House of Commons Hansard #83 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was deal.


(The House divided on paragraph D of the amendment, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #67

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare paragraph D of the amendment carried.

Accordingly, the question is on the main motion, as amended.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Federal Accountability ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

It being 6:10 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to extend my support for Bill C-303, the early learning and child care act.

The bill is based on the Liberal child care plan and the side agreements between the previous Liberal government and 10 provinces. Those agreements were all cancelled by the current minority Conservative government.

Yesterday Canada marked National Child Day. It is an opportunity to assess how we are meeting the needs of this and future generations of young Canadians. Sadly, the Conservative Party is moving backward by cancelling our investment in hundreds of thousands of new child care spaces.

Canadian families have been advocating for more choice in affordable and high quality child care. The minority Conservative government has chosen to ignore their call and has cancelled the agreements that were struck with the provinces. Despite what the government claims, this will take away the choice for most working families. Years of discussion and planning have all been thrown away and our country has been set back more than 30 years when it comes to child care accessibility.

In my riding and all over the country there is a great sense of disappointment that funding for creating new child care spaces has come to an end. Waiting lists for child care spaces continue to grow and costs continue to rise, yet the Conservatives have done nothing to help the situation.

Earlier in the year the Conservatives promised to work with business and organizations around the country to create new child care spaces. What have they done? Whom have they consulted with? How many spaces have they created?

As anyone who has visited the government's universal child care website will know, this website reveals the lack of seriousness the Conservatives are displaying toward the challenge that Canadian families are facing. It has no substance, no clear plan, no direction. It is just a bunch of empty rhetoric that does nothing to ease the concerns of families who are waiting for a day care space for their child or for women who are compelled to put their career or education aspirations on hold because they cannot afford the day care spaces that are available.

The government's poor child care policies have frustrated Canadian working families. Many families were surprised to learn this past summer that they will no longer receive the Canada child tax benefit supplement. More than three-quarters of a million families were disappointed to learn that they will no longer receive those benefits and they had no notice or early warning.

One would find it hard to believe that given all these failures, early childhood learning and education was one of the now forgotten five priorities of the Conservatives. If creating child care spaces is a priority for the government, I would hate to see what it would have done if it was a secondary issue. Then again, we have seen what the Conservative government has done to reduce wait times for receiving health care. Nothing. We have seen what it has done to tackle climate change and the environmental challenges we are facing. Nothing. Similarly, we have seen its simplistic approach to preventing and reducing the spread of crime. We have seen how it misled Canadians on the income trust file. We have seen how it is damaging Canada's long-standing foreign policy tradition of diplomacy and promotion of peace that all Canadians are proud of.

It comes as no surprise to many Canadians that the Conservatives never intended to take the issue of child care seriously, but it sure is very disappointing.

While many other countries around the world have realized the importance and urgent need for a systemic approach to child care that provides children equal access to reliable high quality early childhood education and care, the current government has reversed the progress our society has made over the past few years. That is really too bad because studies have shown that early learning positively affects the child's ability to learn later on in life. These studies have also shown that it helps children develop social skills.

All of those outcomes would have a significant positive impact on Canada's economic, social and cultural growth and development, not to mention that the availability of high quality day care would provide parents with real choice if they wanted to stay at home with their children or if they wanted to send them to a trusted and reliable day care centre while they pursued their career or educational aspirations.

Thanks to the Prime Minister and his Conservative government, a national child care strategy has been removed from the national agenda. The Prime Minister has decided to absolve himself from this great responsibility. He has instead downloaded the responsibility to parents. He claims that a taxable $100 a month allowance is a child care strategy. The truth is that he wants Canadian children and families to fend for themselves.

Parents who cannot afford to stay at home or send their children to an expensive private day care institution will not find the Prime Minister on their side willing to accept the responsibility of the challenges for the collective well-being of our society and our future.

The Conservatives' taxable $100 a month allowance is a child bonus that would be helpful to any family, but would it actually cover the cost of child care? The average cost of child care in my city of Mississauga is about $800 to $900 a month. Similar rates are found around the country. Of course, this is assuming that a parent can find a child care space. How is this taxable child care bonus supposed to help with the creation of affordable and accessible child care spaces?

I have been repeatedly told by many Canadians and child care advocacy groups that their needs are urgent. Why are the Conservatives completely ignoring these needs? Do the Conservatives think if they dismiss these calls and if they pretend that this is not a real issue that it will go away on its own, that somehow, affordable child care spaces would be created out of thin air?

It is high time the government faced reality and accepted its responsibilities. Canadians will no longer tolerate partisan rhetoric or empty promises. Canadians want to see some action. Canadians want to see a real plan for the development of a systemic approach that will establish high quality early childhood education across the board.

I urge the Conservative minority government to step up to this national necessity. We are risking the future of our country if we continue to pretend that these challenges do not exist.

Canadians have told us that this is a priority. The Conservatives cannot hide behind a gimmick and assume that they have addressed these needs. This is beyond political partisanship.

The government must acknowledge its responsibility and act on it now. We need to see real results in the creation of high quality, accessible child care spaces. That is why I am supporting Bill C-303.

Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-303, which was introduced by a colleague from the NDP.

