I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker.
In conversations I have had with the minister and from the research and work that has been done to determine how much it would cost to have a full scale quality national child care program, we have to be moving within 15 years. Stephen Lewis in Winnipeg said that over 10 years we should spend 1% of GDP. We need a commitment from the federal government for the sustainability of this program.
The NDP election platform, for example, in 2004 committed $1 billion in the first year, $1.25 billion in the second year, $1.4 billion in the third year and $1.6 billion in the fourth year, with significant increases in the fifth year. This was part of our plank to spend almost $5 billion by the end of a fifth year. In other words, the Liberal promises amount to $4 billion by the end of the fourth year while the NDP promises amount to $5.25 billion by the end of the fourth year. Even that is not enough, but it is a good start.
We also feel that there needs to be some vehicle in the legislation to hold the provinces accountable in order to ensure that in fact the money they get for child care is spent on child care and not simply used to replace money that they are spending which could mean no new spaces and no new programs.
The provinces and territories must spend this new money on child care and not, as in the past, claw it back or spend it in other areas. This requires the creation of an independent child care council, like the Romanow health council, to monitor, gather data and report to Canada's citizens.
Everyone in the House has heard me on a number of occasions ask the minister questions or raise in comments or speeches that this program, and if everyone looks at what has happened in Quebec they will understand, needs to be rooted in the not for profit system. No new money should go to the for profit system to develop new spaces.
We are not saying that we should shut down the already existing for profit system that is out there. These folks are working very hard under sometimes very trying circumstances with very little resources to provide a quality of child care that in each province differs. It has given us in fact the patchwork that is spoken of so often by the Child Care Advocacy Association. We are not saying that we need to get into a fight with those folks or threaten what they have been doing for a number years. As a matter of fact, we probably need to be sitting down and talking with that sector about how it can raise its quality.
We are concerned about the arrival or emergence in Canada of the big box multinational child care reality that we see in so many other parts of the world and to some small degree already exists in Canada. We run up a red flag where that is concerned because that will not get us the quality we want.
As a matter of fact, in jurisdictions where for profit has been allowed to run freely, we have seen in a short period of time the disappearance of the smaller for profit and not for profit sectors almost altogether. We want to ensure, coming out of the gate with this, that we are committed to a not for profit system that will give us the quality the research tells us is connected.
Distinguishing ourselves from the Liberals and certainly the Conservatives, New Democrats stand for public funding in a new child care plan going only to the not for profit sector. We support grandfathering the existing for profit sector to ensure it achieves quality standards in the interim period.
As a matter of fact, the member for Quebec spoke before me and we know that when Quebec began its child care program, which is now the envy of the rest of the country, it put a moratorium on any new for profit development so that the not for profit system could get its legs under it and develop in the way it knew it could given the money, support and the room that was necessary.
Our fight is with big box child care, for example, U.S. and Australian corporations that gobbled up neighbourhood, municipal and commercial operators, resulting in lower quality and fewer real choices for parents and families, including in remote, rural or northern communities. Eddy Groves, for example, a Canadian who owns the ABC Learning Centres in Australia, owns 20% or some 900 centres in that country. He has told Canadian media that our new national plan would be an excellent opportunity for him.
The Conservatives say the Alberta position will allow for flexibility and choice. Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Dr. Raj Pannu said yesterday that this is Tory-speak for protecting for profit day care and allowing more government subsidies to flow to private companies operating child care facilities. The previous Alberta NDP leader said:
The Tory position is about petty turf politics with Ottawa at the expense of children and families. But Albertans want cooperation between all levels of government on important programs like child care, not political posturing
We do not demonize the small for profit operators, many not making a profit, who would profit in not for profit. There was a case in Alberta at a for profit centre recently of a six month old baby with severe asthma problems locked and left at the end of a working day. It took the mom three hours to get to her baby. Yes, this is one incident, but it is part of a series of incidents. If we google child care on any given day, we will see the stories that are being written about what is happening out there primarily in the for profit sector across the world.
CUPE got a legal opinion of Canada's exposure to big box child care. It is clear that we have to be careful where we go in terms of NAFTA and what that could trigger in terms of what we might be able to do to control the quality and the kind of national child care program that we want.
I want to share with the House, in response to the resolution before the House here today, some of the challenges coming at us from primarily the Conservative Party and its supporters. I have travelled the country over the last six to seven months, and I have heard from people. I have been in Halifax, Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie, Winnipeg, Regina, Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster. There is a growing anticipation and expectation across the country that finally, after 20 or 30 years of really hard work, of almost getting there a couple of times, that we will this time get a national child care program.
The passion, the commitment and the expectation is tangible as we meet with these people and as they come to tell us about what they are doing, what they would like to do, and what the expectation is out there among the families and neighbours as they talk about child care. There is a sense of hope now, after years of promise by the Mulroney government in the eighties and the Liberal government in the nineties, that we will finally get a national child care program.
For example, I heard from Margie in Halifax, an administrator and director of a child care program who actually went out on strike with her workers in order to get better pay because she knew that when better pay is given to the workers in a child care facility, they give better quality service and they stay longer in the system.
I remember Sharon in Nova Scotia coming all the way from Cape Breton to talk to me about the need to be inclusive of children with disabilities. I remember a woman from the farm community in Saskatchewan coming to the meeting I had to tell me not to forget the farm communities and the farm families because they needed child care as much as anybody else.
Those stories go on across this country. They need to be heard, they need to be told, and they need to factored in to the government's decision making process where child care is concerned.
We must act and act soon. The answers lie not in vouchers or a child care tax deduction, but in a sustainable quality child care system enshrined in legislation that sees both levels of government accountable and public money spent on not for profit child care.
It is a choice time for our country to go with the best research we have, the best studies, to say yes to our children for today and tomorrow. Every one of us here can be architects of a truly national policy, a truly national system. We can build a society that makes the welfare of its younger members its top priority, and create a society that is welcoming of children and supportive of their growth and development.