August 27, 1987

NDP

Nelson Andrew Riis (N.D.P. House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Riis:

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my caucus, the New Democrats, we are certainly prepared to meet as quickly as possible with the other House Leaders to examine the legislation. As the House Leader for the Liberals just indicated, we received a draft copy of the Bill a few minutes ago and it is being considered now. We will study and examine the legislation and look forward to meeting with the House Leaders as soon as possible.

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LIB

Philip Derek Lewis

Liberal

Mr. Lewis:

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Government, we are ready to meet as soon as my colleagues have had an opportunity to examine the Bill to decide whether or not we can go forward at three o'clock. I would hope in the interests of moving ahead quickly that we can proceed at three o'clock.

I am ready to discuss the matter with them at any time.

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PC

John Allen Fraser (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

Under the circumstances, it would be appropriate for the House to give the Chair consent, on the basis that there be unanimous consent that debate will proceed later this day. 1 make it very clear that that is on the basis of unanimous consent.

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LIB

Jean-Robert Gauthier (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal

Mr. Gauthier:

Mr. Speaker, we are dealing here with an important matter and it is essential that we have goodwill on all sides of the House. The House Leaders can meet. I do not think unanimous consent has to be given, and I think we will proceed in due course. We have to have some faith in the

process and give the people here in the House some understanding. 1 do not see the need for unanimous consent to do what we have proposed to do. I really do not understand what we are doing here.

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PC

John Allen Fraser (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

I appreciate the intervention of the Hon. Member for Ottawa-Vanier (Mr. Gauthier). The position of the Chair was to make it very clear to both the Official Opposition and the New Democratic Party that, because there will be some discussions aimed at bringing on this matter later today, the Chair feels that that is what will happen, on the assumption, of course, that there is unanimous agreement as a consequence of these discussions. That was the only point I was trying to make. I did not want to put the Opposition in a position of being automatically caught up in a debate later today because the Chair received the unanimous consent of the House. That debate will take place if the Government and the two Opposition Parties can agree as to the terms. I think that is the understanding the Chair was trying to get across. Is that agreed?

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?

Some Hon. Members:

Agreed.

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SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATES (B), 1987-88 REFERENCE TO STANDING COMMITTEE

PC

Robert René de Cotret (Minister of Regional Industrial Expansion; Minister of State for Science and Technology)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Robert de Cotret (President of the Treasury Board):

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 83, I move, seconded by the Hon. Minister of Regional Industrial Expansion and Minister of State for Science and Technology (Mr. Cote):

That Supplementary Estimates (B) for the fiscal year ending March 31,

1988, laid upon the Table earlier this day, be referred to the Standing

Committee on Regional Industrial Expansion.

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Motion agreed to.


CHILD CARE

NDP

Margaret Anne Mitchell

New Democratic Party

Ms. Margaret Mitchell (Vancouver East):

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Hon. Member for Cowichan- Malahat-The Islands (Mr. Manly):

That the final report of the Special Committee on Child Care presented to

the House on Monday, March 30, 1987 be concurred in.

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PC

John Allen Fraser (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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?

Some Hon. Members:

Agreed.

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NDP

Margaret Anne Mitchell

New Democratic Party

Ms. Mitchell:

Mr. Speaker, last March, following the tabling of the report from the Special Committee on Child

August 27, 1987

Care, 1 submitted a request on behalf of the New Democratic Party for a motion of concurrence to the House. This was for the purpose of discussing the proposed report and its recommendations, along with our own minority report which we feel provided a very much better alternative for Canadians who urgently require child care. We have waited and waited for a government response.

We hoped that there would be a substantive response by the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Epp) to the special committee majority report, the report of the Conservatives, but the Minister has not even had the courtesy to respond to the majority report of his own Members who were on that committee.

As I said yesterday in a question to the Minister, we feel that that is quite appalling, and it is an indication that the Government does not put a high priority on child care, together with the many delays that have taken place. I refer, of course, to the June 30 deadline when the Minister was supposed to have tabled the government response. Following that he asked for a further extension. Then by the back door- it was not even tabled in the House-we had a Dear Shirley letter two weeks ago which went to the Clerk of the House. We eventually got a copy of it but that letter really said nothing at all as to what was the Government's intent. It referred to certain strategies but did not indicate what those strategies would be. It did not even begin to spell out the Government's objectives for a national program for child care.

