Mr. Speaker, as a new Canadian, an immigrant like so many people in my riding of Trinity—Spadina, I am proud to stand in this chamber where so many great Canadians have served.
I was inspired by this House back in 1989 when every member of every party rose to support a motion by Ed Broadbent of the NDP. That motion was a pledge by Parliament to make child poverty history. Seventeen years after that promise, I stand here on behalf of all the children and youth who live in poverty today in Trinity—Spadina. I am here because since 1989, one Conservative government and four Liberal governments have failed to act on child poverty and have failed to act on a whole host of issues so important to our future generations.
People in my riding of Trinity—Spadina are very engaged in the political process and have high expectations. They voted on January 23 with hope that we would all act together here to get results. They are listening closely. They want this Parliament to work and the government to act.
People in Chinatown in my riding have been listening to the Prime Minister's promise of an apology and redress for the Chinese head tax and exclusion act. They are listening now for news of swift action for the now very elderly head tax payers. We are listening for this news before another Canada Day has passed, because July 1, 1923 was when the Chinese exclusion act became a law, a dark day for Canada. Let us now right this historic wrong. In Canada, Chinese Canadians deserve no less.
Swift action should be a signal of hope for many other immigrants and ethnic communities in my riding, Portuguese, Italians, eastern Europeans, Koreans, Vietnamese, South Asians and people from the Caribbean. For years we have expressed concerns about the immigration and refugee system which was neglected by four different Liberal immigration ministers and is deeply flawed. We see families struggling to be reunited and families with undocumented workers being ripped apart, workers who are badly needed in our riding and our city.
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has been listening respectfully to these concerns, but we need to see action. We need an overhaul of the immigration system. We need a plan for regularization of undocumented workers. The people of Trinity—Spadina deserve no less.
People who live and work on our waterfront have been listening very closely for a clear commitment to close down the rogue federal port authority, freeze the expansion of the Toronto Island airport and proceed with revitalization of a vibrant waterfront. We have heard some words of encouragement from the Minister of Transport and now from the President of the Treasury Board. We are listening for a specific commitment and a plan. The people of our riding and of our city deserve no less.
With the University of Toronto, the Ontario College of Art and Design, George Brown College, and Ryerson business faculty all in my riding, thousands of students are listening very closely to hear real commitment to post-secondary education, a real commitment to students and to the future. They deserve no less.
People across our riding from the most affluent to the poorest neighbourhoods are listening to the wheezing and coughing of our children and our elderly parents on smog days in downtown Toronto. Last year there were 62 smog days. We listened to the throne speech which pledged a reduction in pollution and greenhouse gases. We heard the Minister of the Environment affirm this promise. Now we are listening for word of effective action. The people deserve no less.
Working families across Trinity—Spadina are listening with growing concerns for some hope on child care. They have been waiting for a long time for some signs that the federal government actually understands the need for child care spaces and quality programs, not slogans about choice where no choice is offered. This is a great concern in my riding where three out of four mothers are in the workforce, where child care centres have long, long waiting lists, where too few children have access to affordable, high quality, non-profit child care.
The people in my riding are listening. Mr. Speaker, while you can allow ministers and members to speak, you cannot instruct the government to listen. If you could, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to instruct the government to listen to the community leaders and the mayors of Canada's municipalities who are trying to proceed with a child care program in the face of budget cuts. They should listen to the first nations, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, because they understand the impact of child care on breaking the cycle of poverty. They are crying out for child care spaces as 40% of aboriginal children live in poverty in this country.
The government should also listen to the provinces. Recently Nova Scotia's new Conservative Premier Rodney MacDonald added his voice to those of the premiers from Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec. They are all calling on the Prime Minister to deliver on child care spaces and funding for child care programs.
The government should listen to the economists, the human resource professionals and corporate leaders who can point to the economic advantages of publicly funded child care. There are examples such as Norway which show that there is a clear link between public child care and high productivity in the workforce. Public child care reaps economic rewards and creates new taxpayers.
Finally, the government should listen to the children. Think of the responsibility of every government to all its citizens, including the most vulnerable, including those who have no vote and no choice.
Parents struggling to make ends meet have heard the pledge of $1,200 per child under six and that has raised some hope, but they are listening for the catch 22. As it stands, the $1,200 allowance would be subject to taxes and benefit clawbacks, to the point that a working couple earning $30,000 a year in Ontario would see only $199 of that $1,200, according to the Caledon Institute. They would lose the balance of it to taxes, benefits and credit reductions.
The choice in child care allowance would therefore amount to only 55¢ a day for that working couple. Fifty-five cents is not even enough to buy one diaper, let alone provide child care. Even worse, some families living in poverty, the poorest families who are on social assistance, may not get a penny of this because there is no guarantee that the provincial government would not claw back every penny of this $1,200 family allowance.
We can do better. We must do better. The children of Canada deserve no less. The children of this country deserve so much more.
We can and we must do better. The children of Canada deserve so much more.
Our party will work with others in this Parliament to achieve multi-year funding to ensure that publicly operated child care programs are sustainable for the long term. Our party will work with others in this Parliament to protect child care by enshrining it in legislation with a national child care act to be a cornerstone of Canada like the Canada Health Act. Our party will worth with others in this Parliament to help end child poverty through ensuring families receive every penny of that $1,200 family allowance without taxes or clawbacks. That would be achieved by delivering the $1,200 through the child tax benefit.
We have an extraordinary opportunity to make this minority Parliament work. Let us start by reaching across the aisle and across party lines to make choice in child care more than a slogan, but a reality for today's children and for future generations.