The reason he called me that was with reference to my question on Meech Lake and the question of setting objectives for social programs. That is a crucial question.
To be honest, I think the jury is still out on Meech Lake. It may be that national objectives can be set under the new Meech Lake provisions, but this Bill is the first example since Meech Lake of a major national social program and it does not attempt in any way to set out national objectives. That is the great weakness. Whether or not another government of a different political stripe, more committed to national objectives, can set them out we will have to wait and see.
I was going to quote Marjorie Nichols who wrote in The Ottawa Citizen today some very perceptive remarks. She said:
"The bottom line is that this bill will provide the money to build fewer childcare spaces in Canada over the next seven years than would have been built without it, based on current construction performance under existing legislation."
I think she is referring to the fact that the Bill will create fewer child care spaces than would have been created under CAP. She went on to say:
"The terrible shame of this legislation is, however, that it represents an abandonment by the federal government of its responsibility to be accountable for the collection and expenditure of other people's money."
The Minister stood up a few minutes ago and asked how the NDP can object because the Government is spending $6.4 billion. It is tough to object to the expenditure of $6.4 billion. You do not easily stand up and oppose a child care Bill, it has to be pretty bad, but indeed we are doing that because we believe it is irresponsible to just give $6.4 billion to the provinces without national objectives and accountability. We in British Columbia, with Premier Bill Vander Zalm, do not know where the money is liable to go if you give it to him. It might go to Fantasy Gardens, who knows.
August 11, 1988
My colleague, the Hon. Member for Vancouver East (Ms. Mitchell), our distinguished critic in this area, received a number of telegrams on this issue and I want to read a couple of them to show that it is not just the NDP who feels this way. Other people with a particular interest in this field feel the same. There is a telegram from Sharon Hope Irwin, a child care consultant:
"Child care Bill very dangerous. Respectfully request your efforts to block Bill on second reading. It lacks national objectives, encourages commercialization to the detriment of child care, and does not deliver the promised spaces. Please promote quality child care-accessible, affordable, with high standards."
That is what my future constituents in Port Moody- Coquitlam want. That is what my present constituents in Vancouver-Kingsway want. They want child care which is accessible, affordable, and with high standards. I have another telegram from Carol Christian, President of the White Horse Day Care Association, and Joanne Oberg, Secretary of the Yukon Day Care Association. It says:
"We urge you and your colleagues to speak against the Childcare Act in the House. It is devoid of national objectives, limits spending on child care, funds the commercial sector and does not satisfy the need for spaces, it does not create a day care system but is a government spending program, this waste of public funds will set back day care to the dark ages."
Those telegrams are worth paying attention to.
We in the NDP believe child care in Canada is in a crisis. We have been waiting for four years for the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney) to deliver on his campaign promise. You will recall what that was: an effective national system of child care. We think Canadian families have been let down again. In other words, another broken promise by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister thinks you can just throw money at the problem-build a road to James Bay, buy a constituency, build a prison or whatever. That is not the way to tackle child care.
Neither before, during or after the passage of the Conservatives' inadequate, flawed strategy will our families and our children's needs be met. In fact, this fundamentally flawed legislation moves us backwards. There will be fewer child care spaces for our children after the seven years of the Government's program than under the existing system, even after the expenditure of the money.
Furthermore, this Conservative legislation fails to establish the principles on which to build an effective national system of child care. We should be building the first major national social program since medicare was established, but the Government has failed to provide leadership and set out the principles for quality child care in Canada.
We in the NDP believe that Canadian families and their children need greater access to quality child care at lower cost. This Bill does not deliver that. We have said and will continue to say that the Prime Minister should go back to the drawing board and bring forward a child care program to meet the needs of average Canadian parents and their children for child care services now.
Canada Child Care Act
It is not only the members of the NDP who have said this. There is an editorial in The Globe and Mail today which criticizes this particular Bill. That is not exactly a New Democratic policy paper. This position comes from all angles of the political spectrum. I have here a letter from the National Anti-Poverty Organization, part of which I will read into the record. It is addressed to the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Epp) and says:
"Dear Mr. Minister:
I am writing to express, briefly, the concerns of the National Anti-Poverty Organization with Bill C-144, and to urge you to schedule public hearings on the Bill prior to its passage in the House of Commons.