Yesterday I raised this matter again in the House. The Minister disagreed with my challenge that this was a lack of intention by the Government to take child care seriously and give it priority. But he has not come forward with any proposals, and he has told the provinces that there will be further delays. Why are there these delays, Mr. Speaker? What is the necessity to wait for so long? Why have we not had child care objectives tabled in this House so that the Parliament of Canada, particularly those of us who travelled across the country and heard so many witnesses, could respond to what is needed in the way of a real child care policy for the first time in the history of Canada?

One can speculate why there are the delays. It is very evident there has not been agreement in Cabinet. It is evident that there is a difference of opinion between the Minister of National Health and Welfare who hopefully advocates a very comprehensive child care system that is affordable, quality and available in all communities, and his colleague, the Minister of Finance (Mr. Wilson), who undoubtedly does not want to put any money forward to proceed with the commitment made repeatedly by the Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney).

We see this as another broken promise. Words are not enough. Prior to the last election campaign the Prime Minister made a major commitment on child care to women's groups, as

Motions

did the Leaders of all Parties. He has repeated this promise, and in fact has said several times that he will see that the Conservative Government commits substantial funding to the development of a national child care program, and he has used the term "national child care program".

We have not heard from the Minister responsible for the status of women who should surely be an advocate of child care. When we challenged her on this many months ago, she said that we do not need to throw money at this problem, we want to know what the needs are. The Special Committee on Child Care spent a year and a half working, listening and documenting these needs and doing considerable research into them. Daycare advocacy groups from across the country, groups with a great deal of expertise, provided considerable information to the committee. We know what is needed. We need action that will provide a comprehensive national child care program in co-operation with the provinces.

I believe the Meech Lake Accord has made us much more aware of how important it is that the federal Government spell out national objectives for a child care program. This is the first social program that will be administered under the new Accord, and that Accord provides that the federal Government establish the national objectives and that if the provinces do not go along with direct funding for a program, they must at least have something in place that is comparable.

We believe it is very important that we debate these national objectives right now. We have also said repeatedly, long before the latest committee hearings, that the Government should put at least $320 million into child care services so that the present crisis can be dealt with, so that existing child care centres can be stabilized, so that fees can be reduced a bit making it affordable and so that trained child care workers can, for the first time in history, receive the decent wage which they certainly deserve.

We would also like to see a community initiative and a child care development fund. This is something the committee advocated, something that would provide new initiatives and would respond to special initiatives.

We know that it will take time to negotiate cost-sharing arrangements with the provinces. It is particularly important the the poorer provinces and the northern regions use a different cost-sharing formula.

Members of the New Democratic Party have advocated that the two levels of Government should share the cost of child care fifty-fifty in the next few years and that parents' fees should be 50 per cent. We realize that Provinces like Newfoundland are just getting started in this field, as are northern regions and particularly the territories. It is important that the federal Government put in more than its 25 per cent in those regions. We advocated a formula of 40 per cent and 10 per cent, so that there will be variable cost sharing.

August 27, 1987

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The problem would really not be that difficult if the federal Government would accept the fact that it must take a leadership role. We do not want a child care program that is geared to the lowest minimum standard. If the Government continues the approach it has been taking with the provincial Ministers and tells them to decide what the national program should be, we will have a program of the lowest common denominator. The provinces will cut back on services that are essentially needed and that should be expanded and made affordable.

I know that people are concerned about the costs of child care and we want to take a look at that. The Conservative members of the Special Committee on Child Care made a pretty generous recommendation. They recommended that $700 million be made available initially for a child care program, but their child care program was not just a program. Most of that money would go to tax incentives and a very token allowance of something like $200 a year for a parent who would wish to remain in the home. That will not give a parent who wants to remain at home and do his or her own parenting any real choice.

That proposal also called for additional deductions in the form of tax credits for the cost of child care, but the problem is that it will not give parents any choice. If the services are not funded and if they are not of quality, accessible and flexible, there will be no real choice. The money Conservative Members of the committee would allocate would go primarily to informal kinds of child care that may be good in some cases but in other cases may be very unreliable and even damaging to children.

We do not agree that $700 million should be spent primarily on tax incentives. We have recommended not $700 million but $320 million. I would like my Conservative colleagues to take note of that because they are always saying that the NDP are the big spenders. We want the money to be invested directly into quality child care services. Making $320 million available to the provinces as quickly as possible would stabilize the present system, would help bring wages up and fees down and would also create 25,000 new spaces. It would mean that for the first time, children in certain regions would have available to them trained care-givers and licensed child care services. In areas where there are already developments, these would be improved and there would be quality non-profit services.

