Madam Speaker, before I begin, I would like to note that I will be sharing my time with the member for Oakville North—Burlington.
I am so excited to be talking about child care and Bill C-35 today. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, it gives me great pleasure to rise to speak in support of this proposed legislation.
Simply put, affordable and inclusive child care is good for parents, good for children, good for women, good for families and good for the economy. It would reinforce the federal government’s long-term commitment to families from coast to coast to coast. We are working to build a system that will remain in place long into the future, so generations of children in Canada can get the best possible start in life.
Affordable child care is yet another way our government is demonstrating that we are here to support Canadians. We understand how hard life is for Canadians now and has been through the pandemic. That is why we have put forward significant benefits to help Canadians beyond affordable child care. Whether it is through the Canada child benefit, the Canada dental benefit, the doubling of the GST tax credit, the Canada housing benefit or an increase to the Canada workers benefit, we are there for Canadians.
The purpose of Bill C-35 is to enshrine the principles of a Canada-wide child care system into law. It is a system that will ensure families in Canada have access to high-quality, affordable and inclusive early learning and child care, and it is critical in supporting the goals of the early learning and child care agreements between the Government of Canada and provincial and territorial Governments that have been signed from coast to coast to coast.
It also supports the vision, principles and goals of the indigenous early learning and child care framework, which was co-developed with indigenous peoples and jointly released by the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council in 2018. In addition to the principles set out in the co-developed indigenous early learning and child care framework, it would continue to guide federal action with respect to early learning and child care programs and services for indigenous children, regardless of where they live.
I would like to focus for a moment on the development of the indigenous early learning and child care framework, which was first introduced in 2018, after being co-developed through an extensive nationwide engagement.
We know that culturally appropriate early learning and child care, designed by and with indigenous peoples, gives indigenous children the best start in life. The member for Winnipeg Centre has worked closely with us to ensure that those principles remain in place.
The indigenous early learning and child care framework, and the collaborative work to implement it over time, responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action number 12, which calls for all levels of government to work together “to develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for [indigenous] families.”
Guided by the indigenous early learning and child care framework, we made it clear that this legislation will respect and uphold indigenous rights, including treaty rights and the right to self-determination, as well as the Government of Canada’s commitment to reconciliation. The goal is to support indigenous nations, communities, organizations and governments in meeting the unique needs of their communities, families and children now, and seven generations forward.
We are investing an additional $2.5 billion over five years and $542 million annually ongoing in federal funding to get this work done. This funding will increase access to high-quality, culturally appropriate ELCC programs and services for indigenous children through indigenous-led governance. Indigenous governments are also working alongside provinces and territories to ensure ELCC is comprehensive and coordinated so all children are benefiting, regardless of where they live.
Since 2019, a total of 32 quality-improvement projects have been funded. These will continue to advance the implementation of the indigenous ELCC framework through best practices and innovation. These improvements will strengthen indigenous-centred knowledge and expertise to support all partners working toward a strong, culturally appropriate system of early learning and child care.
We have said many times that high-quality, affordable, and inclusive child care is not a luxury for families. It is a necessity. All caregivers should have the opportunity to build both a family and a career, and all children should have the best possible start in life.
As I mentioned previously, this legislation would not impose any conditions or requirements on provincial and territorial governments, or indigenous peoples.
It respects first nations, Inuit and Métis rights, and supports control of the design, delivery and administration of early learning and child care programs and services that reflect their needs, priorities and aspirations. However, the federal government has a role to play in setting federal principles and supporting provinces, territories and indigenous peoples in their efforts to establish and maintain a Canada-wide system. Indigenous peoples will benefit from a federal commitment to sustained and ongoing funding.
As a government, we will invest up to $30 billion over five years to make early learning and child care affordable, accessible and nationwide. Combined with previous investments announced since 2015, a minimum of $9.2 billion per year ongoing will be invested in child care, including indigenous early learning and child care, starting in 2025-26.
Thanks to these investment, fees for regulated child care have been reduced in every jurisdiction in Canada. Quebec and Yukon were already providing regulated child care for $10 a day or less before our Canada-wide investments. In December 2022, Nunavut joined them by being the first jurisdiction to lower fees for regulated child care to $10 a day under the Canada-wide system.
By 2025-26, the average fee for all regulated spaces across Canada will be $10 a day, and that is great news for families. Child care fees in Newfoundland and Labrador have already been reduced to $15 a day, down from $25 a day in 2021. These are not just numbers. These are families saving hundreds of dollars each month across the country.
Regardless of political stripe, governments across Canada believe in giving all children in Canada the best possible start in life, and that we can agree on. The relief this offers parents and caregivers of young children cannot be overstated.
I will conclude by offering some outside assessments of nation-wide ELCC.
Charles St-Arnaud, chief economist at Alberta Central, said, “Women feel more confident going back into the workforce because they won’t be spending their whole paycheque on child care”.
Martha Friendly, a board member at Child Care Now, said, “Some women had to stay home because either they couldn’t find a space or they couldn’t afford it. Now, people are getting child care at 50 per cent reduced fees on average and that means [they] can go back to work.”
The Financial Post, on December 5, noted that our child care policy has been a success. It said, “government policy has played a role in getting women back in the workforce...especially when it comes to child care.” Again, St-Arnaud said, “Women feel more confident going back into the workforce because they won't be spending their whole paycheque on child care”.
Families are benefiting, children are benefiting, and I encourage every member of this House to support child care across this country through Bill C-35 and its swift passage.