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House of Commons Hansard #18 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

7:20 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to make a few comments. I believe Parliament must be a place for the free exchange of ideas. The point of exchange is to make for better decisions and good government. In exchanging views in the House, I agree that we must be prepared to ask and answer difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions. It is in this way that we, as parliamentarians, get to the important values of integrity and accountability that Canadians want to see in their government and institutions.

In the case that has been raised by the hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville, I believe Canadians are getting a snapshot of what the Liberals view as integrity and accountability. The hon. member, though I am sure she is well intentioned as she always is, has made a number of statements that are taken out of the context of the totality of the speech and the positive remarks therein and taken in a way that is most unfair to a well respected Canadian and champion of transparency and ethics.

Mr. Morgan has been nominated to the position of chairperson of the new Public Appointments Commission. The mandate of the commission is to oversee and report on the selection process for appointments to agencies, boards, commissions and crown corporations. The commission will develop guidelines and review and approve the selection processes proposed by ministers to fill vacancies and report publicly on government's compliance with the guidelines. It is involved in the process only.

The member knows or ought to know that if Mr. Morgan's appointment is approved, he will not be the head of the committee, which recommends who should be appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board.

The hon. member may wonder why the appointments process is being reviewed. We only need to look to the Gomery report to see the case that has been made for reform. Appointments need to be based on merit.

Under the old government, many appointments were unprincipled and political. Canadians, who stood up for change during the last election, want something better. The new government is meeting their calls for merit-based reform.

Is there anyone more capable or excellent for the task of leading the commission's important work in helping government reform appointments? One would have to look long and hard to find someone with those credentials.

Mr. Morgan has an outstanding career in the private sector and has served his community in many capacities as a volunteer and adviser. His skill with organizations can be seen in his having led in the building one of the world's leading oil and gas companies. He is recognized by his peers, having received numerous awards and distinctions, including being named one of Canada's most respected CEOs in 2005. He is highly regarded by colleagues in the business community. This appointment is of the highest importance in terms of credibility before the public, and that is precisely why Mr. Morgan has been selected for this position.

I spoke about the importance of the debate, about integrity and accountability. As I look at the member's questions, it is unfortunate. Canadians have waited for the Liberals to propose a vision for immigration. There was none and no actions were taken. Canadians want action, but the last thing they want is fearmongering or partisan attacks where people are brought down and not brought up.

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Albina Guarnieri Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, no oil baron could have asked for a more enthusiastic defence than from the member opposite. The people in our country who need defending are not the oil barons, I would argue. They are honest, hard-working immigrants who are tarred with discrimination and mired in an oil spill of collective guilt.

The government tabled a letter of clarification, which did not have a single word of retraction. What we need from the member and government opposite is a commitment that this will be the last time we hear officials from his government undermining the futures of immigrants by unfairly associating their communities with crime and unjustly questioning their fitness to be Canadians. Will the government at least do that much?

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, in the letter that was filed, of which the hon. member speaks, the writer of the letter indicated it was unfortunate that the space limitations from which the quotes were taken did not allow for the fullness of the debate. However, the letter said the following. The writer stated:

My speech clearly stated our country needs a strong immigration program, and that colour, race or religion have no place in the selection process.

It does not, and he was quite clear and specific about that. He said that there needed to be better screening of individuals, regardless of race, colour or creed where violence might have been involved. His speech also was focused on the need to do a better job of realizing the potential of those we welcome into our country, about providing support, training and mentorship and about lifting people up and not putting them down.

We as politicians should refrain from partisanship when we look at that aspect of the immigrants who we invite to our country. It is something we can be proud of in Canada. Our system is probably the best known in the world.

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of children and working families of Canada, I am thankful for this opportunity to try to hold the government accountable for its promises of child care.

Ten days ago, in my riding of Trinity--Spadina, I went to the opening of Kensington Kids, a wonderful, new, community based, not for profit child care and early learning centre. Parents helped create this non-profit child care centre, which is set in a public school, and it is parents who are on the board. It is their choice and they have waited a long time.

We have had 12 years of empty promises from the Liberals since they promised national child care back in 1993. Finally, last year with the minority government, we saw some action and federal funding. With that action, Kensington Kids was launched, but unfortunately the Liberals did not secure multi-year funding in legislation. Without multi-year funding, those new spaces will disappear. Kensington Kids will be very short-lived. Those happy, smiling children may be booted out by this government. They may be out in the cold.

Just before the throne speech, the Prime Minister said he was hopeful that new child care spaces would be created. Hope and empty promises do not create child care spaces. Hope is not a strategy. Hope is not child care. Hope is not a plan. It takes more than hope to create and sustain quality, affordable child care spaces and early learning programs. It takes knowledge and planning, and commitment and money, and it takes time.