The Conservative Members of the committee would end capital funding for day care by 1990 so that there really would not be any incentive for expanding spaces. Yet under the recommendation made by Conservative Members of the committee, $1 billion would go to tax measures alone by 1992. This would go primarily to informal child care services. We feel that that would be money misspent.

Under our proposal, $600 million would be available by 1992 as opposed to $1 billion. It would be made available for quality, licensed, non-profit child care services that are flexible and adaptable to the needs of parents and developed at the grassroots level in local communities.

What then should be the long-term goal? Child care policy is really family policy and we desperately need family policy at the national level. We think that this policy should look not only at short and mid-term developments but should have a long-range goal. If we feel children are important, and I am sure we all do, we must plan for the real world in which we live today.

We know that the majority of women in the workplace who have young children need child care and we also know that that situation will not change. We know that the number of single-parent families usually headed by mothers is on the increase. These mothers desperately need reliable child care or they will have no choices at all and will remain on welfare for a good part of their lives if not forever.

It is vital that we plan now for child care and that the federal Government play a leadership role. It is vital that we have a national objective for child care that is clearly spelled out. Of course, the provinces have to develop standards. That is in their jurisdiction. We are talking about the broad principles as outlined in the Canada Health Act.

Let me take a moment to stress what we would like to see in the way of national objectives. A federal program should be comprehensive. Funding should go to encourage a broad range of services, including those for infants in some cases, family daycare homes, group care, and also support services for parents who are not in the workforce part-time. The federal Government must insist on quality. All services must be licensed and regulated. We found in the Northwest Territories, for example, that there was no licensing. I think they are bringing it in now; I certainly hope so. My colleague from the Yukon will agree that there, where we have an NDP Government, they were making strides, despite the desperate economic situation, to put territorial funding into good quality day care services.

Another principle is that services must be affordable. Cost must not be a barrier to access. We can do this initially by having a sliding scale fee system. It is hoped in the long term we will have a child care program as accessible as our health and education services. As in Scandinavian and many European countries, we see this as a very important service for families that should not be left to chance but planned with considerable government input.

Another principle is that services should be accessible. That is not compulsory, but accessible. There must be an appropriate service in rural communities. Native communities must be able to develop their own services and train their own care givers and do it in a way which reflects a good degree of cultural content.

Flexibility is another principle. Services must be adapted so that they meet the needs of working parents. We found timing was very important and that care has to be available for parents who were on shift work, for example. Most important,

August 27, 1987

and this ties in with quality, federal government shared funding should go to non-profit services. Research was done for the special committee which proved that the non-profit services were of a much higher quality than commercial services. We are not saying that profit-making services should not exist. We are saying that federal funding should go to nonprofit services because they are of a higher quality and are not skimming off money for profits. The money goes directly to paying the wages of care-givers and usually at a much better rate than profit-making centres.

Then we have the question of accountability. There must be regular monitoring and provincial standards spelled out-we hope the standards are high, not the minimum-along with financial accountability. We want to see parents very much involved in the related boards and committees so that they and the local communities have a real say in what is going to be suitable for them.

There are many other things I could deal with. We heard today that the provinces are very anxious about this, as are we. Manitoba and Ontario have their contributions ready to go and are just waiting to start on a good program. As I said before, and 1 cannot stress this enough, we must have national objectives. It does not cost one cent for the Minister to stand in this House and tell us what the federal government policy is on child care. What are the federal national objectives for child care? It is most important, yet he does not really seem to feel that this is necessary.

Another thing that we feel is very important, and we hope he would be working on it, is legislation. I think all Parties recommended through the special committee that there should be special child care legislation which would spell out the policy objectives of a national program. We would outline a financing formula and provide for a national secretariat. Everyone on the committee agreed that that was needed. There would also be a special fund for new initiatives and training of child care workers. We need the legislation. I hope all Parties will work together to ask the Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney) to make sure that before this session ends we have tabled for debate the objectives of a national program.

As well, there should be some up front money based on the existing system in the provinces, if necessary. 1 guess it would be necessary if they do not have programs developed in certain provinces. However, we would like to see that $320 million up front and made available now so we do not have to delay any longer. We could get on with stabilizing the present situation at least.

