so much still evolving. The Government of Canada comes to agreement with the provinces and territories on the principles, expectations, understandings and accountabilities. The provinces and territories decide on how best to meet those obligations, with the flexibility to find different answers for rural areas and big cities and the flexibility to meet the circumstances of linguistic minorities, off hours or specific needs.

This is not an elementary school. This does not require a core of 150 students and millions of dollars for a building to make everything work. Nor is early learning and child care an all or nothing. It is not something for eight hours a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, or nothing. Even most stay at home parents want some time in the week for their children to have other experiences with other kids in other places. Early learning and child care can be two mornings a week or a day a week, for parents and kids as they see fit.

We want parents to have real choice. We want them to have the chance to choose quality, affordability and availability. We did not build schools by putting money into parents' pockets and asking parents to get together, if they wished, to put some of that money into a pot to build a school and hire some teachers.

We did not build hospitals or roads that way either. We decided that schools, hospitals and roads were important enough to enough people and were important enough to our present and future society that we put the public money directly toward them. This is what we are doing with early learning and child care.

Choice also means understanding the reality around us. The majority of Canadian women and men do not have university degrees. The great majority do not have professional degrees. They make modest incomes. For them, not working outside the home is not a choice. For them, no child care is not a choice. The only choice they might have, but too rarely, the choice they desperately seek for their kids, is good affordable child care. For them and for the great majority of Canadians, that is the only choice they might have.

Choice is not having nothing to buy. Choice is not waiting for a bus that has a $2.50 fare and having 10¢ in our pockets. Choice is not too many mediocre or non-existent child care spaces in too many parts of the country. Choice is not knocking on an $8,000 a year child care door, on average, with $320 in our pockets.

Choice is making available to all parents who want it, urban and rural, rich, middle income and poor, in every province and territory in the country, good, affordable, available early learning and child care. That is the choice we are looking to provide.

No one program ever offers an answer for everything. Nothing does. The health system does not. The education system does not. Even if we would like them to do more, doing what they do matters and matters a lot. We are a lot better off because of them. And we will be a lot better off for an early learning and child care system in every province and territory in this country.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the effort by the new Minister of Social Development to implement a child care network. However, I take issue with the fact that he does not recognize that early childhood development, which also includes child care centres and families, is a provincial jurisdiction.

I will ask him a question outside oral question period. Quite often we do not have enough time to say what we want then. The minister now has the time to answer properly.

During the last election campaign, several of the minister's colleagues were very clear about this government's commitment to respect provincial jurisdictions.

When a journalist asked whether he would respect provincial jurisdictions, the Prime Minister responded, “Absolutely”. We know all about his famous “absolutely”. In other words, the answer was “yes”. We know full well that the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs was also asked something similar. She said that the provinces could do as they wished with the specific agreement that faithfully represents the priorities of the provinces, with no strings attached. The Minister of Canadian Heritage also said something along the same lines. That makes three ministers who promised to make payments to Quebec with no strings attached.

Will the Minister of Social Development say the same thing these three ministers did during the election campaign? These promises were made. The quotes in various papers can be used as proof of their promises to respect the provinces, Quebec especially, since this is a Quebec issue. Will the minister give the same answer to this same question?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I have said to the hon. member and to the House on many occasions, we certainly recognize the jurisdiction of the provinces in the area of early learning and child care.

We also respect the work done and the efforts and commitment made by the government and the people of Quebec in terms of Quebec's early learning and child care system. As has been mentioned by others, that is to a level of somewhere around $1.5 billion, which is much more than anybody else in the country spends on early learning and child care.

We also respect the fact that when one takes a step like that in the right direction, with the kind of ambition with which the government and people took that step, it is a step that is to be acknowledged, recognized, understood, applauded and in no way penalized. Really, all I can say to the member beyond that is that all of those things are part of our understanding as we continue our discussions and negotiations with the government of Quebec.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Gouk Conservative Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister's little Liberal cradle to grave diatribe. I would like to ask him about this, particularly as it affects the people in my constituency. I have a riding that has 19 official communities, the largest of which has 8,000 people. Several have less than 1,000. These are official communities.

I would like to know a number of things. First, does he really believe that rich socialites should be able to drop their kids off for free while in essence being subsidized by taxpaying Canadians where one family member stays at home to raise their kids because they think that is of value?

Next, what is he going to do for shift workers who need help but who would get nothing unless there is an around the clock type of centre available?

