Madam Speaker, what a pleasure it is to rise and talk about substantive legislation that would have a profound impact, not only for today but also for future generations.
I think we would have to go back quite a way to find a government that has been so progressive in providing advancements in a wide spectrum of areas to support Canadians. I often hear, whether from the Prime Minister or one my colleagues, that the issue for us is that we want to see an economy that actually works for all Canadians. We often talk about Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be part of it, and how we could develop policies and initiatives, and take the budgetary measures to advance that. That is what Canadians expect.
Through the last number of years, we have heard the Conservatives focusing on other things, outside of what is important to Canadians. Today is a good example. We see a government that is listening to what Canadians are saying and delivering on that in a very tangible way. For example, an hour or so ago, we were talking about Bill C-22. It is historic legislation. For the very first time, we are saying that Canadians with disabilities need to have support that would ensure that there would be fewer people with disabilities living in poverty. This would be as a direct result of Bill C-22, a wonderful, progressive piece of legislation.
Now, we are talking about Bill C-35. In many ways, Bill C-35 would have such a positive impact, no matter where, what region, in Canada one looks at. Getting these agreements is not necessarily an easy task. The current minister has reached out and contacted provincial and territorial stakeholders, not to mention, as she made reference to in response to a question, numerous advocates. In a very humble but accurate way, the minister acknowledged the input of those advocates who have been working, trying for years to put in place what Bill C-35 would do.
In some of those years, we have experienced a great deal of frustration. I have talked about the Conservative hidden agenda. Let me tell the House why there is a Conservative hidden agenda and why Bill C-35 is so critically important. Members across the way might recall the Stephen Harper days.
I would not say “hear, hear” to that.
With respect to child care, the first action former prime minister Harper took was to get rid of child care agreements, 15 years or so ago.
I want members to imagine, if they will, what would have happened had Stephen Harper and the Conservative government at the time recognized the real value of what Paul Martin, Ken Dryden and the Liberal government had put into place. It was a substantial, extensive program. I know that Ken Dryden, in particular, put so much effort into it in terms of working with some of the advocates the current minister has no doubt had to deal with. That plan was put into place, approved and signed off, and provinces were onside. Then the Conservative government, led by Stephen Harper, cancelled it outright, on day one. What was the cost of that policy decision?
A couple of years ago, after we made many other initiatives that have been really important to Canadians, we took the bold step to bring this thing back in a very real and tangible way. Once again, we have a national minister recognizing that there is a role for the federal government to ensure that we have child care from coast to coast to coast.
All one really needs to do is to take a look at what is happening in the province of Quebec. Quebec has had this model for many years, and we see the benefits to Quebec society as a direct result in terms of things that have been achieved, whether it is women engaging in the workforce far more than in any other jurisdiction, from what I understand, in North America, to providing an improved, quality standard of child care to ensuring that there are more equal opportunities, not to mention how the economy benefited by it.
We understood this many years ago, and now we are forwarding it. However, it is because of the goodwill and support from Canadians from coast to coast to coast that we were able to work it out with the many different stakeholders, in particular, the provinces and territories. I believe Ontario was the last one to sign on board back in March 2022. By Doug Ford's signature, we had a true, national, coast to coast, child care program, and that is something we should all be very proud of.
As a Liberal caucus and as a team, we understood the benefits of the program, and it is an issue we promoted. In fact, as my colleagues will recall, we only need to take a look at the last federal election. We had 337, 338 candidates going door to door talking about the importance of child care, and that if we were re-elected into government, we would materialize a child care program.
The Conservatives, on the other hand, said that they would tear it up, that they did not believe in what we were doing. So, when a Conservative member stands up and says “Well, we're voting for the legislation”, I encourage members to read some of the speeches that were given by Conservatives. Look at what they did on the first run. This is why we need the legislation. We do not want a potential Conservative cabinet 15 years from now making the decision to get rid of the program. We want this program to be there for future generations, because by making that sort of commitment, we know that society here in Canada will benefit greatly.
We cannot trust the Conservative Party, quite frankly. It has demonstrated that time and time again when its members talk about progressive policies for the betterment of Canadians, and I do not say that lightly. I actually sat in the chamber and listened to many of the Conservative MPs speak on this legislation, and I could not tell how they were going to vote. I think someone put their finger up in the air and felt the political wind and thought, “Oh, jeez, it might be tough for us to vote against this, so let's support it.”
Some might use the word “delusional”, but I would suggest, after 30 years of being in Parliament and watching the Conservatives at play, that it is more of a reality issue. I would suggest to members that the Conservatives actually recognize the true value of this program. They should be bold and go against their own leadership if need be and make some of the statements that are really important in recognizing the value of this program. They will say that, yes, they want to give more child care dollars to a certain degree, but they are not talking about the same sort of child care program that we are talking about.