I appeal to all Parties to support us in this endeavour. Let us get on with something for Canada's children. Fall is coming and parents are going to be in urgent need of good quality, licensed child care.

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PC

Andrée Champagne (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne):

Questions or comments? Resuming debate.

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Ian Deans

Mr. Jean-CIaude Malepart (Montreal-Sainte-Marie):

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate on the Government's commitments and the report on child care.

First of all, I want to say that unfortunately, my colleague the Hon. Member for Outremont (Mrs. Pepin) was unable to be in the House to speak to this subject, although she worked very hard on this Committee. She is in hospital, and I can inform Hon. Members she is doing very well and there is no cause for concern. She has therefore asked me to take part in this debate.

1 agree with the Hon. Member who just spoke on behalf of the New Democratic Party that the Conservative Government is to be censured for its attitude to our Canadian families. Considering the fact that, for three years, this Government has been promising-the House will recall that in the Prime Minister's speech, the family was the cornerstone of Canadian society ... In every Throne Speech, this Government has promised to improve child care and to do something to help our families. However, after three years nothing has been done about child care, despite the hard work done by all members of the Committee who studied all aspects of the subject. Representations were made by Canadians, by people from across this country, by organizations and by people involved in child care. Even now, nothing has been done. Today, the Globe and Mail reports that the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Epp) told his provincial counterparts that he was not yet ready to table his national child-care plan.

Despite the various positions being taken today, the parties concerned have made their decision on child care. I believe that the reason the Hon. Member for Outremont submitted a minority report, dissenting from the position taken by the Conservative majority, was that the proposals made by the Committee, that is the proposals made by the Conservative Members on this Committee, failed to respond to the needs and expectations of Canadians with respect to child care.

Look at the situation today. Less than 10 per cent of our children have access to day care in Canada. I suggest Hon. Members look at their ridings, and whether the riding happens to be my own, Sainte-Marie, or in Vancouver, the Maritimes or Ontario, in one of our urban centres or the Yukon or rural areas, every time we met with community groups, and this was clear from their testimony, we were told there was a lack of daycare services and also a lack of quality standards.

The Liberal Party's position is very clear in this respect. We wanted the Government to table its plan immediately and start a negotiating process with the provincial Governments, because this is very important-we are talking about provincial jurisdiction-the Government must immediately table a comprehensive plan for child care in Canada, with the condition-and this is where there is a difference between the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party-that parents

August 27, 1987

Motions

must have a choice. We absolutely object to what the New Democratic Party is proposing which would prevent parents from choosing where they send their children for daycare. The New Democratic Party is strictly proposing an institutionalized child care plan. In practical terms, this would mean that a person in the riding of Sainte-Marie who has a job and who wants to let the third neighbour down the street look after her child, will not be entitled to financial compensation to pay the cost of having this third neighbour providing this care. She would have to send her child to a government-run day-care centre. I think all Canadians must be against this proposal by the New Democratic Party.

The proposal made by the Liberal Party is clear, precise and simple, and meets the needs, expectations and demands of various interested groups and the Canadian people generally. First of all, through refundable tax credits, it makes it possible for Canadian families and women who want to continue their career to choose between sending their children to a well-organized public daycare centre, or to a private one, or even entrust them to the next door neighbour. Moreover, it is absolutely essential, in order to increase the number of openings-simply adopting the principle without making sure that the number of openings is there to meet the demand would not be enough-that the federal Government should release large amounts of money, for this Conservative Government did not hesitate to use $1 billion to help a number of banks facing bankruptcy.

Now, Canadian families and taxpayers are asking the Government for help. Canadian women want to continue their careers and be provided with effficient, fair and high quality daycare services, making it possible for them to continue to work and raise their children. To achieve this goal, the federal Government should provide the provincial Governments with large amounts of money to improve and expand the daycare systems which exist in the various provinces. But minimum standards should be established by the federal Government and accepted by the provinces. Nothing would prevent, in Provinces such as Quebec, as the Bourassa Government has just announced, the Minister responsible for the status of women to set higher standards.

In its assistance program, however, the Federal Government should provide funding and set criteria not only on the number of openings, but also on the quality of locations, to avoid being simply provided with a daycare network, without any security or education guarantee, and without enough money to provide facilities to meet the needs of growing children.

Together with the Provincial Governments, the federal Government should initiate as soon as possible an awareness and financial assistance campaign to set up daycare networks in the workplace.