Now we are told through this budget that there is no money. The funding is being ripped away by this government. We can see there is no plan. Kensington Kids is running of time.

One month ago, I asked the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development if there was a plan to make good on the Prime Minister's hope of creating real child care spaces. The minister responded that she is proud of the Conservative plan to create 125,000 new child care spaces across the country. This is just hope and empty promises faced by Canadian families, and that was an empty answer from the minister, and false pride.

Where is the plan? What is the timetable? What aspect of the government's so-called child care program will save Kensington Kids? Where is the funding?

Canadians deserve honest answers, not gimmicks like the $1,200 so-called child care allowance. That does not provide choice or create child care. It will not even begin to amount to $1,200 after taxes. It is a cynical, dishonest and shameful removal of the young child supplement that the government has tried to cover up. Most working families would be left with a couple of dollars a day at best, barely enough for diapers, and of course many wealthy families would get a lot more.

For Kensington Kids there is nothing. For sustaining these new child care spaces, there is nothing. For creating new spaces: nothing and no plan. The minister has nothing to be proud of.

I ask the minister to answer my question clearly, distinctly and honestly. Will the minister allow new child care centres that are opening up this year to continue to receive part of the $250 million so they can continue to operate and not boot kids out in the cold?

Will the minister take the best practices from Quebec and Manitoba and flow the money to provinces that already are providing high quality, affordable, accessible non-profit child care services, so that we can allow them to create more spaces and reduce the waiting lists of working families who have been desperately waiting for child care for many, many years?

7:30 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the member for Trinity--Spadina on the question of creating real child care spaces. That is our goal as well. We want to create real spaces that will respond to a real need.

A child care solution that only helps some children or some parents is hardly a solution at all. Statistics Canada recently reported that only about 15% of preschool age children are in formal day care. That is 15% of some 2.1 million preschoolers in Canada. 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 neighbour. In other words, there now exists an enormous diversity in the child care choices families make.

Let us also face up to the reality that not every parent lives in a city, nor does every parent work at a 9 to 5 job. Formal day care programs do not seem to serve parents outside that mould. The solution is to provide more choice, choice in the form of delivery and choice in the design and operation of the child care facility. That is why starting next year and for the following four years we will invest in incentives that will help employers, community organizations, parents and other governments to create up to 125,000 more child care spaces.

These spaces could be created by businesses, community groups, non-profit organizations, or organizations that the member mentioned in her speech, for example, parents in communities that are linked to other resources providing support for home child care providers. To get their child care project up and running they would be eligible for financial incentives based on the number of new spaces they create.

Parents will be driving this process according to their needs, not governments driving parents. The universal child care plan is about putting choice for child care where it belongs, in the hands of the parents. We want to support the creation of child care spaces that respond to the real needs of working parents. I trust the ingenuity of parents living in our local communities to come up with practical ways to meet their child care needs.

By 2011 our government is committed to investing over $1 billion in the creation of child care spaces alone. We know that this is an ambitious project. There are challenges to creating new child care spaces that will offer the kind of flexibility that families need, but this is our commitment, and we will take the time we need to get it right. That is why we will be talking to parents, employers, and community non-profit organizations in addition to the provinces and territories to make sure we meet the needs of Canadian families.

I call on my hon. colleagues to support Canadian parents.

7:30 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have heard a promise and a hope that some spaces will be created and there will be lots of consultation. What I have not heard is a clear plan. 2007 is coming quickly. Canadians deserve better than just promises. They deserve more than just consultation. They deserve honest answers. They deserve a realistic plan. They deserve child care. There are many examples out there that are working. The parents and kids at Kensington Kids child care centre need real funding.

How does the minister plan to deliver to Canadian working families? Why will she not answer my question about whether the $250 million would actually flow to child care centres that are open now so they can continue doing their good work?

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I invite the member to bring their ideas and their plans to the table as the existing child care centre she is talking about can be part of our new plan.

We have committed in budget 2006 $3.7 billion over the next two years for the universal child care benefit that will provide direct support to all Canadian families, no matter their income level or the choices they make in caring for their young children.

What is more, this benefit will not be considered income for the purposes of federal income tested programs delivered outside the income tax system, such as the guaranteed income supplement, the Canada education savings grant or the Canada learning bond.

All existing family supports, such as the Canada child tax benefit, the national child benefit supplement and the child care expense deduction will not be displaced.

This benefit will substantially increase federal assistance for children providing direct financial support to 1.6 million families and over two million children.

Overall, the government's total direct federal support to families will be approximately $11.7 billion for the fiscal year, with the vast majority of benefits directed to low and middle income families.

These statements are not ones of conjecture. These are statements of fact.

7:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:36 p.m.)