Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to elaborate on an important issue raised by my hon. colleague, the member for Sault Ste. Marie, concerning agreements in principle reached with provinces and territories for early learning and child care.
Just recently, the Minister of Social Development signed agreements in principle with his counterparts in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, as the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie mentioned, as well as Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, to support the development of quality early learning and child care in these provinces.
These agreements represent a clear commitment on the part of governments to build something significant, to build a system of early learning and child care in each province that children and their families can benefit from. We are using these agreements as models and we are hopeful that we can reach agreements with all provinces and territories in the days and weeks ahead.
As my colleague can see, every agreement in principle reflects our common commitment to a national vision and national principles and objectives for early childhood learning and child care. The agreements also incorporate the priorities and specific objectives of each province and territory. This will allow them to design and deliver programs and services that best respond to the needs and circumstances of the children, an area that comes under their jurisdiction.
Manitoba and Saskatchewan have longstanding policies of promoting non-profit child care and this is reflected in their agreements in principle, but provincial and territorial governments all have different systems and different priorities. As my hon. colleague knows, many of them rely on a mix of profit and non-profit regulated services. Under the agreements in principle we are putting in place, they will retain the flexibility to invest as they see fit to enhance early learning and child care in their jurisdictions.
However, if I may step back for a moment, I believe it is important that I quickly review what is meant by non-profit and profit child care in order to clarify this issue.
Non-profit early learning and child care services are incorporated under provincial or territorial legislation. Like other organizations in the social economy, they either generate no surplus or invest any surplus funds back into the program. Public child care services operated by municipal or provincial governments, hospitals or educational institutions are generally considered to be part of the non-profit sector.
For profit early learning and child care services can include child care centres and regulated home child care agencies. Child care services can be operated by an individual, a partnership or a corporation incorporated under provincial or territorial legislation.
As I have mentioned, right now Canada's mix of supports and services for early learning and child care includes both non-profit and for profit.
The non-profit sector made up 77% of all child care places in Canada in 2001, the last year for which national data are available. The highest proportion of for profit child care services was in Newfoundland with 64% and Alberta with 56%.
Government funding policies on for profit child care services vary from one province and territory to the next. Some provinces, such as Manitoba and Saskatchewan, limit funding to the non-profit sector and the percentage of child care spots in the for profit sector is very low at 8% and 1% respectively.
Other provinces, such as Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta also fund both sectors and a relatively high proportion of child care places is provided by the for profit sectors.
Working together with our provincial and territorial partners, the government is confident that we can ensure its investments provide high quality--and those are the key words--early learning and child care programs and services that meet the needs of children and their families across Canada.