House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parents.


Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to address the House today and to show my support for the Speech from the Throne, delivered by the Governor General, Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean.

First, I would like to thank the people of the riding of Lévis—Bellechasse, which includes Les Etchemins, for their trust. On January 23, 2006, they voted for change. I am honoured to have their trust. I would also like to thank the team of volunteers who supported me, as well as my family, especially my wife, Marie, and my two children, William-Antoine and Alexandra.

My presence here today comes in response to 13 years of inertia in Lévis—Bellechasse and Les Etchemins, and the previous members' inability to act. The Speech from the Throne offers concrete solutions to those 13 years of inaction and negligence.

In the Etchemins highlands, lumber producers, who face rising production costs and an inaccessible market, can count on a Canada that will maintain stronger bilateral relationships with our major trading partners.

This week more than 70 farmers from Lévis—Bellechasse gathered here on the Hill. They are facing serious problems after years of negligence. In cooperation with my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, our government will take concrete action to ensure that they have a prosperous future.

For taxpayers facing financial pressure and reduced services, our government will be an accountable government in which they can trust. Our government will also provide them with a $1,200 annual allowance to cover child care costs. It will improve access to health services with reasonable wait times and reduce the GST by 1% initially and then by an additional 1%.

My riding is the home of Canada's largest shipyard. It is going through difficult times following a period of scandalous indifference by our governmental authorities toward the marine industry. I need not remind hon. members that marine transport is the most ecologically sound mode of transportation around.

I want to commend in this House today those who are working on rebuilding this great Canadian enterprise. I want them to know that Canada is counting on their success for the future.

I am proud to be here in this House as a Quebecker and to join my new colleagues to form the new Canadian government.

It is time to turn over a new leaf. As George-Étienne Cartier said on the eve of founding this country in 1866: “This is the beginning of a new era; we are entering into Confederation. We need not be afraid!” Today we are also paving the way for a new era in our country, we are turning over a new leaf.

I want to thank the Right Honourable Prime Minister, who has finally given Quebeckers an option to the arrogance of a centralist government and the threat of breaking up the Canadian federation, which is now part of a world of interdependence.

With a Conservative government, Quebec and all the provinces now have a unique opportunity to fully experience prosperity and the spirit of federalism. That is what the Speech from the Throne offers: an open federalism, which is more than words, it is about concrete actions to respond to the concerns about the fiscal imbalance, and implementing fiscal arrangements to allow the provincial governments to fulfil their growing obligations.

Is open federalism only for Quebeckers? Absolutely not. This new federalism is for all Canadians, from every province and territory, from coast to coast, from Port Coquitlam to Brandon--Souris to the fair shores of Avalon in Newfoundland.

Canadians long for a government that respects their concerns and their pocketbooks, a government that uses provinces as partners in our federation instead of opulence, and a government that puts the interests of Canadians first.

As you are aware, the previous government introduced the GST to reduce deficits accumulated over the years by previous governments--Liberal governments, we should add. Now that this tax measure has come to fruition, it is time to return to taxpayers the money that belongs to them. Rather than establishing costly and ineffectual programs, rather than raking in billions of dollars away from the eyes of the Auditor General, we believe it is time to give back the money to Canadians, so that they can manage it as efficiently as possible.

As an engineer and environmental consultant, I am proud to know that our government will propose a responsible and credible approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This plan will stimulate Canadian industry and will be more than just an election slogan.

Because it clearly demonstrates turning over a new leaf for Canada, because it proposes an open federalism, with tangible measures, and because it puts money back in the pockets of taxpayers, I support the throne speech out of respect for the citizens of Bellechasse, Les Etchemins and Lévis. I invite my fellow members to lend their support as well. These citizens get up every morning to earn a living. We owe it to those who have given us the mandate to oversee the affairs of the state to do so diligently and responsibly.

Let us never forget the solemn truth that the nation is not constituted of the living alone. There are those as well who have passed away and those yet to be born. This great responsibility comes to us as heirs of the past and trustees of the future. However with that responsibility comes something greater still, the opportunity of proving ourselves worthy of it and I pray this may not be lost.

Thus spoke the Right Honourable Sir Robert Laird Borden in 1916. He was referring to our responsibility to those who came before us and those who will follow. Let us prove ourselves worthy of that responsibility.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:10 p.m.


Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member across the way for his speech. I also want to congratulate him for having been elected for the first time. For me, it was in 2004. The first days here are very important and I am sure that he is very nervous.

Nonetheless I would like to remind the hon. member that the GST was introduced by the Conservatives. Maybe they made a little mistake when they did it, but it was certainly not the previous government who created that tax. I think that the Conservatives should be reminded that they were the ones who created that tax and not us.

