Mr. Cyril Keeper (Winnipeg North Centre):
Mr. Speaker, I think not. I think the House is not yet ready for the question. We are ready to face the issue head on.
I have been spending the last couple weeks in my riding knocking on doors, talking to people, and I have found that Manitobans, the people in Winnipeg and the people in Winnipeg North Centre, are interested in issues, contrary to the mythology that people are only interested in personalities, in whether or not the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney) has a smile on his face. The people are not only interested in style, they are interested in issues.
Two issues are uppermost in the minds of the people. One is the trade deal and the other is day care. These are important and fundamental issues that people across Canada are concerned about. The people tell me that they need day care, that there is not enough day care to give appropriate and proper care to their children. They have to work in order to make ends meet.
September 16, 1988
Canada Child Care Act
Increasing numbers of Canadians have to work at two jobs. It is no longer possible for a person to make a decent income on one salary; there has to be two salaries. When two parents are working out of necessity, the children must be taken care of properly and that creates a new demand for day care. This demand exists at the grass roots level. It must be responded to and it must be responded to in a substantive way.
I want to make a few comments about the Government's day care program. Having examined this program, I find it is more propaganda than substance. It is more sleight of hand than it is day care spaces. It is more flimsy than reality. This program fails in some fundamental ways. It fails to meet the needs of the women and the families in my riding and in all the ridings across Canada. It fails to add sufficiently and significantly to the number of spaces in Canada. What Canadian families need is day care spaces so that our children get appropriate care.
This is a propaganda program. It was a propaganda announcement that the Government made. In fact, it is not only a propaganda gesture, it is an inept one. I would have expected more of the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Epp).
What do I mean when I say that this is an inept propaganda gesture? The Tories made a big announcement of $6 billion, and they caught the headlines. Of course, when the people read below the headlines, when they read the full story of day care, they find out something which is often true. The headlines differ from the story.
With this new Conservative day care program, a ceiling is put on the amount of money going into day care. Up until now, under the Canada Assistance Plan, day care spaces were expanding at the rate of 15 per cent per year. Under this new program, day care spaces will be expanding at what rate? They will be expanding at the rate of 10 per cent per year. Ten per cent is less than 15 per cent and any person with a little arithmetic understands that.
This program is retarding the growth of day care. It is putting off the day when the needs of the ordinary Canadian family for the proper care of children will be met. That is the first way in which this program is a deception.
Another significant way it is a deception is that this program weakens the commitment to providing day care for the poor. 1 want to back up what I have said with the statements of some groups that have analysed this matter. The Canadian Day Care Advocacy Association says the following in its brief:
Bill C-144 is silent on the definition of a "subsidized space". It is the federal Government's responsibility to see that all subsidized spaces-existing spaces as well as the "200,000" new spaces-are adequately funded in terms of individual family's financial needs. By that, we mean that existing spaces should continue to be funded at no less than their current level. It is common knowledge that the new definition, a "subsidized space" could be a space that receives as little as $2.00 a day of public funds. We find that unacceptable, because it would leave such spaces out of the reach of low and middle-income Canadians. The "space count" should not leave room for this kind of exclusion.
The Canadian Day Care Advocacy Association is saying that this new program leaves out the poor. It is heartless and it
runs the danger of providing less day care for the poor in Canada. The Canadian Federation of Students said the following:
The fact that there are no guaranteed subsidies for low-income Canadians is of great concern to us. Student parents in need of child care are low-income Canadians. The subsidies that are in place under the Canada Assistance Plan should, at the very least, be guaranteed under the new Canada Child Care Act. As this is not the case, the Canada Assistance Plan represents a "safer" option for low-income Canadians. We would parenthetically add here that the income tax provisions under the national childcare strategy will not be of much use to students. Most students will not need the deductions and the additional child credits are too little, and too long after the refund would be of use.
Members of the Canadian Federation of Students indicate that the Canada Assistance Plan is a better plan for them than the new Tory plan. In the opinion of the Canadian Federation of Students, this is a step backward rather than a step forward.
The National Council of Women of Canada says the following:
Our first problem with this new bill is that it does not seem to ensure that the supply of these spaces will increase, indeed there seems even to be the danger that they might decrease, because while under the Canada Assistance Plan support for such spaces for low income families is open-ended to meet needs as identified, under the new Act, there will be a ceiling. A fixed cost-shared federal contribution will be available to provinces on a yearly basis, for a variety of purposes including capital funding, operating and grants etc. but without specific reference to subsidy needs. Our concern is that impoverished families may lose out.
The Government ought to be moving forward with care, with heart, trying to include all Canadians under its umbrella. What in fact the National Council of Women of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Students, and the Canadian Day Care Advocacy Association have said is that this program puts in jeopardy the day care spaces that are available for the poor. That is a major indictment of this program. The program is a step backward rather than a step forward.
There are two points about the substance of this program that are fundamental. The Government's new plan reduces the increase in spaces and therefore is a step backward. It threatens the subsidies for the poor and is therefore a step backward.
I see you indicating that I have two minutes left, Mr. Speaker. I just want to make this point. Over the last decade or two our society has changed significantly. No longer do the vast majority of women stay home and look after children. In today's society women who stay home and look after their children are in the minority. In my family that is the case, but my family is in the minority. The reality for the majority of families these days is that both parents have to work to make ends meet, both parents are in the market-place, and we have to ensure adequate care for the children.