It is essential that Canadian employers who often ask for tax credits, whether it is the large financial institutions, multinationals or various government levels, launch an action plan. There lies the power of leadership, such is the request made by the Liberal Party, by my colleague from Outremont. The federal Government must suggest and urge that steps be taken, set up criteria, sensitize employers as well as employees, either

large corporations where possible and also allow small and medium-sized businesses, where it may not be as easy, to set up childcare services. This is the reason why a free choice policy is essential.

Unfortunately, the committee report submitted and concurred in solely by the government majority is rather mitigated. It contains pious hopes. It does not meet the needs and expectations of our Canadian families and the concerns of women in that area.

On the other hand, we cannot over-emphasize the warning against the proposal made by the New Democratic Party. Once again, I say those positions about childcare services, either that of the New Democrats, the Progressive Conservative Party or the Liberal Party clearly show their leanings. In the report, the Tory Party does not really believe in child care. However, a program must be offered, one is announced but in fact they hope nobody will use it. It is more or less the same situation as with public housing assistance programs the Conservative Government now has in place. Those programs exist, but your heart is not in them because they cost so much. It is obvious .. . The Conservatives put forward proposals that are watered down and half-hearted because they have no choice politically, but let us not forget they previously agreed to de-index family allowances, lower the income that made one eligible for the full child tax credit, and authorized the Government to take away more than $1 billion from Canadian families to reduce the deficit or bail out banks, nor must we lose sight of the recommendations made by Conservative Members and the Government's inaction in that area. The social injustice minister, the Minister of National Health and Welfare, did absoluting nothing.

It was more of the same when time came to protect the interests of senior citizens. He was nowhere to be found. That is another matter he is holding up. The implementation of a good daycare program is not held back by the provincial Governments but by the internal quarrels between the Minister of National Health and Welfare and the Minister of Finance (Mr. Wilson). Surely there is someone else mixed up in this who does not know what he is doing.

The NDP stands at the opposite end; they have suddenly decreed that all children should be treated the same way. They must be kept in the same square box and educated in the same manner.

This is unacceptable and the Canadian public will not accept this recommendation. We have to fight against this because it certainly seems simplistic to have a free universal system. It might look fine, but you have to think about what it means. For instance, in the Gaspe Peninsula, in rural regions, you can have 10 families in the same sector and only one person who has to drive to work in another village. It would be unrealistic to organize a daycare centre to take care of two children in one region or village where there are about ten families. This is why it is essential to maintain freedom of choice and the tax credit for people in such regions.

August 27, 1987

What possible objection could the New Democratic Party have if a mother decides to place her child in a popular daycare centre in her own area or with a private sitter? She has the right to choose. She would be refused reimbursement because she has decided to go to a private daycare or to leave her child with a neighbour three doors down, maybe with a single mother with two young children who cannot go to work herself. Receiving some money to take care of the child of a neighbour would help her and help her neighbour too. Why should there be any objection to that? We have to oppose such a concept, and I trust that the NDP will change its position in this regard because I find it just as unacceptable as its position on defence.

Madam Speaker, in my opinion, the proposal of my colleague for Outremont, who has been working very hard for three years, travelling throughout the country and consulting people, is very clear and specific. This proposal would meet the needs and the expectations of the public and would be a practical and realistic way of meeting our objective of having a quality national daycare service under the jurisdiction of the provincial Governments. This proposal would provide tax credits for low and middle income families, maintain freedom of choice, and most important, increase the number of places available in daycare centres.

The debate is now open, but there is a very real fear, as my colleague for Saint-Denis (Mr. Prud'homme) was telling me. There are popular daycare centres in his constituency and he told me that he met those responsible and that they need money for equipment and to meet educational requirements. They need funding to improve the premises and this is where the Canadian Government for three years has not been meeting that need. There are still other families in the constituency of Papineau, in the constituency of Montreal- Sainte-Marie or others, in Montreal districts. There is no room and no money, the province does not have enough money to open up another daycare centre in an expanding district where there is a need for some 60 child care places. Everyone is waiting unfortunately-everyone either believed erroneously or was misled by this Conservative Government-everyone is waiting for the famous policy.

The Government stated in a Throne Speech that family is important, the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney) told Members of Parliament they would have to discuss the implementation within the shortest timeframe of an effective child care policy, but some three years later nothing is forthcoming, so we are getting fed up. And today we learned the Minister of National Health and Welfare is still postponing a decision with provincial Governments on that issue. This is something I had not thought of. My colleague for Saint-Denis brings to my attention that this is because Tory Members refuse to accept a change in our society. This boils down to what I was saying at the beginning of my remarks. Reading the majority report by

Motions

Conservative Members, they referred to child care centres because they had to. But for them it would be better not to put a cent in that-left to themselves, they would not bother about it. They could not care less.