During his speech, the member talked about forestry. It is surely an important sector. I can assure you that it is important where I come from. However, where in the Speech from the Throne do we find the words that show how important it is? The forest industry does not want us to be content with discussions, it wants action. It is one thing to continue discussions with our American friends, but that does not solve the problem in rural areas of Canada.

There is another element on which the hon. member should reflect seriously. He mentioned shipyards. Obviously, there are none in my area, which depends more on forestry. However, if shipyards are so important for him and his colleagues from the Quebec City area, I wonder how he can tell his constituents that this sector is important but that his government did not include it in its priorities.

I think it is not enough to say that the shipbuilding industry must be a flagship among Canadian industries. If that is a real priority, I think the hon. member should have tried a little harder to make sure that the people from his riding were respected and that this priority was included in the priorities of his government. It is sad to say, but that is not what we see.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:15 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his wishes. This is indeed the first time I rise in this kind of debate. First, regarding shipyards, I would remind him that the shipyard in Lévis flourished under a Conservative government. And our Prime Minister's ships are not sailing under a foreign flag.

That said, I am pleased that a Conservative government also introduced free trade and the goods and services tax that benefited the previous government. But instead of putting the money back in the taxpayers' pockets, it developed expensive programs.

We plan to change that approach in Ottawa and to manage taxpayers' money with integrity and efficiency.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:15 p.m.


Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising in this House for the first time in this 39th Parliament. I would therefore like to recognize the people of my riding, to whom I am very grateful for re-electing me.

I would like my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse to try and convince me, for every situation I will put to him. I am thinking in particular of the $1,200 per year for child care that the Conservative government will be giving parents. By my calculations, that is $100 a month. My daughter has a child in daycare. It is costing her $7 a day. Five days times $7 is $35. The government in Quebec subsidizes daycare to the tune of $30 a day, for a total cost of $185 per week for my granddaughter's daycare. Four weeks times $185 is $740 per month. So, my daughter will be getting a bonus of $100 a month, minus taxes. Where is the logic?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

April 7th, 2006 / 1:15 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have had to call upon every ounce of my university training in engineering to follow the hon.member's math.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:15 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:15 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

I want the hon. member to know that the proposed measure is for all parents, regardless of income or child-rearing choices. As we know, some parents choose the child care system. Other mothers and fathers choose to stay at home with their children.

I am proud of the fact that we are not injecting this money into cumbersome and expensive systems, providing it instead to parents, who will ensure that it is managed efficiently and reallocated where necessary to programs available to them.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:15 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time this afternoon with the member for Vancouver Quadra.

I welcome this opportunity to make a few remarks about the Speech from the Throne presented by the government a few days ago.

Before doing so, however, I would like to sincerely thank the people of Ottawa South for electing me again to the House of Commons as their member of Parliament. For a second time, I make a sincere and single pledge to them. I will work as hard as I can to serve the needs of the people of Ottawa South in order to ensure that our community continues to flourish.

I will do everything in my power to respond to the needs of the people of Ottawa South, and so ensure that our community continues to flourish.

I have so far dedicated my career to solving public welfare and policy issues here in Canada and around the world. Through the great privilege of public office, I hope to continue to use my experience to help the people of Ottawa South and, by extension, the people of Canada.

I look forward to working constructively with this new Conservative government when it makes sense for Canadians and for the people of Ottawa South. On accountability and integrity, for example, I will work tirelessly with the government to rebuild trust between our federal government and the people.

During the recent election campaign, people from Ottawa South opened their doors to me.

The Ottawa South community is facing the same pressures and challenges as many other communities in the country: rapid growth, preserving green spaces, an aging population, health care needs, low cost housing, public transit and higher education, to name just a few.

That is why I am firmly committed to do my share so that the government can undertake a variety of measures to achieve progress in the future.

Each time the residents of Ottawa South open their doors to me I see again how Ottawa South is also a microcosm of Canadian society. With over 80 languages and dialects spoken, our community is proof that people from every walk of life, every race, every creed, and every culture can come together to build a society which is the envy of the world.

I want the House to know that, as Canadians today, we have a special charge, a 21st century responsibility thrust upon us as the world comes together much more quickly than we ever could have anticipated. In short, my community and our country are a project that the world ought to be watching carefully and they are, and we must succeed.

Keeping this in mind, I believe Canadians have serious reservations about the government's approach as laid out in the Speech from the Throne. It aims for a few tentative political points. It does not and cannot be interpreted to amount to a vision. The government across the floor has rejected the tried and true balance of social spending, personal income tax cuts, and debt reduction that has served Canadians so well over the past decade.

