Mr. Speaker, there should be no question about what we need to do to advance child care in Canada.
We need a universal child care system that is national, so all families have equal access; affordable; and with quality care. It is the smart and responsible thing to do. The cost of child care in large cities rose almost 10% in the last two years, sometimes as high as $1,700. My sister paid more for child care than for rent.
Canadian families need action now. There is no doubt child care is essential to getting women into the workforce. Dr. Pierre Fortin, professor of economics at the Université du Québec in Montreal, told the status of women committee last month the Quebec child care system increased the number of women in the workforce by 70,000 in 2008.
In my riding, women's groups, student unions, and community child care centres all agree, accessible and affordable child care is absolutely necessary, so that women can go to work, attend school, and live in safety. As Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella said, “Child care is the ramp that provides equal access to the workforce for mothers.”
If that were not reason enough, universal child care is good for the economy. Professor Fortin studied the Quebec child care model, and concluded there is no net cost to taxpayers. In fact, he calculated that in 2008, the provincial and federal governments got a surplus of $900 million from the universal child care program in Quebec. The economic benefits of universal child care could also be felt in other provinces.
Economist Robert Fairholm predicts that the $10-a-day child care plan proposed by the B.C. NDP in this current election would create 69,000 jobs, and will make enough revenue for the government to build and operate the child care system.
Investing in child care will also create good jobs for those who work in the child care sector. Last week, I heard from day care operators in my riding that they cannot pay the early child care educators what they need to make a good wage. That is unjust to the women educating our children, and means they often have to leave the field, which is disruptive to children in their care.
Parents cannot afford to pay child care fees that are any higher, so the government must act to invest in a system with fair wages for early childhood educators.
If the federal government is unsure about what action on child care should look like, the Liberals can look to models that already exist in Canada. In Quebec, the universal system of low fee child care is a real success, providing quality care for children, and helping women get back to work.
My province of B.C. used to have a universal provincial child care system. It was cancelled by the B.C. Liberals when they first took office in 2001. The B.C. NDP has pledged of $10-a-day child care which would have real economic benefits.
This week, the Alberta NDP government launched its $25-a-day child care, which parents and working mothers say is just what they need to balance child care costs and work.
Access to affordable child care is what is needed to lift people out of poverty, and to make sure that women can get to work. It is time for the government to take leadership on child care. Why is the government not keeping its child care promise to Canadian children, women, and families?