Thank God, 1 know Conservative Members are not all of that brand! it is therefore my hope that those who have a minimum of social conscience will wake up and speak to their Minister about social injustice in Canada, they will tell the Minister of National Health and Welfare: look, this has to move. It has to move urgently, because every day lost, every month lost, and we are now talking about every year lost may jeopardize mothers' career plans. Each time they delay increasing the number of child-care services to meet the needs, well every time, perhaps one single-parent mother in some area, whether Vancouver, the Atlantic Provinces, Ontario, Quebec, or my constituency, that person, because she cannot find child care, quits her job, loses one or two years, and after that everyone knows it is difficult to return to the labour market, to retrain.

This is why I think the situation is really urgent. 1 think that indeed in the Meech Lake negotiations there is a meeting with provincial Premiers. I suggest that the federal Government was wrong, for it should have been prepared to co-ordinate this action with the provincial Governments; in Quebec, Premier Robert Bourassa has already set up a daycare system to which he has announced improvements.

1 conclude, Madam Speaker. If the federal Government continues to make cuts in its equalization payments, Quebec will have to reduce its health services and will be unable to go ahead with its daycare scheme. The Quebec Minister of Finance, Mr. Gerard D. Levesque, had every reason to trust the Prime Minister. He should have listened to me; I could have told him right away to be very careful. He thought he was going to get money under the policy announced by the Prime Minister.

As you are signaling that 1 have already run out of time, Madam Speaker, I will conclude by saying that 1 wish the Conservative Members would exert pressure so that... It is absolutely necessary ... It is simple. In case there are Conservative Members here who do not know what to say to the Minister, they should simply tell him this: Take and implement the Liberal policy, and our children will be well taken care of, our women will pursue fine careers and everybody will be happy.

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Subtopic:   CHILD CARE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FINAL REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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PC

Andrée Champagne (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne):

Questions and comments. The Hon. Member for Edmonton South (Mr. Edwards).

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PC

James (Jim) Stewart Edwards

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Edwards:

Madam Speaker, I have a question for the Hon. Member. He is in favour of a so-called free-choice policy. 1 noticed a leftist tone in his speech. It is not surprising. He said a simple and distinct policy and perhaps-

August 27, 1987

Motions

[DOT] (1150)

1 think what we have before us is a piece of social engineering that is an endorsation rather than free choice, put forward by the Liberal Party. Has the Hon. Member studied with any care not only the statements of the Minister on the matter but also the recommendations of the committee on child care?

We recognize the changing nature of the family unit. I do not think anyone denies that changing evolution in our society, and whether or not we judge it is immaterial because we have to recognize it as a reality. Does the Hon. Member recognize that the fundamental principle laid down by the committee on child care in its majority report, and as embraced by the Minister himself, permits maximum free choice?

For example, does the Hon. Member not acknowledge that the committee recommended replacing the child care expense deduction by a 30 per cent child care expense credit, increasing the ceiling for claims from $2,000 to $3,000? Did he not notice that this committee, with the majority of members from the government side, proposed to introduce a refundable child care tax credit for families with children under six years which are not eligible for the expense credit of $200 for the first child, $100 for the second child and $50 for each additional child?

Did the Hon. Member not endorse, or even notice, that there was a proposal to replace maternity benefits with parental benefits and to increase the benefit period from 15 weeks to 26 weeks on a gradual basis over the next five years? Does he not also acknowledge that there was a proposal to introduce an initiatives and research fund, that a new child care secretariat be established?

[DOT] (1200)

Does he not acknowledge that the putting in place of these excellent recommendations will require much delicate and involved negotiation with the provinces and with all the experts in the field so that the end product will not only provide the maximum of free choice for Canadian parents and children, but also a system which responds in the ultimate to the requirements of various regions of this country? Thus it is truly humane, truly generous, yet one which the country can afford. I would appreciate the Hon. Member's response to those questions.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   CHILD CARE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FINAL REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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LIB

Jean-Claude Malépart

Liberal

Mr. Malepart:

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the Hon. Member's questions. First, on the matter of being somewhat to the left or calling for social measures, I do not feel at all ashamed to be somewhat to the left, to call for social measures, and I am proud Liberals established a social program and a universal health care system which benefits the people, a drug plan and pension plans. I am proud of that, and I will always fight Conservatives who want to de-index or cut those programs, as I think we have shown.