In its place we have yet to see an economic blueprint or even some general economic direction for this nation state. Instead, we have a promise to replace fair, productive income tax cuts with a cut to the GST. I am certain that the economists in the Department of Finance have repeated to the government what every other economist in Canada has said. The switch-up does not make any economic sense at all. The balanced approach has seen us lead all G-7 countries in growth and allowed our government to deliver eight surpluses in a row. It will give the government its first balanced budget in the coming weeks.

I know that the Prime Minister understands this. He is an economist by training. But perhaps the economist is not fully prepared to take the bold steps that a Prime Minister must take. Canadians agree that every dollar discharged on our mortgage frees up valuable resources to invest in our common future, but to invest wisely, a government must have a vision.

On their doorsteps I listened as my constituents described the quality of life challenges inherent in our rapidly urbanizing country. The world is urbanizing at breakneck speed and not only in Canada. The question of quality of life in Canadian cities speaks not only to our future as a nation but to our ability to attract capital, to retain the best and brightest minds, and to adjust to our economy in transition. It also speaks to the larger question: how will quality of life be improved for billions of people around the world?

The previous government was right to pursue a progressive and forward looking cities and communities agenda because the world will need the skills, the experience and the knowhow of Canada's cities, our companies and our governments as it struggles to deal with the consequences of rapid urbanization. It is surprising that the current government has neglected cities entirely. Even more surprising is the neglect the government has shown for families.

When my constituents opened their doors to me, I was able to understand their needs and those of their children.

I remember speaking frequently with parents about the need to save the early learning and child care program.

Approximately 84% of children today live with two parents or a single parent who work or study full time. The early learning and child care program represents our most enlightened self-interest. Despite the government's rhetoric, I know that it knows better. It knows better than to waste this unprecedented opportunity to build a national early learning and child care system.

We should invest as early and as often in our children as we possibly can. Studies show that the national early learning and child care plan is the program that can help us most close the poverty gap in 2036.

In a world where a people can borrow their capital, copy their technology and buy their natural resources, the only thing left to us as a country is to develop the smartest people possible. But in order to invest wisely in people, a government must have a vision.

On their doorsteps I shared my concerns with other citizens about the future of our natural environment. My neighbours understand instinctively what science has come to confirm, that the caring capacity of the planet is not limitless, that we must stop a fundamental fiction wherein we believe that we can continue to draw down our natural capital without compromising the planet's regenerative capacity, and that the implementation of the Kyoto accord is indispensable if we do not want to play Russian roulette with the atmosphere.

When the Prime Minister recently met with President Bush and President Fox in Cancun to discuss continental issues, I was pleased to hear the word “energy” being discussed. I was even more pleased to see that we are going to pursue an energy strategy as a continent. The Prime Minister shied away from advocating a continental greenhouse gas reduction strategy. Perhaps he is not fully prepared to take the bold steps that a prime minister must take. To invest wisely, a government must have a vision.

I take great pride in being a Liberal member in this Parliament. I believe liberalism is the outlook best qualified to deal with our world. It is imbued with a spirit of progress and reform, vision and imagination. Liberalism has implicit faith in the power of men and women to do what is good and possible to meet the challenges of the present and the future.

We believe in always striving to improve, not settling for what comes easiest. As such, I believe our opposition reply to the Speech from the Throne demonstrates the best of the Liberal tradition. I would like to cite words written by my own father, words which I would ask others to live by as we work together in this 39th Parliament:

Let us remember that when we leave this earth, we can take with us nothing that we have received--fleeting symbols of honour, trappings of power--but only what we have given: a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:25 p.m.


Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on being re-elected to the House. I also congratulate him on his speech. I notice that he put an emphasis on family and children, but he did not talk a lot about safety, law and order, and crime.

In 1993 when I was first elected, I spoke with regard to the protection of children in my maiden speech. My speech dealt with trying to do something about child pornography, a very evil thing going on in our nation. If the member's riding is close to Toronto he will understand how serious this problem has become.

Since 1993 there have been dozens of speeches made by myself and members of my party encouraging Liberal justice ministers over the years, from Allan Rock through Anne McLellan to the last one, and to no avail. When private member's bills were brought forward to deal with this problem, they were rejected. When there were amendments to legislation, they were rejected. Thus, child pornography has grown to become a multi-billion dollar industry and that is disgraceful.

The Conservative Party is now the government. We have a justice minister who I know is going to do the right thing with regard to laws that protect our children. Over and over, in the past, we have seen the government use the charter, through the courts or whatever means, to protect freedom of expression, freedom of speech when referring to child pornography and that is why protecting children never went anywhere.

Will this member join this party and put the rights and safety of children ahead of the rights of these predators and imbeciles that have been attacking our children over these years?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:30 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the first thing I would say to the hon. member is that as a father of four children, I share his deep concern and passion for the child pornography challenges we are facing in the country today. I share his frustration in the limits of the law and the application of the law in terms of arresting the further spreading of child pornography, online or otherwise.

