Mr. Speaker, as the shadow minister for women and gender equality, I want to start my speech by congratulating my colleague, the Minister of Finance, on being the first woman to present a federal budget.
I listened closely to the speech the minister delivered Monday on the budget and then read it closely. The minister was right when she said this budget had to be about finishing the COVID fight, healing economic wounds left by the COVID recession and creating more jobs and prosperity for Canadians in the days and decades to come. However, it does not do any of that and it absolutely does nothing to secure long-term prosperity for Canadians.
The minister mentioned that one of the consequences of COVID had been women leaving the workforce. This is true. COVID forced businesses, small and big, to suddenly shut down. The status of women committee heard from witnesses that women left the workforce for several different reasons.
Some left the workforce not by choice, but because they worked in industries, such as retail, travel or hospitality, which were hit the hardest. Others left the workforce because of the additional responsibilities of having to become teachers to their kids and taking care of family members, while for others working from home was just not an option.
The committee heard from these witnesses as well that while many men had returned to the workforce, women still had not at the same rate.
The minister made the conclusion that the reason for this was because of a lack of child care spaces and the need for a universal child care package.
Again, the committee heard evidence from witnesses that this was not the case. As a matter of fact, it heard that child centres were closing because of a lack of children to fill the spaces. Additionally, a universal child care plan is a simple answer to a very complex problem.
Under the Liberal plan, we end up treating all children exactly the same and make day care centres identical from coast to coast to coast. However, their plan has not taken into consideration parental choice and that parents, not the government, are in the best position to make these decisions on what is best for their kids, not a bureaucrat.
The Liberal budget also has not taken into account the cultural sensitivities that exist in such a vast and diverse country like Canada.
For example, I am of an ethnic background where we believe strongly in the importance of not just ensuring our children get a good education, but the preservation and teachings of our culture, language and religion. This is something on which I know that my Bloc colleagues will agree with me. This is why their provincial child care system is unique and important in Quebec. It does just that. It is designed to protect, nurture and instill the French culture, the French language and French history.
Canadians do not need a generic program where they drop off their kids and then pick them up at the end of the day. They need help in supporting their choice of child care, whether that be a day care centre, or grandparents or friends, where the culture, language and values are taught to their children.
For example, I have heard from many how, when their children were younger, grandma and grandpa would watch them throughout the day, and it was there that they learned how to do their fractions. The learned that four quarters of a cup equalled one cup when spending quality time baking delicious cookies and breads, which they enjoyed before their parents would pick them up. This is extremely important to my constituents and the Liberal budget does not achieve that.
I want to highlight in the budget the focus on gender-based violence in Canada.
Since the government was elected, it has constantly talked about gender-based violence and how it impacts negatively women and girls. On average, one in three women and girls in Canada will face some sort of violence in their lifetime. Each time the Minister for Women and Gender Equality appeared at the status of women committee, I asked her repeatedly when Canadian women and girls could finally see the government's national action plan to address gender-based violence.
Do members know what her response is? The minister always replies with acknowledging this is an important issue that the government wants to address, yet there comes a point when words no longer mean anything if they are not followed through with action.
Every single one of our allies who signed the international agreement that gender-based violence is a serious issue, a pandemic, that needs to be addressed has already published at least one national action plan, and in some cases they are already working on versions two and three. We do not even have our first version out.
This is why I was pleased to see in the budget the government’s plan to address this very serious issue. However, I was completely disappointed that only now, after years of campaigning and promising from the Prime Minister, the government has decided to appoint a secretariat to develop our plan. Last year, 160 women died because of the government's failure.