We have some reservations about this bill because child care services are the responsibility of the provincial governments, specifically of Quebec. Hon. members know that Quebec set up a very sophisticated child care service that responds to public pressure expressing a need to help men and women, but mostly women, who have jobs and want their children to have a safe place to be cared for while they are at work. This program is part of an integrated service to help all Quebec families.

We have carefully examined Bill C-303. I would like to read its title.

An Act to establish criteria and conditions in respect of funding for early learning and child care programs in order to ensure the quality, accessibility, universality and accountability of those programs, and to appoint a council to advise the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development on matters relating to early learning and child care.

Hon. members have to understand how a title worded that way could bother the Bloc Québécois. Nonetheless, we went further and there is indeed an exemption. I will read clauses 3 and 4 to explain how the Bloc Québécois came to accept this bill.

3. The purpose of this Act is to establish criteria and conditions that must be met before a child care transfer payment may be made in support of the early learning and child care program of a province or territory.

Nonetheless, there is an exemption.

4. Recognizing the unique nature of the jurisdiction of the Government of Quebec with regard to the education and development of children in Quebec society, and notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the Government of Quebec may choose to be exempted from the application of this Act and, notwithstanding any such decision, shall receive the full transfer payment that would otherwise be paid under section 5.

It is no surprise that, thanks to this exemption, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, because we understand that all Canadians would very much like to have access to quality, safe day care services where children can not only have access to such services, but also be socialized with other children at various levels and from different cultures.

As we all know, Quebec created its own child care program. Furthermore, the previous Liberal government wanted to create a national child care program.

I remember that when I sat on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, I expressed my position at the time to the NDP and the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie, who was involved in the project. I explained to him why Quebec deserved to be treated with sensitivity. I think I got my message across. We worked on it and I tried to explain to them how Quebec could not be dependent on the federal government and subject to federal standards and criteria, while Quebec was in fact the leader in child care services for all Quebeckers, and even a leader beyond Quebec.

We are very pleased to see that we were successful and able to convey the sensitivity that was required in introducing such a child care program.

We are very disappointed that the Conservative Party, which is now in power, completely scrapped the project. Thus, we will not see the creation of such a child care program for all Canadians. Furthermore, this has a financial impact on Quebec, which should have been paid $800 million, because Quebec was entitled to opt out with full compensation. The Quebec government invests some $2 billion a year in child care services. Under this bill, it could proceed in its own way.

For example, Quebec could use that money to fund all of its programs for families. Quebec is helping its families in a number of other sectors by spending more than $4.493 billion on child assistance, the work premium, the Quebec sales tax credit, the childcare tax credit and parental leave.

This shows that Quebec is proactive overall and should perhaps be even more so. This bill could enable the province to invest even more funds. The NDP's Bill C-303 satisfies us in part because it has the kind of flexibility we want.

We know that the Conservative Party decided to offer families dubious assistance by giving them a $1,200 allowance. As we all know, this allowance is considered taxable income, which means that most families will not really get $1,200. Depending on a family's income, it might get only $700. We know that childcare services cost a lot more than that and that those costs are incurred by the population as a whole. We want to give people a choice.

What choice did the Conservative Party give families and everyone else in Canada and Quebec? That being said, I would add that Quebec now has its own childcare services, so this issue does not matter as much to us.

The only choice is to accept the $1,200 allowance. There is virtually no child care available for $7 a day, a price the public can afford. We know that low-income and single-parent families cannot afford $25 to $30 a day for child care, because they earn minimum wage in some cases. Clearly, the Conservative government did not think about all Canadian families when it offered the $1,200 allowance, and it would be easy to challenge the policy's fairness. The government did not come up with a better offer than $1,200, paid for by Canadian taxpayers.

I would also like to raise another sore point regarding this practice. Some child care costs $7 a day, while full service costs $25 to $30 a day on average. Families paying that amount can deduct their child care expenses from their taxes. Out of 435,000 children, 200,000 receive child care services in Quebec. That means that the families of 200,000 children are not claiming their tax credit. This service therefore costs the government nothing, because these 200,000 families are not claiming a federal tax credit. The government is therefore saving money.

This is creating a shortfall in Quebec that is equivalent to the investment in child care. The Conservatives lack sensitivity and do not understand this. Because of child care in Quebec, Quebec families are claiming fewer tax credits, and the unclaimed amounts are remaining in the Conservative government's pockets and coffers.

The Conservatives say they want to help Canadians. That would have been a good way to help them, because the $1,200 is a direct subsidy for families. Instead of using tax measures and a non-refundable tax credit, the government wanted to take a different approach. We criticized this during the election campaign. Nothing more can be done for Canadians.

I am glad to have taken part in this debate, and I would like to commend the work that my colleague from Trois-Rivières has done on this issue. She has taken over the child care issue, and I am pleased that she has conveyed the Bloc Québécois message very proactively.

Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand in support of Bill C-303, the early learning and child care act. I commend my NDP colleagues from Victoria and Trinity—Spadina for their efforts to bring the bill to the House.

This is an important evening for Canada because the bill is about the future of Canada. Nothing is more precious to us than our children and nothing is more important than investing in our children.

I will begin by quoting someone I admire greatly, Stephen Lewis, the former UN envoy for HIV-AIDS. He said:

Everybody now understands, I think…that early learning and child care fused together is the kind of objective which any civilized society strives for, and that it becomes an indispensable and vital dimension of a child’s life, enhancing all of the family characteristics which shore up the child, but profoundly influencing in the most positive imaginable way the opportunities for the child.