There are risks. We are hearing, for example, in American senate hearings just this week of young people being exposed, at a very young age, to these challenges online. However, as a lawyer, I would also say that it is important for all members to remember that we have to strike a balance here. I believe that the charter is now working for us in terms of its interpretation by the courts. There are some challenges, of course, in terms of sentencing. There are challenges in terms of enforceability, as my local police force reminds me on a regular basis.

Maybe I could just switch the channel for a second and reply to the member that the single most important thing we can do, as a country going forward, is invest in our social and human capital. That means investing in our kids where it counts most. Every child psychologist in the world who is an authority tells us that if we get to our children between the ages of three and seven, we are going to be better prepared for the economic challenges of the future. Even a Conservative government would understand that. I look forward to working with the government on a real child care plan for the country.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:30 p.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Ottawa South. Indeed, I had the pleasure of knowing his father and the quote at the end of his speech were wise words that I hope we do all abide by. In fact, my father and his father went to high school together.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the constituents of Ottawa Centre for electing me to this place and I hope to stand in as good a stead as my predecessor, Mr. Broadbent.

I have a question and a concern about the environment. I share the hon. member's concerns about the environment, and about the challenges we all face with clean air and clean water. As the member will know, as he has been a resource on the environment to which others have turned to, we have not met the challenges that were presented to us through the Kyoto accord.

I would like to put aside the partisanship for a minute and talk about real solutions and ideas about how we can tackle the concerns of clean air and clean water. As a school teacher, I have been saddened to see the levels of asthma escalate over the years. If anyone has had the unfortunate opportunity to go into our emergency wards recently, they will see that it affects more and more children every day.

Does the hon. member see the solution for dealing with the problems with our air quality and clean water in the area of legislation? Particularly, one of the solutions our party has put forward and that I strongly advocate is to have a clean water and a clean air act.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:35 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I share the member's concerns and the notion of a clean water act. I can assure the member and the House of one thing. If the government were to withdraw this country from the Kyoto protocol and the leadership role that Canada has played over the last decade, a mounting 128 signatures to join this Kyoto protocol, we would not tackle seriously together and internationally the whole notion of protecting one single atmosphere.

If the Conservative Party and the government do not understand that, perhaps they should speak to the Canadian Council of Chief Executives who overwhelmingly support the Kyoto protocol and whose companies have moved to embrace it over the last 25 years.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:35 p.m.


Stephen Owen Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak today to the Speech from the Throne. To begin my comments I would like to pay my high regard to the government for this Speech from the Throne because of the beautiful way it was delivered. In fact, this may be the ultimate triumph of form over substance because it was blessedly short but I think short in some substantive ways that need to be addressed.

A major theme of the government's Speech from the Throne and, indeed, the accountability act which will be tabled next week, is the question of accountability. I would like to spend a few minutes addressing those issues.

The first point of issue I would raise is the pledge in the Speech from the Throne to ensure that people in positions of public trust do not move on to areas of private lobbying. I think we agree that it is something that should be done. The current lobbyist legislation has grown, improved and evolved over the last 10 years. It needs to go further and I commend the government for proposing further amendments and expansions to it. However I think it leaves two gaping holes that I hope the government will consider adding to the accountability act.

The first is that while it prevents people in senior positions, whether they be ministers, ministerial staff or senior public servants, from leaving that public office holder position and going directly into a lobbyist position, what it does not deal with is the people who are in positions of very considerable trust and influence in the opposition who then become part of government. Those people then going straight into lobbying. Frankly, we have seen in the last very few short weeks of the Conservative government dozens of people going from senior positions in the former opposition now government into lobbyist positions, including the former deputy leader of the opposition.

This is a gap that has to be filled and I hope the government will consider ensuring that alternative is not available. Ironically, the people who have the least potential for improper influence on their former department are the former ministers who are now in opposition or out of politics all together.

We have the emphasis wrong and we have to plug that hole. I hope we can work with the government to ensure that it is a balanced situation.

The other gap that is glaring, which relates to this, is where former lobbyists then become ministers and in fact ministers of the very portfolio to which they were previously lobbying. We have three ministers now who were lobbyists previously for their very portfolios. I fail to see how one could ever suggest that an ex-minister, now lobbyist when his former government has lost power, could have more potential for improper influence than a former lobbyist now minister in the very portfolio where he was previously lobbying.

That is another gap that I think all of us, in seriously trying to evolve the Lobbyist Registration Act further and ensuring the greatest possible protection, need to pay some attention to.

Another issue of accountability is respect or disrespect for individuals in high office and, in particular, the independent officers of Parliament. The Speech from the Throne mentions that the capacity and the independence of independent officers of Parliament should be enhanced. We have seen, unfortunately, in far too recent months examples of disrespect by the government when it was in opposition and now in government to those independent officers and, in particular, the Ethics Commissioner.