If we are going to have a great nation in the future, if our children are going to be able to meet their responsibilities in the future, they need adequate care today. The Government was challenged to move in and meet that need, and it has
September 16, 1988
failed abysmally. It has the headlines, but when we read the story under the headlines we find a program that is a step backward rather than a step forward. That is why I say this program is more propaganda than substance. What ordinary Canadian families in my riding have been asking me for, as I have gone door to door to talk to them, is more day care spaces. They want a place in their neighbourhood at which their children can receive adequate care while they go to work.
I call upon the Government to rethink what it is doing. I call upon the Government to re-examine the critiques being made by this Party and the critiques of the National Council of Women, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Day Care Association, the Advocacy Association. The Government should rethink what it is doing, go back to the drawing board, and come up with a plan that will be a real step forward.
Mir. Jim Fulton (Skeena): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity this morning to speak on Bill C-144, particularly on the amendment put forward by my colleague, the Hon. Member for Vancouver East (Ms. Mitchell), which would retain the participation of CAP, the Canadian Assistance Plan, in child care and day care. I see the Minister is here. I know a little about this field, having been a probation and parole officer and having been involved in the field of child care most of my professional life. I have in fact set up and been the president of a day care society. I did that 13 years ago in a small northern community in British Columbia.
I recognized then the rapidly evolving need for day care because of the increasing number of families where either both parents worked or, in the case of single parent families, where the single parent is very often involved in the workforce. In all cases, at least at some point during each day or each week, the parent is away from the child. I know something of the problems associated with day care and child care. I also know what the outcome is for many children where proper care is not provided. That is why I point out to the Minister that having been a probation and parole officer I recognize the problems that many children get into. Often one can find the root causes in terms of the care provided to them in their earliest years. I do not think there is anyone in this House who would dispute that the early years in the life of a child are key to the development of that child's personality throughout his or her life.
I want to spend a moment on the needs of northern child care and of child care among first nations, among native families, because that is an area of real crisis. I do not think the Government has addressed this problem at all. There are no objectives in Bill C-144 which are directly related to the amendment put forward by my friend the Hon. Member for Vancouver East. She has brought forward not only this amendment for us today, but also amendments over the last few days related to the need for objectives.
I am surprised after all the talk from the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney) and other Ministers that the Meech Lake
Canada Child Care Act
Accord did not have any kind of viral implant in terms of the potential for national legislation to have objectives. The Government was always planning to bring forward national programs that would have objectives, yet the very first time it has an opportunity to bring something forward we find there was a back room virus, at least among Tories, in relation to the Meech Lake Accord.
Obviously, every two facilities across the country are not going to be the same no matter what kind of objectives there are, but there are certain things one has to have for a safe protected environment for children. I think particularly of the training for those who will be working in this field. Having worked in the field myself I know what kind of training is required. My children are young, aged four and six years. I have some kind of idea of what kind of situations they feel best in, what kind of people they get along with best, what kind of toys and what kind of environment they need. Why would the Government not put those kinds of objectives clearly into a piece of legislation for those who are the most important in our society and in every society around the world? I can only assume that the Government never really intended to bring forward a plan to reach those hundreds of thousands of children in need of care during the day.
We know there are over two million children in Canada whose parents, either one or both, work and they are involved in some kind of care situation. It might be with a grandmother, a neighbour, or a licensed day care facility. All kinds of situations have evolved because the need is there. What Governments are supposed to do in collecting taxes is to spend the money in the most effective, rational, and cost-effective way.
Bill C-144 does not meet any of those criteria. That is why all groups that appeared before the committee last week oppose the Bill. Not some of them, not half of them, not three-quarters of them; all groups that appeared oppose the Bill. One would assume that the Minister or perhaps some of his backbenchers might have been able to find a group somewhere in Canada they could invite who would say that this was the next best thing to sliced bread, that this was what they always wanted. However, it would not be those who are knowledgeable about the needs of children, what kinds of facilities are required, or what kinds of capital funding are required.
The Minister's Bill provides for an ending to capital funding after seven years. The Minister crows that there are 200,000 licensed subsidized spaces and that it is going to double, that there will be 400,000 spaces seven years from now. As many groups across the country have pointed out that many spaces would be developed without the Bill, without the Minister's proposal.
I think we have to ask ourselves: What is this Bill, really? It appears to be, and it may well be, a sop to those who are not crucially involved in day care. When Tories are out knocking on doors they can say they brought forward this child care Bill.
September 16, 1988
1 doubt there would be very many Tories during this campaign, including the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Epp) and the Prime Minister, going to licensed day care facilities and asking "do you like our Bill", with a reporter in tow. That is unlikely. They will be peddling this to those who will be worried about their nieces and nephews and grandchildren. The Tories will be able to say: "Well, we dealt with that. We have Bill C-144. We are spending billions of dollars". If they are going to spend billions of dollars, they have to identify the area of need and the training costs. They have to figure out how it can be cost shared among various jurisdictions. They have to make sure that the people who are working there are properly qualified, that the space is adequate, and that the needs of our children are being met.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: CANADA CHILD CARE ACT