Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise here. The hour is getting later, but nevertheless, we are in the third reading of what is historic legislation, Bill C-35, an act respecting early learning and child care in Canada.
There are child care advocates, families and women who have been waiting for this for over 50 years. We need to pause and really reflect on that, because for over 50 years families, women and child care providers in this country have known what we needed to do to give our children the best start in life. They have known what we needed to do to ensure there was gender equality progressing in this country, where women could enter the workforce when they wanted to, how they wanted to and in the careers they wanted.
I think of Anna Care, who is the director of Blaydon day care in my riding of York Centre. When I went to visit her, she showed me a picture of her demonstrating at Queen's Park in the seventies holding up a sign demanding for this to happen. Here we are today in the third reading of Bill C-35, where we know that for Anna and for families and children across this country this will remain the future. It will be the future for women to continue to support themselves and their families and to set an economy that will just grow and flourish, from our youngest generation to the women who are holding the steering wheel on this today alongside our partners in this chamber.
It could not have happened without the collaborative nature of this work between the federal government and the provinces. Every province and territory in this country signed on to this agreement. The $30-billion investment we as a federal government made in partnership with provinces and territories and indigenous peoples is making a difference. We know this because we are seeing the fee reductions that are putting money in pockets of families from coast to coast to coast.
The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development shared so many of those amazing stories earlier in the evening. We know what that means to them. It is tangible and impactful on an individual level to each and every family who participates in this program. It is more money to buy groceries, to purchase school supplies and so many other essentials when affordability is an issue right now. We know we are making a difference.
Many of my colleagues tonight have talked about the good value of this investment, where every dollar we invest in our children and families is $1.50 to $2.80 back into the economy. That is good money well spent. We know this. We know it by the expansion of the women's workforce. The data shows it from January of this year.
We know we are on the right path for building a Canada-wide system that takes the planning, care and thoughtfulness of these agreements and enshrines these principles and values, so when the next round of agreements come forward, when we evolve to the next stage of this amazing Canada-wide system, we know, Canadian families know and Canadian children will benefit from knowing no one will be left behind.
The provinces and territories are already showing that collaborative work, and they have announced more than 50,000 new spaces since the first Canada-wide agreement was signed in British Columbia. The work continues. We have a goal, which is 250,000 new regulated early learning and child care spaces, supported by our federal investments, by March 2026.
The Conservatives asked why we are doing this. They said that we could cut cheques to people or give tax credits. Tax credits do not build spaces. Tax credits do not create a workforce. Federal investments, investing in our workforce, and investing children and families is what makes the difference.
The principles in Bill C-35 are creating the progress of that ultimate goal, which is a system that provides children in this country with access to affordable, inclusive, accessible and high quality early learning and child care no matter where they live, today but also for the future. It is for future generations, because this is a generational nation-building project that every family in this country is impacted by.
We are providing our children today, and in the future, in this country with the best possible start in life. This is not just about the big numbers we are talking about such as the $30 billion or the 250,000 spaces. It is about how we are supporting Canadians on an individual level, family by family, community by community, urban and rural, across this country and the direct benefit they are seeing. We have heard many of those stories tonight.
The real-world differences we are making with the system are impacting the lives of Canadians, particularly when it comes to rural communities and space creation.
For example, Nova Scotia has announced 1,500 spaces since signing its Canada-wide agreement, and more than half of them are in communities outside of Halifax.
In the town of Bridgewater on the South Shore, there are eight new infant spaces that will be made available this summer. Infant spaces are the hardest spaces to come by.
This summer in Hubbards, six new toddlers and preschoolers are being welcomed to the Through the Years Early Learning Centre, which is near the intersection of Lighthouse Road and Highway 3, for those who are from our Nova Scotian community.
In Lunenburg County, there are 16 new family homes with the Family Matters home child care agency, and eight new licensed spaces for infants will be available later this summer in the Lunenburg Day Care Centre.
Step by step, communities are stepping up, provinces are stepping up, and the federal government has stepped up for our children.
These new licensed spaces are making life easier for hard-working families across this country, particularly in our rural communities. Members do not have to take my word for it. They can ask Yvonne Smith, the CEO of the YMCA Southwest Nova Scotia, who said the expansion will “make a real difference for families in this community. There is a significant need for infant care in rural communities across Nova Scotia, including the South Shore.”
These spaces are already making a difference, and with more to come by 2026, more Nova Scotian families will soon see those benefits as well.
As we cross the country and hear more of these stories, I can share thoughts from Manitoba. Manitoba has seen more than 2,800 new spaces since it announced the signing of its agreements. Similar to Nova Scotia, Manitoba focused its efforts to support families where the need is the greatest. That is the whole point.
Here in the chamber, we have heard a lot of “Ottawa first” talk about how the federal government is directing this. No, the provinces are working collaboratively with us. They are identifying needs in their communities. Each province is unique, and they are facing these challenges head-on and working with us in partnership to make sure that we meet the needs of families and our children.
More than 1,600 new spaces, half of Manitoba's total thus far, have been announced under the province's innovative Ready-to-Move child care project. I was there for the announcement of the 1,700 spaces in rural communities. Multiple levels of government worked in partnership to provide land, do the build-out and provide services, including the indigenous first nation community of Peguis.
The point is that it is a collaborative effort of all levels of government and communities to make sure that these spaces are created over time. They are identifying them with us, and we are working together to build them, because new spaces do not get built overnight, they do not get built by tax credits and they do not get built by cutting cheques to millionaires. They get built by the will, by the work, by the planning that goes these systems to build an infrastructure province by province.
Families in first nations and rural communities have the greatest need, as we know, and they will be the first to benefit, just like the Peguis community, with these spaces all expected to be operational in Manitoba by the end of this year. We went decades without work being done to create spaces, and by the end of this year, 1,700 new spaces will be created in Manitoba.
Armand Poirier, the mayor of the Rural Municipality of Taché, put it like this, “The new child-care spaces in our rural municipality open up opportunities for our community members, enabling them to put their children in daycare close to home and fully participate in the workforce.”
We are building rural communities. People can work close to home and grow these rural communities into places they want to stay in and thrive in. There is added value in every level for families, children and the communities themselves, because these investments are supporting and strengthening our rural communities in Manitoba.
In B.C., the first province to sign, its ChildCareBC strategy is really the one to watch. Just last month, ground was broken on a new project in Invermere, the hub of the Columbia Valley, a project that will see a brand new child care facility built that will include 148 new licensed child care spaces, including 100 preschool spaces.
Investments like these are where we are going with this legislation, from Taché to Lunenburg. Every member of this House should be joining us in building that vision.