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.