As we told you in past meetings, we were concerned with the expected absence of targeting of funded spaces to low-income Canadians, and with the expected failure of the legislation to require public accountability by public or community-based management of funded centres. In addition, NAPO has historically opposed the use of public dollars to subsidize for-profit operations, particularly in areas of basic social need like child care.
Bill C-144 fails to establish national objectives, much less the federal standards we would have liked to see contained in the legislation. Even the Meech Lake Constitutional Accord permits the establishment of national objectives for new social programs, yet your government has chosen not to include them in the Bill. We believe this Bill permits the expenditure of very large sums of public money without establishing what the government hopes to accomplish through this expenditure. Canadians have a right to know what your objectives are with child care, and we would urge you to include these in amendments to the legislation.
We have been concerned about the targetting of spaces since your announcement that a good portion of the funding for this "new" program would be transferred from the Canada Assistance Plan.
Under CAP, at least spaces could be subsidized only if they were provided to those in need or likely to be in need without the space. While this permitted subsidization of middle-income Canadians, it did not allow for subsidies to the wealthy. Under this legislation, there is no such assurance or guarantee. Both you and your officials have assured us that operating subsidies will go only to targetted spaces. This is not clearly stated in the Bill, and should appear as an amendment to the legislation.
In addition, removing this funding from CAP will allow dollars previously used only for operating and capital costs for not-for-profit child care centres, or for operating costs only in for-profit centres, to be applied to both operating and capital costs of for-profit centres, if so wished by provincial Governments.
There is evidence that has been submitted by specialists in the field that for-profit centres, in the aggregate, offer lower quality service, minimum required staff/child ratios, lower wages to staff, and lower educational requirements for staff. In addition, we believe that public dollars should not subsidize private profits, and should not subsidize operations that are not accountable to the public paying the subsidy, however indirectly. This Bill does not meet these concerns."
That is what I meant by an inadequate system of child care as set out in this Bill.
I heard the Prime Minister speak in the House today about child care. Some of us thought he might use the occasion to announce the election, but he did not. He was really speaking about women's issues. He was addressing women's issues because he is weak, according to the polls, on women's issues. He has a gender gap like George Bush. Women do not trust our Prime Minister and do not agree with his policies. In his speech he never asked why that is, and I would like to take a minute now to suggest to the Prime Minister why that is and I will return to child care after that.
August 11, 1988
Canada Child Care Act
There are a number of reasons why women distrust the Prime Minister. The Government is spending $8 billion on nuclear submarines when there is poverty, there are food banks, and there is a housing crisis in the country. Young families cannot afford to buy a home and the Government is spending $8 billion on nuclear submarines. In the new neighbourhoods of Port Moody, Coquitlam, and Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, you cannot get door to door postal service, yet the Government is spending $8 billion on nuclear submarines. In this country farmers and rural people are suffering, but the Government is spending $8 billion on submarines. The Government is militarizing our economy and women instinctively know this, object to it, and will not stand for it.
The second thing the Prime Minister should consider is his free trade deal with the Americans. That affects the service sector for the first time in any trade deal in the world. Not even in the Israeli-American trade deal is the service sector included. The service sector is the fastest growing job creation sector around, and who works in that sector but women? When you consider how vulnerable to American competition our growing young service sector will be, including data processing, insurance, and computers, you will see that the Americans will take jobs from our service sector in the free trade deal. That will affect women.
Returning to day care, the same families and women who want quality day care want the Government to do something about drugs and impaired driving rather than only making political speeches about them as the present Prime Minister does.
Where was the Prime Minister on abortion? He was not even in the House. The Government's policy on abortion was a mess. It did not even have the guts to introduce a proper Bill on abortion, and Canadians have noticed that. When the Prime Minister wonders why he is not getting the votes of women he should consider what a big phoney he is on these issues and he should tackle them.
To summarize our position on this Bill, it is a flawed Bill on one of the most important subjects. It does not set out national objectives and will not increase the number of day care spaces. It will not benefit the average Canadian family which continues to be overtaxed and underserviced by the Government.
I challenge the Prime Minister and his Party to call an election. We will deal with these issues in the election. We will deal with child care on the hustings. We will deal with the notion of selling out this country to the United States. We will deal with the average family paying $1,000 a month more in taxes as a result of the Government's initiatives. We will deal with the fact that motorists have once again been hosed by the Government. We will deal with all the broken promises of the Prime Minister. We will deal with the fact that the average Canadian family loses under this Government.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: CANADA CHILD CARE ACT
Sub-subtopic: MEASURE TO ENACT