I do not know how the current Prime Minister can express in a Speech from the Throne the desire to raise respect, capacity and independence of an independent officer when four months, when he was Leader of the Opposition, he refused to make time to meet with the Ethics Commissioner, an independent officer of Parliament, to answer questions about the Grewal case. What possibly could be a greater disrespect?

Another area of disrespect, of course, was after the election of the present government when the Ethics Commissioner identified explicitly that the action of crossing the floor and the enticement of a member was disrespect for the voters. We all have problems with the crossing of the floor and I think we all understand that we need some limits around it. However, as I have learned, never has such an incident of floor crossing been so extreme where, within two weeks of being voted into Parliament, a member is enticed to the government party that received 18% of the vote from the voters of that constituency. As the Ethics Commissioner properly pointed out, that shows at the very least disrespect for the voters.

Another issue on accountability, in my mind, was the very honourable and important move of the government to move toward the election of senators. The problem is how to do it and how to do it piecemeal rather than looking at a full reform and, through constitutional amendment, a re-ordering of that very important House. We all respect the very fine work that so much of the Senate and its committees produce, but not being elected is a problem and I am glad the government is addressing it.

The difficulty, which again goes to respect, consistency and perhaps seriousness around this area of reform, was the appointment of a party functionary, who decided not to seek election, to the Senate and then went on to become Minister of Public Works. He is not available in the House to take responsibility and be accountable for the actions of that important ministry. That is an area where I think we have to question the level of respect that is really being shown to the concept of a reformed-by-becoming-elected Senate.

It is not as if regional and, in this case, city representation is the key issue. We have seen no enthusiasm or action toward, for instance, the appointment of a non-elected member of cabinet from the Toronto area where the government holds no representation either. I might note in passing that the province of Prince Edward Island has both a vacant Senate seat and no representation in cabinet. There is inconsistency there and accountability certainly demands consistency.

Let me very briefly touch on a few of the other five areas of the throne speech concentration. Of course, the first one is child care, which is immensely important. Everyone is declaring it and speaking about providing some relief for parents who need child care and wish to put their children in child care. I must say that the very minimal cash payment to parents with children under six will not handle the need and I think we all know that. It is of least, if any, benefit whatsoever to the parent or the parents who must work either because they are a single parent or because they need two incomes. It is taxable income and therefore they will receive much less than the $100 a month.

The people who will benefit most will be the parents who already stay at home with their children. It will not give them the opportunity to put their children in child care but it will be of benefit to the parents who already stay at home and look after their children.

Let me speak very briefly to the GST and the tax policy in general. There are few times in the ordering of public affairs when all of the economists in the country agree on anything. Economists, as we know, are famous for having many different points of view. They are unanimous on this, and I mean practising economists, not simply people who got an economics degree 30 years ago.

We would all like to see the proposed GST cut if we can because it is a sensible thing to do, but this is a very progressive tax benefit but the progression is that it gets progressively more valuable the richer one is and the more one spends. That is the opposite--

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Macleod.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:45 p.m.

Macleod Alberta


Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for la Francophonie and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, the enthusiasm with which people are responding to the Speech from the Throne has not allowed me the opportunity to stand and speak yet in this 39th Parliament. I must start off by congratulating you, Mr. Speaker, for the honour bestowed on you and I am sure you will do an excellent job.

I also want to talk about how honoured I feel that the constituents of my riding of Macleod have allowed me to come back to Ottawa to represent their views. However I cannot represent their views properly if I do not stand and question the hypocrisy that we are hearing from members of the former Liberal government.

We have brought in a very concise document with some actual priorities. One of the main items is accountability and we are hearing questions from that side of the House on accountability. We do not need to go into the record of the lack of accountability in the former government.

What is wrong with making five priorities, focusing on five priorities and getting the job done?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:45 p.m.


Stephen Owen Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is certainly nothing wrong with addressing the issues that the five priorities attempt to address but there are two problems with this approach.

First, we actually must deal with them in an appropriate, progressive, public interest way rather than superficially or in ways that actually confound the public interest.

Second, we must not disregard the many other pressing issues that need to be dealt with in the country.

Let me just go to the wait times. Everybody knows, including the Supreme Court of Canada, that wait times need to be shortened, which is why the Liberals, when they formed the government, progressively dealt with wait times in a comprehensive way with a 2004 election pledge, with a major multi-billion dollar agreement with all the provinces and territories, with benchmarks being set and a guarantee all in succession. It was credible, funded and all the governments in the country agreed to it. That is the way to set progressive public policy.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:45 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario


Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member failed to discuss at any length the accountability act that will be the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history. Among other things, it will create an anti-corruption watchdog who will protect whistleblowers against bullying. It will end the revolving door between lobby firms and ministers' offices. It will give the Auditor General the power to shine light in every dark corner in her hunt for waste, theft and corruption. The member's party is familiar with all of those things.