Last, particularly as it relates to my riding, what kind of service or help are hard-pressed people going to get when they live in communities of less than 1,000? Does the government really think it is going to put in tens of thousands of day care centres around this country, including in these small communities in my riding?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I alluded to briefly earlier, this program will represent to the hon. member's province of British Columbia at the midway point of those five years a 105% increase in what is currently being spent by all levels of government on early learning and child care.

As the hon. member knows and as I have pointed out before, decisions as to how all of this will get implemented are decisions of the provinces and the territories. We set the principles, but the provinces and the territories make the decisions on its implementation.

A 105% increase in early learning and child care represents a remarkable new opportunity for the province of British Columbia to find ways of delivering early learning and child care to those small communities the hon. member represents. That is a huge development and a huge change in what is currently the situation in his particular riding.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, everybody in the House knows that we in the NDP are committed to a national child care program rooted in principles and legislation, with sufficient funds to make sure that everybody across this country can access it.

When we look at what is happening out there at this point, with some money rolled out and a number of bilateral agreements, it makes this program a national program. What research is the minister using to support his insistence on it being open to both for profit and not for profit delivery systems? When can we see legislation tabled in the House to frame this important new national program?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have had discussions with the hon. member on this issue. In terms of his question about the national quality of this particular program, with individual provincial and territorial agreements, as I have said to him and to others in the past, the right analogy for me on this is the way in which education works in this country. Education is provincial jurisdiction. There is an education system in the province of Ontario. There is one in the province of British Columbia. There is one in Saskatchewan.

Each province and territory has its own education system, but what Canadians have come to understand with the system of education in each province is a certain level of expectation and understanding of what an education system is across the country: what is there and what is not there, what should be assumed and what should not be, and what one would normally have because it is available in other provinces.

Briefly in terms of for profit and not for profit, as the hon. member knows, in every province and territory in this country early learning and child care is currently being delivered by both systems, not for profit and for profit. This is happening not just in Canada but in western Europe as well, where the early learning and child care systems are much more advanced. Both systems are in play as well.

Canadian Women's Health NetworkStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Madeline Boscoe, executive director of the Canadian Women's Health Network located in Winnipeg and one of Canada's foremost leaders in the field of health promotion for women and girls.

Whether it is as a health care provider or a project manager, an intervenor at the Supreme Court, an author and editor or a participant in various national and international conferences, Ms. Boscoe is one of Canada's chief proponents for healthy women and notably, for women who are in low income and marginalized positions.

Last week the University of Ottawa paid tribute to Ms. Boscoe, bestowing upon her the degree of “doctor of the university”. I believe the Chancellor most eloquently summed up what Madeline Boscoe is all about when he decreed:

I think I speak for many Canadians--women and men--when I say thank goodness that Madeline Boscoe is out there, talking about these issues, and making such an important difference in the world.

I ask my colleagues to join me in congratulating Ms. Boscoe and thanking her for her tireless efforts.

Canadian Cancer SocietyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commend the residents of Oxford county for their generosity and commitment to cancer support and research.

The Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life is drawing huge numbers in Tillsonburg, Woodstock and Ingersoll. Over 3,200 people in these three communities are participating, including over 200 survivors in each city.

The Relay for Life is a result of months of planning and is made possible through the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and the generosity of many sponsors. Oxford's generosity has resulted in a Golden Baton award for the highest fundraising per capita.

I would like to congratulate all those who participated in Tillsonburg and to wish the very best to those who will be participating in Woodstock and Ingersoll.

I would also like to thank the many volunteers, sponsors and participants who made this relay possible. Congratulations, Oxford.

Child PornographyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, in this statement, the sixth in my series exploring whether the courts are protecting our children, I want to bring another case to the attention of the House.

A 40-year-old man named Randall Weber kept a collection of over 600 photos of child pornography on his family computer, easily accessible to his wife and three children. The photos contained horrendous images of real children as young as two years old being sexually abused in various degrading and disgusting ways. He even shared these photos with hundreds of others via the Internet.

Ontario Justice Roy Bogusky sentenced this man to a 14-month conditional sentence. What a sad joke. At least the Crown appealed the sentence. However, the Court of Appeal Justices Catzman, Feldman and Gillese dismissed the Crown's appeal.

Rulings like this are not protecting our children from anything. I ask the House, when will Canada's courts start taking the protection of our children seriously?