The science on this is also very clear. In the landmark study, Reversing the Real Brain Drain: Early Years, the hon. Margaret Norrie McCain and J. Fraser Mustard found that the evidence from the neurosciences was clear that the early years of development, from conception to age six, particularly for the first three years, set the foundations for competence and coping skills that affected learning, behaviour and health throughout a person's life, and that, in view of that evidence, the period of early childhood development was equal to or of greater importance for the next generation than the periods spent in education or post-secondary education. Their findings led them to recommend that early childhood development should have high priority for policy makers.

However, we saw with previous Liberal governments, year after year, majority government after majority government, surplus budget after surplus budget, that they failed the children of Canada. They failed to bring in a national child care program. It was only until, tainted with scandal, at the very last minute they finally tried to introduce some funding for child care. However, they failed to bring in what this bill would bring in, which is a national early learning and child care act.

It is not surprising that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development noted that Canada was and is in a free fall behind other industrialized nations when it comes to early learning and child care services. In fact, it found that out of the 20 OECD member states, Canada was at the bottom of public spending on child care. Canada spends a mere 0.3% of GDP on early childhood services and we failed to make progress on other OECD recommended standards, such as the fact that child care services outside of Quebec remain fragmented, relying on underpaid child care workers and a combination of high parent fees and small subsidies for low income families.

What does this mean for Canadians? In Toronto, 70% of mothers are working and one-third of our children are living below the poverty level. Forty per cent of low income children live in single female parent families. We know that high quality care benefits all children but it benefits children in poverty most. In fact, good quality care is one of the essential pathways out of poverty for families. However, almost 10,000 children in Toronto are on the waiting list for subsidized care.

I just want to give a couple of examples in my own community. The Early Enrichment Day Care Centre in my community has the names of 160 infants on the waiting list and once a child's name is on the list it can take up to two years before the child is actually accepted at the centre. After a child turns two, the parents can no longer put their child in infant care. They must then try to put the child into toddler care. However, if the child has not been in the infant care, the infants who were in infant care get first choice. When these children lose out on toddler care they then lose out on the preschool care. If a parent does not have their child in the infant program, the child may not receive child care at all.

Let us look at the Macaulay Child Development Centre. Unlike Quebec, where child care costs parents $7 a day per child, infant care at the Macaulay Child Development Centre costs $65.18 a day or $1,400 a month. What family can afford $1,400 for one child, let alone two or three? Yet at the Macaulay Child Development Centre, the waiting list has close to 500 children. Not all of them are infants, but a number of them are.

I also want to read for members a plea I had from a supervisor at a local child care centre in my riding: She wrote:

As the supervisor of a local childcare with a wait list of 72 preschoolers (minimum 10-12 month wait list), the time has come for a National Child Care Strategy.

Many of our parents do not qualify for subsidy under the current rules but struggle to pay the high cost of full fee care. Many have had to make alternative arrangements using unlicensed care because of not being able to afford care or have access because the wait list is so long.

We are located in a Public School that is quickly running out of free space to use as well and without the promised Child care dollars (that included monies to create and build spaces), we have no choice but to keep telling parents, I'm sorry, we are full. You may be lucky to get a space next year.

This is a tragedy for young people in our country. It is simply not acceptable. The Conservative alternative to this of offering an allowance to parents does not improve the choice of parents seeking child care. It does not help the parents who are on that 500-child waiting list. It does not create one new space for children.

It is time that we addressed the failure of both the Liberal and the Conservative governments in Canada. That is why this bill is so critical.

I have not often taken to quoting the head of the Bank of Canada, David Dodge, but I will also quote him this evening. Mr. Dodge said recently:

In an increasingly complex and competitive world, furthering our national economic welfare will depend importantly on the quality of our labour force...the first step to improving skills is to build an excellent infrastructure for early childhood development, feeding into a school system that effectively teaches basic skills.

It is clear that early learning and child care programs promote children's well-being and strengthen the foundation for lifelong learning. David Dodge gets it. Stephen Lewis gets it. Quebec gets it. The OECD countries, besides Canada, get it. And now, thanks to the NDP, we hope that after this bill passes the children of Canada will also get it and will get the child care that they need and deserve.

Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to join the debate on Bill C-303, introduced by the member for Victoria.

Before I begin, I would like to remind the House that Canada's new government understands the importance of supporting families to ensure Canada's bright future. Our support for Canadian families is so determined that upon taking office we made child care one of our government's top five priorities.

In just a few months since taking office, our government has introduced and, more importantly, acted on a universal child care plan, a truly remarkable feat when one considers that the previous Liberal government entertained promises on child care without delivering a single space or benefit in 13 long years. Illusions ultimately lead to disappointment. This government has provided real support directly to all families with preschool age children and, second, Canada's new government is supporting the creation of new child care spaces.

Our universal child care plan represents a flexible approach. Its components benefit the family, and new child care spaces do not demand an either/or decision. Rather, this plan offers flexibility so that parents and communities can find solutions that work best for them.

Our plan does not impose on other jurisdictions, as do the conditions and criteria laid out in Bill C-303. Our plan is one where one component complements the other.