On the other hand, I am pleased with the enumerations concerning the report. That is part of the proposals put forward by the Liberal Party. Maybe he did not know it had been proposed by Liberals. But what he is forgetting, what is being ignored, the essential aspect in my view is that we are in agreement on freedom of choice. I agree with him that the NDP opposes freedom of choice, they oppose parents having a choice, they support dictature from the top, but where I disagree with Conservatives on the matter of freedom of choice is this: You have freedom of choice, but there is nothing to choose. What is lacking is the political will, the complete program, the funding-funds are needed to increase the number of people's child care networks. If funding is provided for the premises, the physical facilities, this will mean that in order to provide people with freedom of choice, there must be enough places in terms of the people's child care networks, if you want, that would be managed in the form of co-operatives, in terms of private networks, plus adequate tax credits. On that I think we are in agreement as to the tax credit formula for those who want to keep their children at home.

I will conclude by repeating that I disagree with the Hon. Member mostly because the recommendations do not provide sufficient funds to increase the number of places. What the Government deserves to be blamed for however-and I invite the Hon. Member to blame his Minister and Prime Minister at his earliest convenience-is the slow pace of negotiations. When an elected government, a majority government, a government that is in charge wants things done, it wastes no time in tabling a plan before the provincial governments and telling them that, on the basis of consultations across the country, Canadians want child care services. When the time came to negotiate unemployment insurance or medicare, there was a Liberal Government in power capable of leadership. There were some who opposed those measures, some New Democrats who wanted to go further to the extreme left, some Conservatives who pulled to the right, but someone showed leadership and took the common sense, middle-of-the-road position, the one the people wanted.

So we sit down at the table, we discuss with the provinces and we come to an agreement, as the Liberals managed to do. But nothing is moving right now, they are just going through the motions and the Government has yet to show unmistakable, clear and definite resolve. Had there been any kind of resolve at the bargaining table, the Prime Minister of Canada would have stated: Here is what we have in mind for the people of Canada in terms of daycare. This is negotiable, but that is not negotiable. The best example I can give you relates to the tax reform. Everybody is in favour of tax reform. You people are saying: There is an option, maybe we will tax bread, milk and butter, but we are not quite sure yet. We Liberals say: We support the tax reform, but there can be no question of taxing bread, milk and butter, no way. That is clear. That is leadership, and that is what is lacking on the Conservative benches.

August 27, 1987

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   CHILD CARE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FINAL REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
Permalink
NDP

Margaret Anne Mitchell

New Democratic Party

Ms. Mitchell:

Madam Speaker, I am very interested to hear the Hon. Member recommending to the Conservatives that they use the Liberal pamphlet for a program for child care. It does not seem to me that the Liberal proposal is very much different from the special committee report, except that it is much more confused; it is very confused indeed. I would just like to give a few examples, as I recall them. I do not have the pamphlet before me.

The Liberals talk about wanting to have a national child care program. Yet, like the Conservatives, they want to put most of the money into taxes. We know that if most of the money goes into taxes, there will be no money for developing a very sound quality child care system across this country. The Liberals also want federal dollars to go for profit-making child care. They want it to go for commercial child care. All the groups that know about child care programs have said this would be a very unsound expenditure.

The Liberals are also confused about what provincial jurisdictions are. They want the federal Government to impose standards. The Province of Quebec, I am sure, would be the first to object to that. That is not the role of the federal Government. The federal Government should have a policy and a national objective. The provinces should develop standards.

The Liberals want to have a new Crown corporation. I cannot understand what on earth that is all about. They want to fund through a Canada assistance plan and keep daycare a welfare service rather than making it available to families regardless of income. I would like the Hon. Member to talk about this and to explain what the difference is between his Party's policy and the Conservative's policy, except that it is much more confused.

Again, I would like to challenge the Hon. Member. Since he does not have any real positives on his side, all he can do is attack the New Democratic Party. I fully documented that we are for very flexible, comprehensive child care programs that give considerable choice, and which are developed by parents and communities according to their own needs. To say that the NDP is against free choice is a lot of baloney.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   CHILD CARE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FINAL REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
Permalink

August 27, 1987