Mr. Speaker, for young families across this country, child care is a principle concern. When a child is in their care or with another, parents want to feel confident that their child is being well cared for, and that they are safe and in a healthy environment that supports their development.
Canadian families across the country should have access to affordable and quality child care. Parents should also be able to choose a child care solution that best suits them and works with their family's own unique needs. The reality is there is no one-size-fits-all child care solution.
Not only is the issue of child care important for families, but it is also a significant consideration in workforce participation. Access to child care continues to be a large barrier to workforce participation, and it cannot be overlooked as we look into addressing the labour shortages we are experiencing across industries in this country.
While there is presumably a consensus on the viewpoint that there should be accessible, affordable and flexible child care for parents throughout our country, this legislation offers no real assurances to Canadian families that there will be. The families that will benefit from this legislation are those families who have already secured a child care space in a public or not-for-profit program.
However, this legislation does nothing to help the thousands of families on child care wait-lists and those whose child care needs require more flexibility. It does nothing to help those families whose child care needs fall outside the standard hours of operation. In fact, the primary problem with this legislation is that it fails to ensure that demand can be met and that supports are flexible enough to meet the needs of all Canadian families.
Affordable, quality child care is a great concept. It is a wonderful concept, but if a parent cannot access it, then it is ultimately worthless. In laying out a vision for a Canada-wide, early learning and child care system, Bill C-35 offers Canadian families a single, just one, child care solution, and by its own design, the access is limited.
This legislation intentionally ignores an entire section of the child care landscape, which is critical to meeting demand. The Liberal-NDP government is shutting private operators, who tend to be women-owned small businesses, out of its plan. It fails to even ensure them a seat at the table.
There is no representation for these women-owned small businesses in the makeup of the proposed national advisory council on early learning and child care. In addition to public child care programs, these women-owned small business operators are critical to meeting the growing demand for child care spaces, not to mention that, by limiting supports to public and not-for-profit child care programs, this will drive up the demand for child care spaces in these programs where the wait-lists already exist.
We know that wait-lists already exist because there is not necessarily the staff or infrastructure put in place to offer more child care spaces. This legislation does not solve the issue of recruitment or that of retention in the early learning and child care sector. It does not answer the pressing question of who will staff these programs.
Report after report indicates that early childhood educators are overwhelmed and burnt out, and that there is a steady stream of early childhood educators leaving the profession. There have been operators who have had to close their doors at times because there was not necessarily enough staff to operate.
To ensure that the government is delivering more than just announcements to Canadians, the government needs to deliver a tangible plan, in partnership with our provinces, to recruit and retain labour. That plan should engage all child care providers.
With limited resources, it does not make sense to shut out these women-owned small businesses from this solution, nor should the government be putting these entrepreneurs at a disadvantage. These child care providers should be able to operate in a fair market.
Without a real plan to address the existing challenges in child care, access to child care will never really be achieved. If the goal is truly to deliver universal access to child care, child care policy also needs to be comprehensive.
However, the government's vision for child care policy is limited. For one, it fails to acknowledge that not all parents have a standard work schedule. The reality is that standard child care operating hours do not meet the needs of most shift workers. Parents who work early mornings, evenings, nights, weekends, statutory holidays, casual shifts or any other irregular shifts are largely being left behind. By focusing child care supports on programs that do not offer any real kind of child care solution to families with non-standard work schedules, there is a massive gap in the NDP-Liberal government's child care policy. It is not a universal solution.
The NDP-Liberal government also purports to be addressing affordability through the creation of a $10-a-day child care program, but that is not entirely accurate either. As I have mentioned, the only families who are benefiting from the cuts to child care costs are those who already have child care spaces in eligible public and not-for-profit programs.
We are now hearing reports of operators who are struggling with the skyrocketing cost of living in the country. These operators, like all Canadians, are seeing the cost of everything climb. Many who offer food programs are now having to consider whether they are going to cut these programs entirely or charge parents additional costs to keep them running.
Either these parents are getting fewer services from their child care providers or some of those savings will ultimately be lost. Of course, for those parents who cannot access a child care space, they are not benefiting from these savings, but are still struggling under the pressures of the rising costs.
In fact, I was listening to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development's speech earlier in the debate today. She highlighted that she had heard from parents who could now afford their mortgage payment because their child care fees were reduced and other parents who could afford groceries for their family because of the reduction in child care fees. Well, she was quite proud of that achievement, and it really points to a bigger problem, a problem that is her own government's doing. Canadians are paying the price for this costly coalition's tax-and-spend agenda. The NDP-Liberal government needs to take affordability seriously.
Canada's food price report has reported that the average family of four is expected to spend $1000 more than it did last year on groceries. Meanwhile, surveys are already reporting that 52% of Canadian families are concerned that they do not have enough money to feed their families. We are now seeing record usage of food banks across the country.
The cost of basic necessities is becoming out of reach for more and more Canadians, and the Liberal government's addition of half a trillion dollars in federal debt has led to the 40-year-high inflation rates that we are seeing now. Its continued deficit spending is fuelling inflation and Canadians are paying more in taxes than ever before.
We know that parents are stretching their dollars as far as they can go, but that is becoming less and less fruitful. Those parents who are shut out of the child care program because they cannot access it or because it does not meet their needs do not share the minister's elation.
The driving force behind the skyrocketing cost of living crisis needs to be addressed to really help Canadian families who are struggling to make ends meet and, ultimately, if we want to help Canadian families with the cost of child care, we need to ensure that child care is first available. Child care is unique to each family, and a federal child care policy should reflect that.
Bill C-35 is a flawed piece of legislation. Its approach to child care is narrow and it does not provide Canadian families the assurances that their child care needs would be met. I hope that the NDP-Liberal government is prepared to make some amendments and listen to this—