Mr. Speaker, as I rise today, one day after the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attack at the Quebec City mosque, I just want to acknowledge the loss that occurred on that day six years ago, the other five lives that have been taken by Islamophobic attacks in this country and the work that we all need to do as parliamentarians and as Canadians to fight against hatred and intolerance, in particular Islamophobia.
I rise today to participate in today's debate, not just because it is the first day of the session, not just because I am glad to be back in the chamber and glad to be back surrounded by parliamentarians seeking to advance the interests of our country and of our individual ridings, but because it actually reminded me of a conversation I had in 2019. That conversation was on a street in my riding in Roncesvalles Village and I remember encountering a family.
It was election time. It was the 2019 election. I was going door to door, as so many of us do every election period. I was confronted with a family. I had a very blunt conversation with the female lead of that family, the mother of that family.
She said to me that we have done so much work and that we continue to do so much work putting women at the forefront of things like international development assistance, women's reproductive rights and so many different initiatives, including a gender-equal cabinet. She said to me, quite candidly, that if we were really sincere about women and women's empowerment, we need to resolve child care.
I said to her that this was fair. I appreciated that criticism.
She elaborated. She said that we cannot really empower women's full participation in the workforce, whether as an entrepreneur, as a salaried employee in a public or private sector setting, unless we alleviate the disproportionate burden on women that relates to raising children.
My riding has a lot of families, a lot of young families and a lot of young kids, and there is a lot of financial burden that goes along with raising those kids. When I was raising my kids, who are now eight-and-a-half and 12, the fees ranged, per child, between $1,500 and $1,800. It is quite common in Toronto to hear of fees that are $2,000 a month.
What I am pleased about today's debate and the subject of what we are discussing is that, yes, after many decades of discussions, thoughts about it, and hearing about agreements that were scuttled at the last minute, etc., finally, this nation and this Parliament are moving past the obstacles in implementing positive change. I think that is critical.
I also want to acknowledge that it was not just individual constituents like mine who had spoken to me in 2019 that provided an impetus, but there was another impetus, an impetus that has become all too familiar to all of us and that is the COVID-19 pandemic. Let me remind us, there were literally families around the country who were dealing with the difficulties of, all of a sudden, shifting their workplace and their educational place for their children and, effectively, substitute day care, all within the confines of their own home, in a matter of weeks, in March and April of 2020.
That is what faced Canadians. I am being very candid here. I think, all of a sudden, it penetrated the brains, particularly, of men in the country, in terms of what a challenge it is to try to have any sort of career or profession, in a virtual setting or otherwise, and have kids running around at all hours of the day, asking about their math homework, where their history homework was, a geography lesson, name it. It was a struggle. That struggle became manifest, I think, for men like me in this country. All of sudden, the level of people's awareness, including my gender's awareness, about the pressing need for a national child care program became that much more acute.
What I like about what we are doing is that we are creating a system where one does not have to choose between building a career and raising a family. That is a false choice. No one should ever be confronted with that. Thankfully, we are now moving toward a stage where one is not. I think that is really important.
It comes with a large price tag. A massive social change and a massive social program are not inexpensive. We readily acknowledge that. When we prioritize families, children and the women who disproportionately share the burden of raising those children, we need to invest. I think that is exactly what we did when we announced this program in our 2021 budget and the $30-billion price tag that would go along with it over the course of the next five years.
What it is going to achieve is to basically take child care that used to cost hundreds of dollars a day and project it to cost $10 a day, on average, across the country by 2026.
Some provinces were very early adopters of this program. It is staggering in terms of its magnitude, in terms of what it could achieve. Some were a bit late to the game and maybe manipulated the electoral cycle for their own purposes, but I do not want to wade into that. We are now at a stage where, of 13 provinces and territories in this country, literally every square kilometre of this country is covered by a child care agreement.
In my own province of Ontario, which I am proud to call home, fees have been reduced, on average, by 50%. Something that might have cost people, doing simple math, if they had their child in child care for 10 months of the year, $17,000 to $20,000 has been cut in half. Thousands of dollars are being saved by Ontarian families in my own riding of Parkdale—High Park. That is staggering, given the number one issue that we all hear when we go door to door now, which is about the cost of living and the crisis of affordability.
If we could return thousands of dollars to families in this country in one single fell swoop, that is reason enough on its own to get behind this kind of legislative initiative. What we are doing is reducing fees in every province and territory. British Columbia, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I., New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and NWT have all reduced their fees by an average of 50%.
Saskatchewan, and there were some speakers from Saskatchewan earlier in today's debate, has gone beyond that target, and it has already reached, on average, a 70% reduction of the fees. I was chatting earlier with the member from Winnipeg, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader. In his province of Manitoba, the fees are currently reduced by 30%, and they are on track to achieve a $10-a-day child care early in the new year. This year, Manitobans will reach $10 a day on average for their child care.
In Yukon and in the province of Quebec, which is really at the forefront of all this in terms of an initiative, regionally, many decades ago, they have had $10-a-day child care. Nunavut joined them in November 2022, three years ahead of schedule.
These are truly incredible results, and they point to what we are doing. I will give one statistic that I am perhaps most proud of. In the speech by the member for Newmarket—Aurora, he talked about labour force participation. He talked about what Quebec had done, where they were about three decades ago, about 4% below the national average for women's participation in the workforce, and that now they are 4% above the Canadian average.
What we know as of right now, in the nascent days of this fledgling program, for women aged 25 to 54, is that 85% of those women are in the workforce right now, and that is 9% ahead of our southern counterparts in the United States of America. That number is only going to grow, which puts proof to the point that was made by my constituent in Parkdale—High Park, when she said to me that if we want to fully believe and allow for women's participation and their economic potential to be increased, we need to implement this kind of program. That is what we are working towards.
It is not just about the women. It is about the children who are going to benefit from earlier formative education. Again, when I struggled with that grade 4 math class, such as it was, I realized my own limitations as an instructor. As great as parents are in this country, we do not have that formalized training and certification that early childhood educators have.
What are we doing to remedy this? As part of that funding that I articulated, nearly half a billion dollars is dedicated to the training of early childhood educators, to their certification so they are providing more, better, higher-qualified training to our young people. That is a win-win. It is great for the children's development, and it is great for the early childhood instructors, who have a better certification and higher wages as a result. Most importantly, it is better for the women, who can now make not a false choice but a real choice. Some may choose to stay at home, and that is their choice. Some may choose to start that business. Some may choose to return to work. Some may choose to stay at work.
What we are doing in this one fell swoop is empowering and unlocking incredible economic potential on the part of literally half of our country. That is to the benefit of this country. That is to the benefit of our economic output. That is to the benefit of Canadians. That is why I hope that, by legislating this initiative, we concretize it, we solidify it and, I dare say, we make it permanent in this country on a go-forward basis.
That is what Bill C-35 is about. That is why I am happy to stand in support of it.