Our new government's approach to child care is a balanced approach which recognizes that parents are the ones best placed to choose the type of child care that best suits their specific needs. Central to our program is the universal child care benefit that places money directly in the hands of parents, $100 per month for each child under age six. This benefit gives parents the freedom and the flexibility to make decisions that address the unique needs of their families.

Our government's response to child care has sparked positive commentary from coast to coast. For example, an op-ed piece in the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal called it a “profound statement” that this government values the efforts of Canadian parents, including stay at home parents. A Vancouver Sun opinion column praised our plan's flexibility for parents, noting that the extra $1,200 “may make the difference between working full- or part-time while the kids are small”. The paper also stated, “It also helps parents who work shifts--something 'day care', by definition--can't handle”.

Shockingly, the meanspirited NDP, which claims to be in favour of supporting the child care needs of Canadians, is actively trying to gut this important social program. Just recently at the human resources committee, the NDP social policy critic, the member for Sault Ste. Marie, introduced a motion that would in effect take away the universal child care benefit from Canadian children and families just in time for the holiday season.

Nevertheless, Bill C-303 is an inadequate and inappropriate attempt to address the child care needs of Canadian parents and represents a significant intrusion into provincial and territorial jurisdiction. The one size fits all approach it endorses, much like the agreement signed by the former government, does not work for the diverse child care needs facing Canadian families.

As the findings of the April 2006 Statistics Canada report “Child Care in Canada” showed, the factors that contribute to a decision regarding a family's caring arrangements are multiple and diverse. The report stated, “The use of certain types of care differed with respect to a number of characteristics, including the community in which the child lived, the income level of the child's family and the parental place of birth”.

Another notable finding of the report was that despite the increase in the number of families with both parents working outside the home, almost half of children under the age of six are primarily cared for by a parent at home. The report concluded that no one form of child care stands out across the country. In fact, child care patterns vary by region, by the child's background and by some family characteristics.

Consequently, if we are going to have a truly objective debate on child care in Canada, we must recognize that no one size fits all approach, such as the one proposed in Bill C-303, will adequately address the needs of Canadian parents.

We recognize that there are many parents who need child care outside the home, be it provided by a day care centre or by another means. That is why, as part of Canada's universal child care plan, Canada's new government is committed to introducing new measures to help employers and communities create new spaces where they are needed.

Budget 2006 backed up this commitment by designating $250 million per year to our child care spaces initiative to support the creation of new spaces. These spaces will be designed, created and delivered in the communities where parents live and work and raise their children.

Our approach will seek to make certain that these new measures work for all businesses and non-profit and community organizations. Moreover, we will provide incentives that will seek to create child care spaces for large urban centres, for smaller rural centres and for parents working a standard nine to five work day and those who are not, while remaining respectful of existing provincial and territorial systems and jurisdictions.

However, as we go about creating these spaces, we are steadfast in our determination not to rush into a poorly designed, top-down, government imposed approach to creating child care spaces. Instead, we will work in conjunction with businesses, non-profit employers and community organizations, as well as the provinces and territories, to draw on their experience and create new child care spaces.

To advance this initiative, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development recently named a nine member advisory committee to advise her on the design of the child care spaces initiative. This committee, made up of experts in the fields of child care, work-family issues, community organizations and employers, is scheduled to present the minister with its recommendations in the coming months.

In summary, through Canada's universal child care plan, Canadians will find new avenues for innovative and quality child care that will help address their individual needs. Essential to this plan, and what so clearly differentiates it from the approach outlined in Bill C-303, is its acknowledgment of the unique needs of Canadian families and the provision of flexibility to address these needs. This principle serves as a central tenet of our universal child care plan.

To sum up, the former Liberal government's one size fits all approach to child care did not address the diverse needs of Canadian families. Now the NDP is proposing one size fits all child care legislation. On that note, I wonder if the NDP members would explain why, even though they have been vocal--when reporters are near--about a child care crisis for the past decade, they have not once, before 2006, brought forward a private member's bill or a motion on child care for debate in the House during that time.

The fact is that while the NDP pays lip service to child care at election time and when the TV lights are on, Canada's new government is taking real action on our commitment to child care. We are providing parents and the provinces the flexibility and the freedom they need to choose the type of child care that works best for them.

For all of these reasons, I will be voting against Bill C-303. I urge all hon. colleagues to do the same.

Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Gary Merasty Liberal Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-303, the early learning and child care act. Early learning and child care spaces are a necessity for Saskatchewan. Creating spaces are incredibly important for addressing the growing labour gap in Saskatchewan and providing parents the option of affordable and accessible child care spaces as they take on employment, learning or training opportunities, or simply desire a child care choice.

Although I am supportive of the intent of this bill, it calls attention to the loss of the early learning and child care agreements that the previous Liberal government reached with the provinces, as well as the Kelowna accord. Child care agreements were created in consultation with each of the provinces, and met unique challenges and opportunities for each province.

The Kelowna accord met concerns of aboriginal leaders and encouraged the first nations, Métis and Inuit communities to proceed with their own plan that responded to the challenges of their own communities and opportunities as well. As a result, communities and provinces were able to take the lead and ownership of their own child care programs.

