Mr. Speaker, I thought I had a total of five minutes. In that case, I can present many more arguments.
I will take this opportunity to say that several aspects of the parental leave program do not make sense. This House should dispense with partisanship and improve the program.
First of all, parental leave benefits are inadequate with respect to income. Almost all other industrialized countries pay women much more than 55% of their income. In Europe, depending on the country, benefits range from 70% to 90%, and some countries even pay 100%. It is not surprising that the gender gap is significantly smaller. Common sense tells us that a woman with a young child needs more income to meet her needs and those of her child, not less.
The current parental leave system in Canada sends a message to women. It says that if they have a child, they must be supported by someone richer, and that if their family is having financial difficulties, she should not have children.
This message reinforces the model of a traditional family, which does not work for everyone and which is not always desired. The number of single parent families has been on the rise since the 1970s, and 80% of these parents are women. The current system discriminates against non-traditional family units and the bill introduced by my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie will ensure that Canadians living in these situations get better support.
The other inconsistency with the current program is that it includes parental leave of up to one year. However, most child care centres only accept children over the age of 18 months. Moreover, child care services are prohibitively expensive and difficult to access in most of Canada.
What is a woman without an income to do for six months, assuming that her employer is generous enough to keep her job open? Does she have to be wealthy enough to employ a nanny, or live for six months without an income? That is why I said that it is absolutely crucial that we fix the parental leave system in this country.
This bill will ensure that women working under the Canada Labour Code, who are pregnant or nursing, and who are in unsafe working environments, will have access to provincial programs. This is important because women and men are different—primarily due to the fact that women are mothers.
Consider the statistics: 60% of poor Canadians are women and 52% of single mothers with young children live below the poverty line. Statistically, women with children earn half what men do. Not only are these statistics regrettable, they have remained stagnant for a long time.
That is why we need a bill like the one introduced by my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. Bill C-307, along with other parental leave measures, will help to close the gap between the sexes in Canada. The proof is in the pudding: consider Quebec and Europe where such parental leave programs exist.