Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), the Government of Canada is recognizing the diverse needs of Canadian families through Canada’s universal child care plan, a plan that is providing universal support for all parents of young children. The plan is composed of two key elements: the universal child care benefit and the child care spaces initiative.
As per budget 2006, the Government of Canada has provided $650 million in 2006-07 to all provinces and territories, distributed on an equal per capita basis. This funding provides provinces and territories with transitional funding as the bilateral agreements for early learning and child care that were reached under the previous government are phased out. In order to assist them in adjusting to this new federal approach, provinces and territories have flexibility to use this funding as they see fit for early learning and child care.
Provinces and territories are committed to clear accountability to Canadians and already report on their annual activities and expenditures related to early learning and child care. Provinces and territories will continue this practice and include information on this funding and how it has been used for the creation of child care spaces in their annual public reports.
In response to (b), in February 2006, all provinces and territories received notification that the bilateral agreements for early learning and child care that were reached under the previous government would be phased out as of March 31, 2007. This provided all provinces and territories with more than 14 months’ notice to adjust to the change in federal approach.
Only three jurisdictions, Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec, had signed bilateral funding agreements with the previous federal government. Those agreements had a clause allowing either party to terminate them with 12 months’ notice. The Government of Canada provided those jurisdictions with formal written notice invoking the termination clause of their funding agreements. For the remaining jurisdictions, the Government of Canada provided notification of the federal intention to provide one year of transitional funding for 2006-07.
As per budget 2006, the Government of Canada has provided provinces and territories with $650 million in 2006-07, distributed on an equal per capita basis, to assist them in adjusting to the new federal approach to child care.
In response to (c), the Government of Canada recognizes that the availability of child care is a challenge faced by many Canadian parents. That is why, as set out in budget 2006, the federal government will be investing $250 million per year, beginning in fiscal 2007-08, to support the creation of child care spaces across the country.
In response to (d), through the universal child care benefit, UCCB, the Government of Canada is providing universal support to all families with young children through an income benefit of $100 per month, up to $1,200 a year, for each child under the age of six. Beginning with the first payment in July, approximately two million children and their families are benefiting from this new initiative each month.
The intent of this initiative is not to create child care spaces, but rather to provide all families with support that they can use to provide their children with the kind of care they choose. For example, families could use this benefit to offset part of the cost of child care fees or part time preschool programs, or for occasional care by a friend or neighbour. By providing a universal benefit, the federal government is recognizing the diversity of family needs and preferences when it comes to caring for their children.