The NDP has reasons for attempting to claim to be child care champions. To openly admit the truth that it played a major role in scrapping the Liberal child care agreements causes it the same unease and discomfort it has had to confront about assisting the Conservatives in scrapping the Kelowna accord. Perhaps this resulted in short term political gain, but it represents terrible progressive policy.

What is most disappointing to me about the NDP's and the Conservative Party's betrayal of the child care agreements is that they strike a blow against Saskatchewan. Both the Saskatchewan NDP government and the conservative official opposition Saskatchewan Party recognized this and have advocated for the agreements to be honoured.

This March both parties joined together in the Saskatchewan legislature to unanimously pass a motion introduced by the Saskatchewan learning minister. The motion expressed Saskatchewan's dissatisfaction with the federal government for cancelling early learning and child care agreements with the provinces, and not fulfilling the previous Liberal government's commitments.

The reason for this show of unity is clear. The situation in Saskatchewan is dire. A recent University of Toronto study revealed that only 4.9% of children under 12 years of age had access to regulated child care spaces in Saskatchewan.

The Liberals responded to this alarming situation. The Saskatchewan NDP government and the previous Liberal federal government signed a five year $146 million agreement in principle last year, with Saskatchewan receiving about $22.6 million in the first year and $20 million for the next year.

The province's child care plan would extend pre-kindergarten services to all four-year-olds in the province, add 7,200 new child care spaces and increase training for early childhood educators. Moreover, with the Kelowna accord $100 million was dedicated to early learning and child care spaces on reserves. In Saskatchewan on reserve populations are increasing at an incredible rate and early learning and child care opportunities are very limited.

The Saskatchewan legislature is also united in its support of the Kelowna accord as well. In March the provincial NDP government and the Saskatchewan Party joined yet again to pass a unanimous motion calling on the federal Conservative government to implement that accord, but the Conservatives have not listened to this show of unity. Instead, they have decided to cover up the truth.

One of the most often repeated lines by many Conservative MPs is that the previous Liberal government did not create any child care spaces. On April 11 the Prime Minister stated in question period that “the Liberals did not create any child care spaces”. On April 25 the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development went further stating in question period that “spaces were never created by the previous government”. This would be a fantastic argument if it were true. However, it is false.

Spaces were created and the Conservatives are taking those spaces away. For example, in Ontario where the federal-provincial child care agreement had time to be implemented, 8,000 spaces were created. These spaces benefited all regions, rural and urban as well.

The Regina Leader-Post in fact revealed on May 29 that child care spaces were created in the social development minister's own riding of Haldimand—Norfolk, with more on the way. Badly needed spaces were created in the minister's own rural riding.

Here is what her constituents are saying, which she would hear if she were not so busy avoiding Caledonia. Norfolk County Mayor Rita Kalmbach stated, “I do know we are in need of spaces, no doubt about it. We the country, the municipality couldn't kick in its own money to establish these spots that we've lost, nor could the school board”.

Jodi Guilmette, who oversees child care programs in Norfolk County, said that the Conservative plan “limits the flexibility we have in terms of offering services to families in our community. We don't have any capital funds to create the structures to house the programs families need and that's our biggest challenge”.

Many other rural voices added their support to the Liberal plan as well. In the August 10, 2006 issue of the Western Producer the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the largest agricultural organization in Canada, voiced its support for the Liberal plan saying that without direct investment spaces in rural areas will not be created.

The Conservatives are using a plan of deliberate deception saying that no spaces were created because they have no plan of their own to create any child care spaces. They have simply tried to ignore the problem and fake up a plan while abandoning the child care agreements and the Kelowna accord.

Their fake plan is a tax credit plan which has a proven history of failure in Canada. In Saskatchewan the exact same plan was tried, did not have any take up, and simply withered away.

No spaces in rural or economically disadvantaged areas of cities will be created since there are few large organizations that operate in those areas and they are the only ones who can afford to set up the spaces. Moreover, the plan completely ignores large youth populations on reserve because of the different tax environment.

Finally, there is literally no plan of maintaining any spaces even if they could be created. There is only a one time credit or grant. This is a hollow, fake plan. There is not much hope that the Conservatives will learn from any of these mistakes since key players in child care are not involved in the advisory committee, notably no aboriginal organizations.

In fact, when the social development minister was questioned on November 1 by the member for Churchill on the involvement of aboriginal people in making the child care spaces initiative, the minister's reply was: “We do not do racial profiling”. What kind of garbage answer is that? Nobody asked a question about race. It was a question about how to ensure that the fastest growing population of Canada was fairly represented in this initiative.

No doubt, sooner or later the Conservatives will realize that the only plan that can reliably open up spaces is the Liberal plan. The Liberal plan provided the predictable reliable investment that rural and remote communities need to set up these spaces.

As for the Conservative family allowance, misleadingly referred to as the universal child care benefit, I am fully in support of giving parents assistance to help with raising their children, but there are inherent flaws in the family allowance and tax changes that have been made that hurt families and need to be changed.

The family allowance is taxable with new Conservative tax grabs introduced in the 2006 budget. Families stand to lose a lot of the payment. First, the Conservatives threw a lot more parents on to the tax rolls, 200,000 in total, by cutting the amount that people can earn tax free by $400.

Second, they hiked up the lowest income tax rate from 15% to 15.5%. This hike affects people making up to $36,000 which is slightly above the average income in Saskatchewan.

