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House of Commons Hansard #25 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.

Topics

7:15 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to tell the House about our government's child care policies.

Our government recognizes that families are the building blocks of our society and that getting the best possible start in life is crucial to ensuring that children reach their full potential. That is why this government is investing in the well-being of all families, including those with young children.

Our approach to child care, the universal child care plan, respects the role of parents in determining how best to care for their children and recognizes the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments for the delivery of child care services. Our plan puts choice in the hands of parents and helps them choose the child care option that suits their families' needs, whether they work in the paid labour force or stay at home with their children, whether they live in a small town, rural community or urban area.

In 2011-12, the federal government is providing $6 billion in support of early childhood development and child care through transfers to the provinces and territories. In addition, we are providing direct support through the universal child care benefit and tax measure,s such as the child care expense deduction and the child tax credit. This is the largest investment in the history of Canada.

In the 2010 budget, we reaffirmed our commitment to offering Canadian parents a reasonable choice with regard to child care.

We improved the taxation of the universal child care benefit to ensure that single parent families are treated fairly. We enhanced the delivery of child benefits for parents with joint custody. The child tax credit introduced in 2007 complements this benefit by providing up to $300 of tax relief annually to more than three million Canadian families with children.

Our government also invested in child care spaces to help parents find a better balance between child care and career responsibilities.

Our approach has been providing tangible results for Canadians. A growing body of Canadian and international research suggests that the provision of cash benefits is an effective way to improve child outcomes, especially for younger children in low-income families. Our government provides $250 million per year to the provinces and territories through the Canada social transfer to help support the creation of new child care spaces across the country.

Since 2007, many provinces and territories have announced plans for the creation of new child care spaces, over 102,000 so far. Others are investing in enhancing the quality of these spaces and their affordability.

The family is the building block of our society and our government will continue to support Canadian families. We believe Canadian parents know what is best for their children. A one-size-fits-all model does not work for Canada's diverse families. We are providing choice in child care by putting more money in the pockets of parents to choose the child care of their choice.

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, clearly, there is no choice in child care when there are spaces for only 20.3% of children under the age of six.

I will come back to the prebudget submission, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition stated:

Canada’s failure to properly support young children and their families...is resulting in high rates of vulnerability in children. This vulnerability translates into weakened educational outcomes, health inequities and long-term loss of productive potential. This is a recipe for unsustainability and rising social costs.

I have a quote from the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, which states:

Developing the full potential of every child in Canada is a good economic investment, in the context of an aging population, as well as the right thing to do.

Currently, the government plan amounts to $3 a day for child care. When will the government admit that it has a role in developing and implementing a national child care strategy?

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government is making a number of other investments to support families with children, such as: the Canada child tax benefit, which includes the national child benefit supplement for low-income families; the children's fitness tax credit and the child arts tax credit; employment insurance maternal and paternal benefits; and the Canada pension plan survivor benefit for dependent children of a contributor who is deceased or disabled. Together, with almost $6 billion in support for early childhood development and early learning and child care, these measures represent a total investment in children and their families of $19 billion in 2011-12.

The family is the building block of our society and our government will continue to support Canadian families. We believe Canadian parents know what is best for their kids. A one-size-fits-all model does not work for Canadian families. We are providing choice in child care by putting more money in the pockets of parents to choose the child care of their choice.

Due to our actions, average Canadian families have $3,000 more in their pockets, money that they can spend on their children and families.

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, may I say at the outset it is a pleasure to speak in the House when the members are on such good behaviour and I can be assured of the full attention of the House.

When the Conservatives formed government, they rode into town on a horse called “accountability”. The Conservatives promised to be an accountable government but there have been many examples where they have failed to meet the standard they promised. As a good example of this lack of accountability, since the fall session started the Treasury Board president has reportedly been asked over 30 questions about his role in doling out $50 million in G8 funds in his own riding, one of the most extravagant pork-barrel schemes in Canadian history as a matter of fact.

The minister's slush fund stonewalling has not gone unnoticed. When we consider that this is a government that brought forward an accountability act, that said it was going to be answerable, that it would pay attention to Parliament and so forth, it is remarkable that there is a minister who will not even stand and answer questions. One pundit recently had a particularly harsh assessment and noted that the mute minister's deafening silence made a mockery of the government's promise to be open and accountable. He added that the minister “has become a figure of ridicule as he sits silently in his seat each day, like a child banished to the corner for a timeout”.

That is a pretty frank and harsh assessment. I would think that a minister would be embarrassed by that. I would think that a minister would be determined to get up in the House and defend his record. For some reason, on more than 30 questions the minister has refused to do that. It is worrisome that a government that talks about accountability as much as the present one has would refuse to be accountable at all to people who are elected by Canadians to hold it accountable, people who are elected to come here and ask questions and try to ensure that the taxpayers' dollars are being properly spent.

One question, among others, is: Why will he not explain how he convinced his cabinet colleagues to approve a $50 million fund that was supposedly for border security? According to all the documents, including the budget and all the estimates, the $50 million was for border security.

The Treasury Board president's riding is a long way from the border. It is clear that what he did instead was take that money and spend it on pork-barrel projects in his riding.

Municipal records from Bracebridge and Gravenhurst paint a damning portrait. The minutes of a December 5, 2008 meeting of a group including the minister and some of the mayors are marked as confidential. They show that this fund was being run out of the Treasury Board minister's riding office, not out of some department. It was not being overseen by officials. It was being run out of his own office. Under the heading “Review of Project Summary Submissions to Date”, it says, “It was noted that all submissions are to be sent to” the minister's “Huntsville constituency Office and would there be distributed electronically to all committee members”.

Why will he not explain how it is that with this fund for border security he sat in the back room of his office with his pals and personally decided on which pork-barrel projects he would bestow his blessing?

7:25 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, let me pleasantly surprise the hon. member by informing him that the Auditor General reported that all 32 projects met the program's conditions and that the Minister of Transport approved all projects.

Every dollar was spent on eligible costs of approved projects. All the dollars spent resulted in public infrastructure and all were identified by municipalities and the province as priorities. Every single dollar is accounted for. None of the dollars were misspent. No one profited illicitly. These seem to be the criteria for determining a successful execution of public administration.

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is one of those cases where the spokesperson on behalf of the government takes a question from the opposition side and answers a different one. It is as if I did not ask the question I asked or did not raise the issue I did at all.

The fact that after the President of the Treasury Board and his pals decided how the money should be spent it was rubber-stamped by the Minister of Transport and met some criteria that was totally unrelated to border security, for which this money was supposed to be spent, is totally irrelevant.

Is my hon. colleague actually suggesting that he could have a $50 million fund for his riding, or that there could be one for my riding? Is he suggesting that money could be transferred from another fund to every MP in the House? That is a ridiculous notion.

I challenge my hon. colleague to suggest to me that he could have the same kind of access to funds as the President of the Treasury Board had to spend in his riding. It is an outrageous statement.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a long distance to the seat of the member of the third party, so perhaps he did not hear me. The good news is that all 32 projects met the program's conditions and the Minister of Transport was involved in approving every single one of them.

There is more good news for my hon. colleague. All of the eligible costs for the project were approved. As well, all of the money was spent on public infrastructure. Every dollar has been accounted for and no one profited illicitly. These are all facts confirmed by the Auditor General.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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 7:29 p.m.)