Madam Speaker, it is wonderful to have the opportunity to once again speak to this bill.
I think I can sum it up with a question I was asked following the last time we spoke about this bill, at report stage. It was a question that came from a Liberal member. His question was very simple. He asked, “Why do Conservatives hate child care so much?” I was dumbfounded, because I really thought perhaps he missed my speech, although he was sitting in the chamber for it. I thought, “Oh my gosh, somehow there is an entire void here.”
I want to continue with all of the great work that my colleague from Battlefords—Lloydminster talked about, because she is on the front lines of this, not only being a member of the HUMA committee, but also being a mother, just like so many other individuals here who have young children and who need care for their children.
Yesterday I was reading the Oxfam report, which looks at care in Canada. I wanted to look at both unpaid care and paid care. One of the biggest things it talked about was that, yes, we have this new child care program and all of the benefits, but the problem is that at the end of the day, we are losing people in this sector. I remember this is exactly what the member for Peterborough—Kawartha talked about. The fact is that we cannot retain people in this sector for a good length of time.
I talked about seeing $22 an hour in Langley, B.C., just five years ago. That is not keeping people in this sector. Let us be honest. The cost of living is making it so that the people who have chosen to do these jobs, which at one time may have seemed lower income, are not being respected for their great work, and now they cannot afford to do something that they are passionate about and love to do.
What I want to do today is read some articles into the record, because the member for Peterborough—Kawartha said that every single day, we are seeing a brand new article on this from the media. What I did when I was thinking about this speech is I popped “child care in Canada” into a search, and it populated all of these stories. It does not matter what part of the country we are from, whether it is Nunavut, for which I will have a media mention, or other parts of the country. They are all talking about the same things: child care spots and labour. Sometimes the labour issues create the spot issues and vice versa.
When the government came forward with the bill, I recall the minister saying that they wanted to enshrine this in legislation because of the Conservatives. We know it was all about political intentions; it really was not to do with children. It is because of those political intentions that they wanted to enshrine it into law, but they did not take the time to do the work.
A lot of the time when we are playing political games, we do not look at the consequences of our mistakes, so when we try to move amendments in committee, we are too busy trying to play partisan games. Then simple things like a labour force strategy are denied because of the individual who has put it forward. It is really common in the House that if we do not like the individual who sponsors something, we are not going to support it. That is what we see in the House of Commons.
As I indicated, I have a number of articles that I would like to read, because this is exactly what we talked about. These articles were not written by Conservatives. They were written by journalists, people who are going around and reporting on what is happening in Canada. Looking at where some of the articles are coming from, these are not Conservative journalists but people who are looking on the ground and addressing these issues.
The first article I want to bring forward was published on May 8 and written by Natasha O'Neill, a writer with CTV. I will read it into the record:
A new report details a lack of child-care spaces is at a crisis level in Canada and why it has worsened.
The report, published in April 2023 by the non-profit Childcare Resources and Research Unit, shows just one spot in a child-care setting was available for 29 per cent of children who need it.
Holy schnikes, that is just horrific. That is one spot for 29% of children.
“I think one of the things that's driving the shortage of licensed spaces is that child care has been in the news a lot.” Morna Ballantyne, who is an advocate, said that. Anyone who has been working on this can talk to her. She has talked about the fact that, yes, there is a huge demand, but what we see is that the demand is not keeping up with what the government has put in place.
Why are the Conservatives supporting this bill? As we said, we are supporting it because it is about child care. However, we have seen this being used as a political wedge each and every time.
That is why all I have ever heard is that Conservatives are voting against this. I am not voting against children. I am voting for families. I am voting for women so that they can go to work, members of the families can go to work and men can go to work. Everybody in that family unit can ensure that their child has a place. Many times, I speak as a women's advocate. I think it is because, at 8:59 a.m., when a person is trying to get off the road to go into work and their child is sick and they need to find that last minute child care, because they are trying to balance getting to work and having that job and keeping their children safe and cared for, who are they going to call? I say thanks to my mom, by the way, for all those times. She is always available for those 8:59 phone call moments.
As I indicated, Ballantyne had said that the crisis is not new. She said, “Particularly getting access to licensed child care [is a problem].... Governments for decades now have essentially relied on individuals, organizations, whether they be for profit or not for profit, to set up child-care centres.”
That is the reality of it. I think we have to ask why they do that. That is because we are in Canada. We cannot look at this incredible nation we have from coast to coast and not look at the diversity, the diversity of communities and population.
I spoke to my friend from Saskatoon. To get from one edge of his riding to the other is 20 minutes. I can say that, for some people who are in Toronto, that might be five minutes, maybe walking, definitely not by car. That would be 20.
In some of our ridings, it is eight hours from door to door, to get from one end to the other. To put that into perspective, we can think about what that looks like when it comes to populations in child care and how one can find something that is going to be successful.
That is why families, businesses and many women have come up with business plans and business models, so that they can support their community. It does not have to look like this or that, but they are filling in that gap. That is why we are cautiously supporting this. We know that there are still gaps, and these gaps have to be filled by other things.
I want to turn to another piece, because I found this one to be really interesting. This was written by Mike Crawley on CBC. It was posted on March 14, 2023, and it gives the following subheading: “Average ECE leaves sector after 3 years [indicates the] regulator”. According to this article: “Becoming a registered ECE,” which is an early childhood educator, “requires at least two years of post-secondary education, with training in child development. However, compensation has lagged behind that of other sectors that also require a post-secondary diploma because the work of child care is not valued, according to advocates. ‘We are not babysitters,’ said Maxine Chodorowicz, a registered ECE and supervisor of child care at the West End YMCA in Toronto.”
I worked on a child care board back in the nineties and early 2000s. I think this goes back to the fact that, at one time, we saw people who were ECEs making rates that, at $15 and $16, although low, could still pay the bills. Now, we are talking about the costs of mortgages, interest rates and everything else, as well as the cost of living and carbon tax. When we add all these things together, that $16 an hour may have been okay at one time; now, it is so far from it. That $22 an hour in Langley, B.C., does not cut it anymore.
After eight years under the government, life has gotten so unfriendly to Canadian families, because the cost of living just continues to explode. It does not matter if we are buying something at the grocery store or anything that we touch. There has been a huge increase in cost because of the Liberal government and its horrific policies, which continue to affect Canadians.
I want to say one last thing; this was also something that I found in the newspaper. It is a headline that says, “Ontario could be short 8,500 ECEs [by 2026]”.
We have a problem here. If we do not have a labour strategy, if we are not going to figure out how we are going to do this together, we are not going to impact the children's lives that the government is trying to impact. We are not going to make it easier for families.
I want to say we can do better. Let us start listening and working together.