Third, they did a double whammy on all families and married taxpayers. They slashed the amount people could claim for each eligible dependant and also their spouse or common law partner, both by $340.

These outright tax grabs claw back not only what families can get from the Conservative family allowance, but also leech family income far before and far beyond the time families can receive the benefit. This is shameful.

As a final insult, the low and middle income monthly young child supplement has also been clawed back, pretty much drying up any new support that the family allowance would give to low and middle income families.

The Conservatives could have honoured all of these child care agreements this year and fully funded the Kelowna accord, and could have still dedicated over $11 billion to paying down the debt. But the Conservatives chose not to support the early learning and child care spaces. They chose not to support first nations, Métis and Inuit children and young families, and then they went after adult literacy, health programs and funding to museums.

If the Conservatives really wanted to cut wasteful spending, they would do well to look no further than their useless tax credits for spaces. Freeing up that money would go a long way to adopt the Liberal plan of direct investment.

Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale B.C.


Russ Hiebert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate on Bill C-303, the proposed early learning and child care act, introduced by the member for Victoria.

Canada's new government recognizes that one of the most important investments we can make as a country is to give parents choices when it comes to caring for their children. We take our commitment to support parents' choice of child care very seriously. There are strong reasons why we are pursuing choice in child care.

First, it is one of the key priorities we promised to pursue during the recent election. We work to keep our promises.

Canadians voted for a platform that put choice in child care as a top five priority. We reaffirmed our promise of choice in child care in the Speech from the Throne. We committed the funds in budget 2006. We have delivered on that commitment to Canadian families through our universal child care plan. A promise made, a promise kept.

The second reason we believe in choice in child care is because of the benefits it delivers to every Canadian family.

Unlike the inadequate and ineffective approach envisioned in Bill C-303, our new universal child care plan recognizes that no two Canadian families are alike. We understand that parents with young children balance their work and family lives in different ways and for different reasons.

We are very aware, for example, that the services provided by day care facilities open 9 to 5 are simply not an option for the many Canadian parents whose schedules require that they work evenings, weekends, split shifts or 12 hour shifts. Neither is standard day care the answer for parents taking evening courses to enhance their skills. Standard day care is an equally unrealistic option for farming families, for families working in the fisheries, and for the many Canadians with young children who live in rural or remote communities.

Moreover, as a recent Statistics Canada study confirmed, almost half of Canadian parents continue to find ways to stay at home to care for their preschool children themselves.

Unfortunately, Bill C-303 lacks the flexibility that would enable parents to make the choices they want. While this bill fails to properly respect the expertise of parents, it also fails to respect the established roles and responsibilities of the provinces in the realm of child care service delivery. On the contrary, what Bill C-303 proposes is tantamount to an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction.

This act would impose singular, one size fits all criteria and conditions on provincial governments in order for them to qualify for federal early learning and child care funding.

I want this House to take note of the irony in this bill. The previous Liberal-NDP coalition in this House had the opportunity to implement this one size fits all day care program this bill reflects, but it did not. In fact, the Liberals were promising one size fits all day care for 13 years and for four elections, and never delivered a single additional care space directly from the federal government.

While I have no doubt the member for Victoria is sincere in her desire to help families, I believe she should look at the reasons why this proposal has consistently failed.

The reasons are that most families cannot, or do not, fit into a one size fits all program, and no government can afford the incredible cost of formal day care for every Canadian child.

Given the wide range of parental situations and needs, and the diverse needs of our provinces and territories, we have developed and, more importantly, acted on a child care plan that responds to the diverse circumstances and real needs of Canadian families. Our plan represents a flexible, balanced approach that would enable parents and communities to develop the child care solutions that work best for them.

This is a plan founded on respect for parental expertise in deciding what is best for their children, and for the roles and responsibilities of the provinces in delivering child care services.

However, it is important to mention that there is another long term benefit to Canadian society of providing greater choice to parents. That benefit is that many more Canadians may decide to become parents or, if they already are parents, they may choose to have an additional child.

Offering Canadian parents greater freedom to decide such important questions for themselves has tremendous importance for the future of our home and native land. That is because our national birthrate has now fallen well below replacement levels. Canadian women are now having 1.5 children, on average. The replacement rate is 2.1. Anything less means a nation begins shrinking rather than growing. This could lead to serious problems.

As the baby boom generation begins to retire, our shrinking birthrate will start to have its impact. Fewer children now means fewer people entering the workforce in the coming years. Fewer workers means fewer taxpayers able to contribute to valued social programs. Our pay as we go public pension plan was predicated on the idea that a certain ratio of workers to retirees was necessary to be self-sustaining.

It is in the interests of Canadian society and our various governments to do what we can to encourage and support family formation and child rearing. Providing families with as much freedom as possible to make the child care choices that are right for them can further this goal.

As the House is aware, our universal child care plan has two parts: a universal child care benefit and a child care spaces initiative. Together these two components represent an investment of close to $12 billion over five years to improve the lives of Canadian families, an investment that is more than twice that proposed by the former Liberal government.

Allow me to elaborate for a moment on the first component of the plan, the universal child care benefit. This direct benefit to Canadian families helps them to choose the type of child care that works best for them.