Finally, it will ban big money and corporate cash from political campaigns altogether. These are concrete steps that will form the basis for the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history.

Why did the member not take at least a few moments to acknowledge those steps? Could it be that his party is shaking, that his party is terrified about the implications that those tough measures will have on the practises and modus operandi of his organization, the Liberal Party of Canada?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:50 p.m.


Stephen Owen Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I have before, I applaud the government for bringing forward an accountability act. I just want to make sure that it is as effective as it possibly can be. Let me just speak to that issue of lobbying.

Yesterday in the Globe and Mail--and excuse any reference to someone named--the article read, “Even as the Harper government finds its footing in the House of Commons some of the best defence firms in the world are circling Ottawa like hungry--”

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:50 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member is referring directly to the Prime Minister by name. He should show some respect for that office and some respect for the House by following--

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the parliamentary secretary. I know the member for Vancouver Quadra understands that even if he is quoting a press document, he is still discouraged from using members actual names, referring to them instead by titles or ridings.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:50 p.m.


Stephen Owen Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I take your discouragement, and the quote will not be repeated.

The point is these world-leading defence firms are circling like raptors over a former defence industry lobbyist for eight years, now Minister of National Defence. If there is really serious intent to clean up the issue of the relationship between government and lobbyists, let us do it fully. I will be supportive of the government when we debate that bill next week and see that amendment to enhance it further. We all want to ensure that lobbyists do not have inappropriate influence on government decisions.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:50 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario


Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your new job. You are wearing it very well.

Before I begin, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the wonderful people of Haldimand--Norfolk who have once again asked me to represent them in this place. My gratitude goes out to them and to all those who worked so hard to once again grant me this very great privilege.

It is an honour today to have this opportunity to speak to one of our government's top five priorities as outlined in the Speech from the Throne. I am referring of course to the government's strong commitment to the well-being of children and families, a commitment that we are proud to advance through our proposed new choice in child care plan.

The centrepiece of the plan, the choice in child care allowance, is a $1,200 a year benefit for all parents of preschoolers, regardless of the parents income or career choice, of where they live or how they wish to raise their children. Combined with the many federal supports already available to Canadian families, this universal allowance will give parents more choice in child care. Whether child care is provided at home, with neighbours or a family member, or in a day care setting in the community, or even in a work environment, parents need the freedom to choose what is best for their family.

As the Speech from the Throne said so well, the most important investment that the country can make is to help families raise their children.

The new allowance is part of a broader plan to allocate over $10 billion over the next five years to help Canadian families find the kind of child care that they want and demand.

Toward that end, our plan is also committed to creating up to 125,000 new community-based child care spaces over the same period. These are spaces that will be designed, created and delivered in the communities where parents live and work and raise their children. They will be designed not by government, which tells us what works best, but by parents who know what works best. These new child care spaces will be flexible and responsive to the needs of working families.

In the coming weeks and months, we will work with businesses, not-for-profit and community organizations, the provinces and the territories to build on their experience in order to help promote the creation of more child care spaces.

A recent a survey by the Vanier Institute of the Family asked parents to rank a series of possible child care options. The most interesting finding of this survey was that first choice of parents for raising their children was their spouse or partner. The second choice was a grandparent. The third choice was another relative. The fourth choice was home-based day care. The fifth choice was institutional day care. Finally, there was the option of babysitting by friends or a hired sitter.

The lesson learned from this survey is clear. Parents want choices and they want to make those choices themselves. Parents want choice and empowerment when it comes to deciding how they can best take care of their children.

No politician or party in the House can claim to have a monopoly on knowing the best child care arrangements for Canada's children. I believe that no one in this place, no matter from which party they come, can be accused of not wanting the best for our children.

These matters are not up for debate. What is up for debate is the path that we, the government, can and should take to help parents do what is best for their children.

A child care solution that only helps some children or some parents is not much of a solution. Canadians want a program that helps all children, whether they be in a major urban centre, on a family farm or in an aboriginal community, so they can reach their full potential.

We all know that the family is the foundation of Canadian society. Strong families make healthy communities. However, healthy communities are synonymous with social and economic success, which then determines the quality of life of all Canadians.

What can the government do to support strong families? There is no simple answer to that question, because each family is unique, and what produces good results in one family could have other effects in another.

As a government, we recognize this. Our responsibility is not to tell families how to raise their children. It is not to impose a one-size-fits-all solution. It is to respect and trust parents to make the right choices for their children. Our choice in child care plan is all about that, to give every Canadian family the freedom and opportunity to give their children a healthy start in life to the ultimate benefit of all society.

