Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to address members of the House in regard to this important legislation. By virtue of the legislation the department will have subscribed to its legal status. The bill exemplifies the ways in which the government is working to strengthen Canada's social foundations and in so doing ensure that the best possible level of service is provided to all Canadians.
I support the bill because it means Canadians will benefit from a stronger social foundation. By introducing the bill in the House of Commons, it will demonstrate its commitment to serving Canadians in a fair, inclusive and efficient manner.
I am proud to stand here in support of Bill C-22 and I encourage all members of the House to join me in supporting the bill which represents so much for Canadians.
For seniors, the bill clearly states the Government of Canada's commitment to the provision of necessary support for seniors. this will help to ensure that they live with dignity. Budget 2005 provides $13 million over five years to establish a national seniors secretariat. The secretariat would work with several federal departments that have seniors' related policies and programs as well as other levels of government and key partners to address the challenges of an aging population.
The federal government must prepare for a growing and diverse seniors population while continuing to address the issues facing current seniors in Canada. At present, several departments are involved in seniors' issues. As the lead department for seniors, Social Development Canada will be home to the secretariat and will coordinate efforts in partnership with provincial and territorial governments as well as other stakeholders. They will develop approaches to respond to the needs of seniors.
Fundamentally, the department will enhance the knowledge of seniors' needs and issues and it will establish partnerships with governments, academics, seniors' organizations and individuals. This will ensure that there are future initiatives to address the challenges and needs of all ages for current and future seniors.
Voting in favour of Bill C-22 is a vote in favour of our nation's children. Investing in children and families is one of the best ways we can enhance the social and economic fabric of the country, now and into the future. To this end, the Government of Canada has put in place a comprehensive set of initiatives that reflect and support the range of families, choices and circumstances, from tax measures to joint initiatives with the provinces and territories to improve programs and support services.
While these initiatives have been put forward, more work needs to be done. The majority of the families do not have access to the kind of quality early learning and child care programs that can help set their young children on the path of success. Indeed, even children who are cared for primarily by parents at home can benefit from taking part in nursery school program for a few hours each week.
With the introduction of Bill C-22, the Government of Canada believes that the time has come to develop early learning and child care in Canada. In the 2005 federal budget the government announced $5 billion over five years to fund an early learning and child care initiative in collaboration with the provinces and territories. These initiatives will be guided by what is known as the quad principles: quality, universal inclusiveness, accessibility and development.
This new initiative builds on the success of the 2003 multilateral framework of early learning and child care and the 2000 early childhood agreement. Recently the government has been working with each province and territory to develop and announce bilateral agreements in principle. In the past few weeks the Government of Canada has signed agreements in principle with the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia that will support the development of quality early learning child care in these provinces.
The agreements in principle are based on a national vision which would build in the best practice and ensure reports on progress to Canadians. Canadians will be kept informed of the differences these new investments are making in the lives of children and families.
This will not be a one size fits all approach. We recognize that early learning and child care within each province and territory is at different stages of development and that the needs and circumstances vary. This is why provincial and territorial governments will have the flexibility to enhance early learning and child care support in the way that best meets the needs of their communities.
The mandate of Social Development Canada is straightforward. Its objective is to strengthen Canada's social foundation by supporting the well-being of individuals, families and communities through citizen focused policies, programs and services. Social Development Canada is the point of convergence for social policies and programs for children, families and caregivers, persons with disabilities and seniors. This department will also play a leading role in driving the social economy through programs such as voluntary sector initiative.
Essentially, Social Development Canada represents $53 billion at work for Canadians. Most of the money represents income support for Canadians themselves, especially seniors and people with disabilities as well as children.
The new department is working in a number of ways to ensure key social goals are met. Some of these goals are set up to ensure that an effective income security system is in place for seniors, that we help people with disabilities to participate fully in Canadian society, that we focus on the needs and interests of families and children in a cohesive way and that the role and activities of the non-profit and community-based sector in our society are identified, recognized and supported.
Ultimately, by bringing together these social programs for seniors, families and children and persons with disabilities under one roof, the department is providing a focal point for social policy at the federal level. This is our commitment to delivering the programs and services that Canadians have come to expect from the Government of Canada. It is what they need and it is what they deserve. I encourage all members to support the bill.