This past July, parents across Canada began receiving the benefit of $100 a month for each child under the age of six, a benefit they are free to use for the best interests of their own children. For example, they can apply the $1,200 a year toward the cost of formal day care, or they can use the benefit to pay for occasional babysitting, or for child care help from a grandparent or a neighbour. If parents so choose, they can purchase educational resources like books and supplies for their preschoolers, or they can use the benefit to pay for special outings to a museum, a zoo or a gallery. As I noted earlier, we respect parents' choices and this is what the benefit delivers.

I should mention that the day our universal child care benefit came into effect, my daughter Kate was born. I can well relate to the many families who are not able to access or utilize nine to five day care. Like many other Canadian families with the employment or geographical circumstances I just mentioned, my wife and I live with circumstances that make nine to five day care at the same formal day care facility impractical. However, for us, that benefit will come in handy for babysitting and educational supplies for our Canada Day baby.

I have heard from many parents who appreciate the difference those monthly cheques make in their lives. In fact across Canada 1.6 million families with 2.1 million children now receive the benefit. Families who are already registered for the Canada child tax benefit, which account for 90% of those 1.6 million families, receive the universal child care benefit automatically.

However, we want to ensure that all parents with preschoolers receive the benefit. To this end, the government has been very active in reaching out to the families not currently registered for the Canada child tax benefit to encourage them to apply. Our outreach efforts include a special website, radio ads, and print ads in national and local daily papers.

The government is proud to support the choices of all Canadian parents in trying to give their preschoolers a strong start in life.

Canada's new government is equally committed to the second component of our universal child care plan that will provide a flexible approach to child care spaces that meets Canadian parents' diverse needs. The new child care spaces initiative will provide incentives that can be translated into more child care options in large urban centres and rural areas, or for the many parents whose work hours do not fit the standard nine to five model.

In designing this initiative, we have been consulting with the provinces and territories, as well as businesses, communities and non-profit organizations to tap into their expertise. Furthermore, a ministerial advisory committee was named by the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development to advise her on the design of the child care spaces initiative. The committee, chosen for expertise in child care, work family issues, community organizations and the needs of employers, will present the minister with a report outlining its advice and recommendations later this year.

This responsive, flexible approach which respects parents' choices and expertise and the roles and responsibilities of the provinces is in keeping with our promise to Canadians. For these reasons, we are unable to support the narrow solutions to child care and early learning proposed by the member for Victoria in Bill C-303.

Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by acknowledging the particular efforts of my colleague from Trinity—Spadina on this bill.

I will conclude the debate by saying that the early learning and child care act can be the cornerstone of social policy for Canadian families for generations.

In this debate we have established the value of quality early learning opportunities to give our children the best possible start. We have established the link between child care early learning and the welfare of Canada's social fabric and economy.

The debate then comes down to the question of how to create a truly universal, quality child care system that respects parents, the provinces and territories.

Everyone but the Conservatives knows that their claims of providing universal choice in child care are bogus. A single mom from Victoria wrote to me because she cannot afford to stay at home with her two little girls, nor can she afford both rent and child care on her salary. What choice does $100 give her?

The Conservatives, on the other hand, have spent $2 million to advertise this $100. They have spent $27 million delivering the cheques. Now they talk about $250 million for private child care spaces and they do not know how to spend that yet. Their proposal will leave many families behind.

In contrast, the early learning and child care act would ensure adequate, stable federal funding to guarantee truly universal access to public child care that would give every Canadian family the choice between quality child care or staying at home.

The Conservatives argue that Bill C-303 imposes one size fits all child care on the provinces. This is patently absurd. The bill actually expands the capacity of the provinces and territories to provide flexible child care options at the hours and locations parents need.

For those parents who choose to not participate in a public system, Bill C-303 does not remove the $100 baby bonus boost of the Conservatives. It would do what that money will not do. It would create child care spaces that every Canadian family could afford.

I am disappointed because the Conservative government has not yet agreed to make this bill subject to a royal recommendation. Tomorrow's vote will finally require it, I hope, to recognize that two thirds of Canadians rejected its child care plan in the last election.

We are open, of course, to proposals for changes that could be presented in committee. In fact, our objective at this stage is to draw attention to the need for Canada to have a public child care network and to have a practical discussion on how the federal government can best contribute to it.

Quebec's child care network is a model in Canada's otherwise bleak picture in this area, according to the OECD.

We are thrilled to see that the Bloc is able to help the rest of Canada get inspired.

I would like to close with a story. When I was in Halifax a couple of weeks ago for a committee study on the employability of Canadians, the Conservative member on the committee that day spoke of Alberta's negative unemployment, otherwise known as a skills shortage. The response from one of the witnesses struck me as appropriate to our debate today. This was not a child care advocate, but a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business no less. She said:

It's true that in Alberta there's a lot of negative unemployment....Recently, I was looking over Statistics Canada numbers, and surprisingly, Alberta has the lowest participation of women in the workforce...Quebec has the highest....The reason is very easy...the day care system.There are factors in the market that work differently than just a job offer. The day care system in Quebec...encourages women to go back to work much sooner after they have children. Alberta doesn't have that--

No wonder the province that has all those well-paying jobs is having trouble motivating women to enter into the labour market.

The bill before us is crucially important. It confronts the cynicism of an individualistic world of everyone for herself or himself. Bill C-303 represents Canadians working together to create a better life for Canadian families, to give the best possible life to our children. Let us make it a reality.

Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members



Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Early Learning and Child Care ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, November 22, 2006, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:10 p.m.


Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, on October 31 the Conservative government dropped a bombshell on Canadians by imposing a new tax regime on publicly traded income trusts. The effect on Canadian markets was devastating, resulting in the permanent loss of well over $20 billion in wealth, most of it at the expense of Canadian seniors who were relying on income trusts for day to day living expenses.

Worst of all, Canadian investors were lured into this massive fraud by a Conservative election promise made by the current Prime Minister. In the middle of the last election, the Prime Minister said on December 9, 2005, “A Conservative government will never raid seniors' nest eggs by taxing income trusts”.

Canadian investors took the Conservatives at their word and put more and more of their life savings into income trusts, making this the fastest growing sector on the market, all until the Prime Minister broke his word to Canadians.

Sadly, Canadians are learning the hard way that Conservatives are more than willing to betray election promises without any regard for the damage done to thousands of seniors who worked hard for their life savings, only to have them wiped out with the stroke of a pen.

I have a sample of one of the many letters and emails I received from my constituents in Don Valley East:

The damage done to the value of my investments in income trusts is devastating. I have incurred a 20% decline in value. It is my sincerest wish that an election will be held in the very near future and that the majority of Canadians will not re-elect your party. This is a very sad commentary and one I wish was not necessary to write. However, I have definitely lost my confidence in your party's approach to fair treatment of its citizens, particularly seniors of which I am one.

The current Prime Minister knew how much seniors were depending on income trusts and he still was determined to break his word. I know that the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance has a speech prepared and she will completely wash over the entire income trust issue and wax on about a minuscule increase in the age credit account and an announcement of income splitting for pensioners. That is an insult. Half of nothing still amounts to nothing.

I suppose seniors are supposed to be grateful to the Conservatives for what they have done, misled them. With one hand the government has swiped billions from seniors through their income trust savings and with the other has offered very little in the form of pension splitting.

In fact, some have construed this pension splitting to be income splitting. It is not. Pension splitting will do very little to curb poverty among seniors and even less to alleviate the huge losses they have suffered as a result of the Conservative income trust fraud.

Hundreds of thousands of single seniors, the majority of them women, will not see a penny from this policy.

The Liberal Party will have no part in this fraud perpetrated on Canadian taxpayers by the Conservative government.

7:15 p.m.

Calgary Nose Hill Alberta


Diane Ablonczy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the member has brought to the attention of the House a concern regarding income trusts.

As the member said, on October 31, Canada's new government announced a tax fairness plan for Canadians. The plan will restore balance and fairness to the federal tax system by creating a level playing field between income trusts and corporations and will deliver over $1 billion of new tax relief each and every year for Canadians, particularly retired Canadians.

This government's commitment during the election was not intended to provide tax holidays for major Canadian corporations in Canada. It was a commitment made to protect the income of seniors over the long haul and to protect the programs that seniors rely on, such as OAS, GIS, CPP, health care and other major programs of the federal government.

This government, therefore, does not and cannot support tax holidays for major corporations. The tax fairness plan was introduced and it includes a distribution tax on distributions from publicly traded income trusts and limited partnerships. However, the distribution of existing income trusts will not be affected by this tax for four years.

It also includes a reduction in the general corporate income tax rate of an additional one-half percentage point as of January 1, 2011, the same time as the taxation of trusts will come into effect. As of 2011, the federal general corporate income tax rate will then be 18.5%.

Also included is an increase in the age credit amount by $1,000. This will raise the age credit amount from $4,066 to $5,066, retroactively effective January 1, 2006.

A major positive change in tax policy for many pensioners is also included: permitting pension income splitting beginning in 2007.

As the House well knows, we were seeing a very troubling trend in acceleration of conversions to income trusts just in the last few months, both those that were announced and those that were about to be announced. In many of these cases, the move was purely to avoid paying corporate income tax. Also, if it had been left unchecked, this new trend would have resulted down the road in literally billions of dollars in foregone revenue for the federal government to invest in the priorities of Canadians, including broad based personal tax relief and important social programs.

Provincial governments were also seeing their revenues seriously eroded by this trend.

The government had a choice: to preserve its own political capital by doing nothing and letting this trend continue and letting corporations in this country, effectively and increasingly, pay no tax at all to support the social programs available to seniors and all Canadians, or to do what had to be done for the country in spite of the fact that it would be politically harmful. We put the country first. It was not an easy decision.

The proposed new distribution tax will not tax--

7:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but the four minutes has expired. The hon. member for Don Valley East.

7:20 p.m.


Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, as expected, the parliamentary secretary to the minister has regurgitated the untruth and reinforced the fact that the government misled the taxpayers, and seniors in particular. It purposely misled people into believing that income trusts were safe. What Canadians really wanted to hear was an apology on behalf of the Conservative Party for ruining the life savings of thousands of Canadian investors and seniors.

The Minister of Finance went on record that he deeply regretted the loss of over $220 billion of Canadian wealth but he did not see fit to offer an apology for the Conservatives' income trust fraud.

Now that Canadians know that the Conservative election promises are not even worth the paper they are written on, will the parliamentary secretary to the minister do the honourable thing and simply apologize to the Canadian people?