There are 2.1 million preschoolers in our country. Statistics Canada recently issued a report entitled “Child Care in Canada”. It found that only 15% of preschool age children are in formal day care. The biggest portion, well over half of all children under the age of six, are actually cared for at home by mom, dad, grandma, or another close relative or a neighbour.

The report clearly outlines the diversity of the child care choices that families make. There are countless other arrangements, including licensed in-home care, informal child care and preschool.

The option that parents choose depends on many things, including their personal beliefs about child rearing and the needs of their family as they balance their work and family responsibilities.

Some believe that a formal day care setting will expose their children to valuable early learning and socialization. Others believe that staying home with their children during those first years is the best choice for their family. Still others might prefer to have a parent stay at home with their children, but need two incomes to sustain their balance.

Parents often make choices that involve personal sacrifices. Some adjust their work schedules to make sure that there is always one of them at home with the children. Others try to make ends meet with only one salary so that one parent can stay home with the children.

Some parents cannot or do not want to send their children to a daycare centre. A centre's hours are often more suitable for those who work from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.

Part timers, shift workers and people such as farmers and fishermen with largely seasonal work need different, more flexible forms of care. For the one-third of Canada's population living in rural and remote parts of the country, including my riding of Haldimand—Norfolk, often there are neither the staff nor the resources necessary to operate regular child care facilities of the sort that we might see in downtown Toronto or Montreal.

In short, many Canadians must have real choice in the child care options that meet their needs. Our government believes in supporting all parents in their child care choices. This is why we have come up with a choice in child care allowance. Starting in July, Canadian families, no matter where and how they live, will receive $1,200 per year for each child under the age of six.

This child care benefit is intended to give them more choices. They can now use this money to pay part of the daycare fees or to hire somebody to help the stay-at-home parent with the daily chores.

Alternatively parents may use the allowance to purchase learning materials such as books, crafts or a computer program, or this may allow parents to enroll their child or children in a course such as swimming, or music or a pre-school program. Some parents may wish to invest some or all their allowance into a registered education savings plan for their child. However, the fact is that this allowance is about helping families in a direct, real way.

I would like now to highlight a few things.

First, this allowance is more than families have ever received for this purpose. For all of its promises to help parents with their child care needs, the previous government's program offered nothing concrete for parents. Our new government will offer something tangible to all parents, regardless of their child care choice.

The government is not proposing some distant, perhaps unattainable promise. We are proposing a concrete means of helping all parents with their child care choices, and this support is something that will become a reality in a matter of just three months. This allowance will come on top of the $13 billion that the Government of Canada already invests every year in support for children and families, programs that include the Canada child tax benefit, the child disability benefit, the national child benefits supplement, the child care expense deduction, extended parental leave provisions and the Canada learning bond.

First and foremost, the child care benefit will be given directly to the families who will then be able to spend it as they wish, in accordance with their needs. Whether they work in a factory, spend long days working on the farm, operate a home-based business or stay home to care for their children, all parents of young children will benefit from it.

Why? Because we believe that the role of government is to empower parents to make decisions that will be in their children's best interests.

Another way the government can help is to ensure meaningful choices for parents who need child care spaces. That is why this new government will work with employers, communities and other governments to promote the creation of flexible and responsive new child care spaces tailored to the true needs of the community. And it is not just a handful of spaces. Our plan calls for $250 million a year for five years to create up to 125,000 more child care spaces. These spaces could be built by businesses, community groups or non-profit organizations, anyone who identifies a local need and sees the value in filling it.

Under our plan the new Government of Canada will be a partner in creating real child care spaces, working with businesses, community groups or non-profit organizations. For example, a group of employers, including businesses and non-profit employers, could cooperate to develop a child care centre in partnership with a community child care organization. In rural Canada, something which I know a little about, parents and community organizations in small towns could come together to create a multi-purpose child care centre offering child care, learning resources and a community centre on which parents could rely. A non-profit community organization such as a social planning council, the United Way or the YM-YWCA could partner with a number of non-profit employers to establish a new child care program. These are just a few of the possibilities that our plan will open up.

I trust the ingenuity of Canadian communities and Canadian parents to develop new and exciting ways to meet their child care needs, and we want to be a partner in that work.

How would the plan work? Through incentives. By 2011, our new government is committed to investing up to $1.25 billion in the creation of child care spaces alone. We will be talking to businesses, non-profit employers and communities, in addition to provinces and territories, to make sure that we get this initiative right. We know that our key to success is to ensure flexibility in design. Our goal is to meet the needs of all Canadian parents regardless of whether they live in a city or a rural community and whatever their hours of work, which may not fit the nine to five model.