What does this program do? It provides $10-a-day day care, which is life-changing. It is going to enable so many people the opportunity to afford, for the first time, child care services and the educational program that goes along with it.
I was really encouraged, and I think it was back in September, when the Prime Minister came to Winnipeg North and we went to Stanley Knowles School and visited the child care facility. We could see relief in the faces of the individuals who are recipients of what we are talking about today. It was relief, joy or just appreciation that there is finally a government trying to do the things that are important to citizens.
Winnipeg North is not the only riding the Prime Minister has visited. As he has gone through the country, he has attended town halls in other constituencies and has spoken to parents and been there with the children. I always enjoy the playful attitude the Prime Minister has toward the children of Canada because it is so genuine.
We have a Prime Minister who is committed not only to providing $10-a-day day care but who understands the needs of our young people. He is there to talk, answer questions and listen. As a result, whether it is him, the Minister of Families or my caucus colleagues, they take a look at the issues that come up in our constituencies and bring those issues to Ottawa so we can develop the budgets and the legislation necessary and that is going to make a difference in the lives of Canadians.
What are the issues today we often hear about? Inflation has to be one of them. I feel a great deal of empathy and sympathy for what Canadians need to overcome as a direct result of inflation, even though Canada is doing quite well on inflation compared to the U.S. and many of the European countries, our allied countries, and so many others. This is not to mention other economic indicators. It does not take away from the fact that as a government we still need to do what we can to help Canadians at a time of need.
With this program, we are talking about hundreds if not thousands of dollars every year that are going to be left in the pockets and purses of Canadians from coast to coast to coast as a direct result. That is action. That is going to make a difference in a very real and tangible way.
On other actions to support our children, remember the dental program. The Conservatives actually voted against this particular program. As we implemented the dental program, the first thing on the agenda was children under the age of 12. We do not want to recognize, by their smile, a child who is not able to get the dental work they require. Far too often children are going to hospitals to get dental work because their mom, dad or guardian do not have the financial resources, for some reason or another, to bring that child to a dentist.
Again, through this program, we are seeing literally dollars going into the pockets of families to assist children in being able to get the type of dental services that are necessary.
I started off by talking about national programs. I talked about the historic program of disabilities. Then I talked about children. Now I am making reference to dental work. I would challenge any member of this House to demonstrate any government before this government that has developed and put into place programs to support Canadians. It has been a wide spectrum of programs and I want to spend just a bit of time to emphasize that. It clearly shows why Bill C-35 is a part of a larger plan that is very comprehensive and shows Canadians that, whether it is a legislative measure or a budgetary measure, this is a government that has the backs of Canadians in a very real and tangible way. We have a government that has now negotiated, for example, an incredible $200-billion plan to ensure that future generations of Canadians are going to have a health care system that is based on the Canada Health Act.
We have a government that, within the first couple of years, understood the importance of retirement and worked with all the provinces, as it has done with the three programs I have just mentioned, and had CPP addressed, which is something that Stephen Harper completely ignored and said that he would not do. Before he was the leader of the Conservative Party, he advocated getting rid of the CPP. We as a government worked with the different provinces and stakeholders, including small business and labour groups and were able to get the agreement on CPP.
I say this because, like Bill C-35, these are initiatives that really make a difference in the lives of Canadians. That is why I am encouraging members opposite to change their attitudes toward the way in which government spends its money. Let me give a specific example by using Bill C-35.
The Conservatives have this mindset: If they spend a dollar, it is a bad thing if it is government dollars. It is cut, cut, cut. One day, I even had one of the members suggest that we could always cut money from military defence. I can say that when the government invests in programs, more often than not we get a pretty decent return. For example, yes, the child care program is going to cost a lot of money; there is no doubt about it. However, if we recognize the value of that investment and start acknowledging some of the benefits, we quickly find out that it is not costing as much as one might think.
For example, specifically as a direct result of Bill C-35 and the budgetary measures by this government, there is no doubt that we will see an increase in the workforce. We are going to see more, in particular, women participating in the economy. As a direct result of that, when more women are participating in the economy, more taxes are generated. When members say that there is a cost for child care, there is a cost benefit that also needs to be factored in. That is not to mention the other benefits that I have already cited: to the community, to the family unit and to the child receiving that quality child care.
In conclusion, I would encourage members to realize the benefits of not only saying they are voting for this particular legislation, but I am going to be looking to see the Facebook and social media commentaries coming from the Conservative Party, saying how wonderful this program is, and be—