Mr. Speaker, in 2022, Quebec celebrated the 25th anniversary of its family policy. On January 23, 1997, former premier Pauline Marois, then education minister for the Parti Québécois government, unveiled the Quebec family policy. This family policy was developed as a result of major changes in Quebec's population, including an increase in the number of single-parent and blended families, a greater number of women in the workforce, and the troubling rise of precarious employment.
Quebec's family policy had three basic thrusts: the implementation of an integrated allowance for children, the development of early childhood education services at a reasonable cost and the implementation of a parental insurance plan to provide adequate income replacement during maternity and parental leave.
This policy made it possible for thousands of Quebeckers to go back to school, as my wife did when our first child was born. It also enabled thousands of Quebeckers to improve their work-life balance, which was the case for us when my second child was born. It also enabled them to benefit from more generous maternity and parental leave, which was the case for us when my third child was born. My family really benefited from these progressive programs that are in place in Quebec.
The policy had three objectives: to ensure fairness through universal support for families and additional help for low-income families; to help parents balance their parental and professional responsibilities; and to promote children's development and equal opportunities for all. This policy was forward-looking, just like Quebec.
It was in the same spirit that the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development of the Government of Canada introduced Bill C‑35, an act respecting early learning and child care in Canada, on December 8, 2022. This bill is full of good will and good principles. I can admit when that is the case. However, it is too bad that these good principles stem from the federal government's infamous interfering power. Pardon me, I meant to say the federal government's spending power. It seems to me that the federal government did not introduce this bill in the right Parliament, because I get the impression that we are once again facing the age-old problem of federal interference in provincial matters.
Let me explain. If passed, Bill C‑35, will enshrine in legislation the Liberal government's commitment to providing long-term program funding for the provinces and indigenous communities, as well as the principles that must guide that federal funding. The idea is to make it more difficult for a future government to dismantle the program.
This bill is somewhat ambiguous. On the one hand, it does not comply with the distribution of powers set out in the Constitution, which clearly states that education and family policy are not under federal jurisdiction. I wanted to remind the federal government of that because it tends to forget. On the other hand, it exempts Quebec from the application of the federal family policy for the next five years, with compensation. I will not deny that the Bloc Québécois is very happy with that second part. That said, it is too bad it took the federal government 25 years to follow Quebec's lead. This is not the first time that the federal government has dragged its feet on an issue.
Should Canada ever decide to take a page out of Quebec's playbook in other areas, such as the environment or energy production, it certainly would not hurt. We must not kid ourselves. Quebec has always been ahead of the curve in almost all areas compared to Canada. When it comes to child care services, Quebec is a pioneer, not only in North America, but in the world, and above all, it is a model of success.
In its preamble, Bill C-35 outlines the beneficial impact of early learning and child care on child development, on the well-being of children and of families, on gender equality, and on the rights of women and their economic participation and prosperity. Of course, I was not surprised when I read this. As I said earlier, this system was created on January 23, 1997, by Pauline Marois, then minister of education in the Quebec government, as a network of non-profit child care centres and home-based child care agencies. Based on the recommendations from a report entitled “Un Québec fou de ses enfants”, which highlighted the importance of early childhood stimulation, especially among children from more vulnerable families, the network upheld the principle of access to child care for all.
In Quebec, the mission of educational child care is threefold: to ensure the well-being, health and safety of the children receiving care; to provide a child-friendly environment that stimulates their development in every way, from birth to school age; and to prevent learning, behavioural and social integration problems from appearing later on.
This child care network has greatly contributed to making the workforce much more accessible to women. In just one year, yes, one year, it encouraged nearly 70,000 mothers to get a job in Quebec, which is a big deal. That was in 1997. No one in the House will be surprised to hear me say that there are many things that make me proud to be a Quebecker, and that is one of them. Another is the fact that Quebec has always been well ahead of Canada in a number of ways. I wonder if, by following Quebec's example, Canada will soon also have its own secularism law. That will come some day. When Canada realizes that every policy in Quebec bears fruit, then maybe it will stop dragging its feet and its governments will do the same. I will not talk about the federal immigration department because I have too much to say about that and not enough time.
What I can say is that Quebeckers have quite a lot of good ideas, and we are seeing that again today. Even the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development says so. I will stop there because I can tell the House of Commons is feeling a little uncomfortable. Everyone knows I like to take shots at members of other parties because there is always a way to have a little fun even while we are working. We must never forget who we are working for, though. As I have said more than once, as elected representatives, we work for our constituents. We serve the people—the citizens, workers, mothers and fathers—who placed their trust in us.
For that reason, I could not say to the Liberals that Bill C‑35 is not a bill. Even though it interferes in provincial jurisdictions, I like their bill because we were able to obtain compensation with no conditions for Quebec. It might be advisable to take what was done with Bill C‑35 and apply it to health transfers. Why can the government give money to Quebec with no conditions for child care, but when it comes to health, it wants to set conditions? Do the Liberals believe that children are less important than the health of the rest of the population? I would not go that far.
I like the bill, but I liked it even more when the Parti Québécois introduced it in the late 1990s. My wife and I were 23 when we had our first child. My wife was in university, and because this Quebec law existed, she was able to complete her bachelor's degree. We were 26 when our second child was born. This law helped us buy a house and become homeowners. We were 31 when our third child, Simone, was born. Once again, we were lucky to share our parental leave and to have day care centres.
I will close by saying that I support this bill, despite the federal government's interference. It is a good bill for the provinces of Canada, children and their parents. I do not want members to worry. I will pass the message on to Pauline Marois that the Liberals, the House of Commons, this government and all members of the House are saying thank you to her today.