This initiative will complement the roles of partners, such as provincial and territorial governments, by helping to create new child care spaces.

The child care choice program is being well received because it makes sense. It has been praised by parents across the country. They told us that they saw in this program precisely the type of flexible, attentive approach they needed.

The plan has also garnered the backing of many groups with an interest in child care, including Advocates for Childcare Choice, the Institute for Canadian Values, Kids First Parent Association of Canada and Prairie Advocates for Childcare Choices.

The premiers of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Alberta have all endorsed our plan. Significantly, the governments of Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick have already said that they will not recover the child care allowance from social assistance recipients, an important step in making this program work. I am hoping that other jurisdictions will follow their lead.

After 13 years of being told about Liberal grand designs for a national day care program, parents were left with nothing more than promises. On January 23, Canadians voted for a government so committed to child care that it made it one of its top five priorities. The fact is that our government is committing over $10 billion to assist parents with their child care needs, more than twice as much money as the previous Liberal program promised but did not deliver. This money will help parents, giving them real choices in child care, and support investments in the creation of child care spaces.

Our plan will benefit all Canadian families with children under six. The Speech from the Throne promised a choice in child care plans because it is the right thing for Canadian families. It is about treating all Canadian families the same, whether they live in downtown Toronto, rural Prince Edward Island or Inuvik.

Canadian parents are true experts in child care. They do not need to be told how to raise their children, especially not by the government.

As a government, our responsibility is to lend a helping hand to ensure that Canadian families have meaningful choices in child care and to support them in whatever child care choice suits them best. That is also our responsibility as a society. I call on my hon. colleagues to support the government in this most worthy initiative.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

2:10 p.m.


Gary Merasty Liberal Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, in my riding there is a significant population that is on reserve. Unfortunately, 80% of the on reserve residents are on social assistance, a federal program.

There is a significant baby boom occurring in our communities as well. With over 60% under the age of 25, 50% under the age of 18, approximately 25% under the age of 5, the need for child care is desperate. This proposal may actually create a situation where choices for proper child care are taken away.

Will the on reserve residents be receiving the $100 a month payment without a clawback from the federal social assistance program?

Will the Conservative government and the minister commit to the $100 million that the previous Liberal government committed to the aboriginal day care program and allow parents to pursue training and get off the social assistance system?

How will the tax credit proposal build day care spots on reserve when there is a different tax environment?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

2:10 p.m.


Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned that this would be a universal benefit available to all parents right across the country. By that we also include aboriginals, be they on reserve or off. They would be eligible for the $1,200 a year choice in child care allowance. In turn, we want to make sure that the benefit is universal. That is why we will be exempting it from means testing for social assistance. I am so very pleased that the provinces of Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick have taken the lead and joined us in excluding this allowance from the calculation of social benefits.

We recognize that parents need choice, that they need a bit a help. That is why we will be doing everything we can to make sure they get to keep as much of this money as possible. That is why the money will only be taxed in the hands of the lower income parent. In many cases, almost half of the cases in fact, young preschoolers have one parent who stays at home with the child. In most of those cases the parents earn very little if anything, and the parents are below the tax level. If the allowance is taxed in their hands, they will pay no tax. This is how we want to make sure that maximum benefit is derived.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

2:10 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, allow me to congratulate all members of this House who were elected on January 23. This is a show of trust, until proven otherwise.

Let us look at the so-called universal $1,200 allowance for families with children under six. We are now learning that this allowance will be tax free for low income families. Pardon me, but that smacks of improvisation. The federal government is getting very much involved in the area of family policy, which is in the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. In fact, Quebec and the provinces, and they alone, know how to manage their family policies properly, with all their ins and outs.

I would like to emphasize certain elements of a recent study published by three professors from the University of Sherbrooke:

Providing an allowance of $1,200 a year to parents with children six and under could impoverish low income families, and single mothers in particular—

The study also states:

—should Ottawa pay $1,200 to families instead of transferring funding to the Quebec government, Quebec will be forced to raise daycare fees and ask parents to contribute a larger share.

Let us not forget that the [name of Prime Minister] government's initiative will deprive Quebec of some $800 million.

The end result varies depending on assumptions or scenarios. Abject poverty, measured one way, could be increased by up to 60%.

Finally, these professors also consider that such a shift could act as a barrier to employment.

I think it is obvious that this policy is another trick the Conservatives have learned from the Liberals, a trick to boost their visibility: a maple leaf on a $1,200 cheque. I do not think that the government's objectives can be achieved in that context.

I believe in the freedom of the provinces and Quebec in the area of child care. Naturally, parents who are staying at home with their children might choose to buy nicer crayons. But to say that people will enjoy greater freedom of choice with $1,200 is really improvising.