That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities that, during its consideration of Bill C-243, An Act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy and amending the Employment Insurance Act (maternity benefits), the Committee be granted the power to travel throughout Canada to hear testimony from interested parties and that the necessary staff do accompany the Committee, provided that the travel does not exceed five calendar days.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Sarnia—Lambton, a very hard-working member of the House. I appreciate her participation.
It is really important that we give Canadians an opportunity to be consulted. Since the Liberal government was elected, we have seen a lot of smoke and mirrors and heard a lot of announcements about consultation and a lot of plans and strategies have been laid out, but people are not listened to. We see that in the House and we also see it in our country.
Bill C-243 deals with maternal health. It also talks about listening to Canadian women who have chosen to have a baby and the challenges that they face. We have had two meetings so far, and the witnesses we heard from gave us a lot of important new information. We heard about the challenges that women face while pregnant. We also heard once from departmental officials, which is quite normal, and then in two following meetings we heard from other witnesses.
It is important that we expand that meeting to include travel. The motion that we are debating now is important.
What we heard from the officials was that the maternal health programs are not working. Women find themselves in need of that support, but they cannot apply for maternal health benefits until the actual delivery of their baby. Women told us that if they could fill out the forms ahead of time, it would greatly help them, but the government has said they have to wait, and this causes a delay.
The Liberal government, which is famous for delay, is okay with that, but Canadians are not happy. They want women and families to be protected, and if women qualify for these benefits, they should be able to get them without any delay, so it has been suggested that they be able to apply for those benefits before they deliver their baby.
The benefits would not take effect until the child was delivered. This would not cost the government anything. The government would face no additional costs. However, the benefits would be provided in a timely fashion to the mothers.
Many of the women that we heard from were new mothers who had gone through their first pregnancy, but we also heard from mothers who had gone through many pregnancies. One mother we heard from had gone through five pregnancies.
Women do not qualify for these maternity benefits unless they have been working. My wife and I have five children, and I asked the mom with five children if each of her pregnancies had been the same. She said no. We know all pregnancies can be different. The challenges and the expenses associated with a pregnancy can be different, so we need to be flexible with respect to the help we can provide.
We heard from many moms that finances are a barrier to many women considering having children. We heard from the trades, the welding trade in particular, that more women are needed in these trades, but because of the financial barriers, they are not considering that trade. Women in the welding trade told us that the first trimester is when the unborn child is at the highest risk, and in some cases, the women may not even be aware that they are pregnant.
We need to make sure that women are protected and that their unborn children are protected, and that will only happen if we give Canadian women the opportunity to testify at committee.
We also heard from the experts that if we do not make the workplace safe for women, and if we do not adapt and listen to them, then women will not be able to be engaged in these other vocations, which they are very capable of doing. We need to listen to Canadian women. This will only happen if we give Canadian women an opportunity to speak.
We also heard about some of the challenges Canadian women face especially in the last three months of a pregnancy. We heard that they have to buy a new car seat. We have five children and 10 grandchildren. When we had our children many years ago, there were not the associated costs that there are today. When we brought our first child home from the hospital, the hospital gave us a nice little cardboard box with decorations on it. That is not the case anymore. People have to buy a brand new car set, not a used one, because without knowing the history of the car seat, it may not be safe. Everybody has to buy a car seat. There are different types of car seats, and in very short order one goes from the snap-in, carriage-type of car seat to a rear-facing car seat. It is not just one car seat that is needed, because in very short order another type of car seat will be needed, as well as a stroller, a crib, and all the supplies. We heard from some Canadian women that maybe the child benefit should start in that last trimester.
We heard of women who needed physiotherapy in that last trimester because they were very uncomfortable. If they did not have insurance to cover the costs of that, it was a very expensive experience. There are women who have multiple children. One witness had five children and was unable to get full benefit of the maternity benefits.
If we are to truly help Canadian women who have decided to have a baby, we need to give them the opportunity to speak. The only way that can happen is by having them engage with the human resources committee, HUMA. Strangely, it was the self-proclaimed family-friendly cabinet that voted against Bill C-243. Fortunately, the bill is at HUMA and is proceeding because the majority of members in this Parliament supported Bill C-243. A number of the Liberal caucus members felt that it was a good bill and disagreed with the Prime Minister and thought that it should go to committee. It is at committee and is proceeding, which is what Canadian women want, and it will proceed for a very short period of time. Women should not be denied the opportunity to be involved with what the Liberals call conversation or dialogue, which will only happen if we make it available to them. We know the cabinet does not support it and does not want it to happen. However, I believe that a majority of the Liberal caucus members will support this, and will support giving Canadian women the opportunity to speak and educate us, because most of us do not know what it is like to be pregnant and to have a child. I was just an observer and supporter of my wife through those pregnancies. We need to listen and to be involved. We need to engage.
I think it is a good motion. It promotes true dialogue and true listening, which will only happen if we give Canadian women this opportunity by travelling to different cities. Often the west coast is ignored. I am from British Columbia. I encourage us to travel, to travel to Vancouver and its outlying areas, and from coast to coast to coast in Canada. We need to listen to Canadian women. If we listen and understand how we can help them, it will help Canadian women who are giving birth to have those opportunities and not have the financial barriers they have now. By listening to them, we can make it possible for them to have a wonderful pregnancy, and a wonderful time raising their children. In that first year after delivery, it is so important that the child experience the nurturing that can only come from having a parent there.
I hope the House will support this motion. I think it is a reasonable motion.