Thank you, Mr. Chair, and to all members of the committee, for the opportunity to present information for your consideration on .
The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada is a research think tank designed to draw together the social science on issues such as the raising of our children. We believe that you, the decision-makers, should consider all the factors involved when making these decisions. To this end, I'm pleased to present a cross-section of some of our work for your consideration.
Much of this research comes out of documents before you, and it's also available in full on our website at imfcanada.org.
One of the crucial pieces of the child care debate is to best determine what it is that parents actually want. There's much rhetoric and a variety of polls of various levels of quality that have been done on this very question. Of primary importance is for officials to not presume what parents of young children want, but to actually ask them. To this end, one year ago we published the results of a survey that delved directly into this question. Copies of this poll have been included in the package that you have before you at this time.
Although there's a lot of information in the survey, please allow me to highlight just a couple of the key pieces that are pertinent to your debate today.
Of the parents who have young children and who may be actually accessing child care, 78% indicated they would prefer if a parent were able to stay home to raise their children. This did not change significantly when we factored in the gender of the parents, the geographic region they came from, or their respective level of education.
Of course, we know that having one parent stay at home is not always feasible, whether this is due to single-parent families, fiscal constraints, or other logistical considerations. To this end, we then asked the respondents what their preference for child care would be. The results that we found were quite dramatic. A majority of 53% indicated they would prefer a relative to care for their child; the following 20% preferred a family child care setting; and trailing were non-profit child care, at less than 17%, and for-profit child care, at a low of 7%.
Again, these results did not change across different break-outs based upon geography, income or education levels, marital status, urban versus rural settings, or gender. One notable exception is that the Quebec respondents had almost an even split between a relative or family child care for their child. If we adjust the results for those parents who have children under six years of age, the results remain almost identical.
It's clear to me from these empirical findings that the intent of is not in keeping with what Canadian parents desire. We believe that each family has its own unique challenges, and a one-size-fits-all program is not in Canadian parents' best interest.
We believe that the government needs to honour the choices of parents, who are best positioned to nurture and raise their children. Parents who need child care for their children should be allowed to do so in the manner they deem appropriate for their circumstances.
Clause 4 of notes that the Province of Quebec may exempt itself from the provisions of this bill. My assumption is that this is because Quebec has a form of provincial child care already in place. From listening to previous witnesses, I think the Quebec model has been held up as how a national child care program should indeed be structured.
With all due respect to those who are involved with the Quebec child care program, the latest evaluations clearly show some substantial failings. According to Pierre Lefebvre, professor of economics at the Université du Québec à Montréal, the Quebec policy “favours higher income families, is unfair to families who choose to care for their children themselves or do not use non-parental child care, and is not well suited to parents working part time or non-standard hours.”
Professor Lefebvre continues: “Children from low-income or less-educated families may be triply disadvantaged by being less likely to receive stimulating care at home, less likely to be enrolled in educationally oriented care outside the home and more likely to be receiving low-quality service when they are in child care.”
The economics of the system have left parents worse off. “By its very nature, the $7-a-day child care model favours a specific type of child care setting that is subsidized and state-regulated. It benefits certain parents to the detriment of others,” writes Norma Kozhaya of the Montreal Economic Institute in an October 2006 briefing note on Quebec’s child care system.
One of the main problems with child care in Quebec, using data from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development, is that children, while in a safe environment, are not learning. According to an Institute for Research on Public Policy report: “The majority of child care settings attended by the children in the QLSCD had a global rating of minimal quality, which means that they provided safety and security for the children but offered a minimal educational component.”
It's also important to note that the CBC reports there's a waiting list of 35,000 children in Quebec, and that Quebec immigration actually tells new immigrants to that province that there is a one- to two-year waiting list for child care.
In light of this comparison and the other research that's readily available to you today, the IMFC is opposed to a national system of early learning and child care as proposed in Bill C-303. It allots money preferentially to one type of care: centre-based or institutional care. It therefore does not help parents make choices. It offers one solution alone, at great cost, to the detriment of those who do not make that choice. We believe this is discriminatory.
We would point this committee to research from the U.S.-based NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, the largest, most expensive child care study ever undertaken--it has been running for close to 25 years now--which has been examining the long-term effects of all types of child care on children.
The researchers have found that high-quality non-maternal care, including that by fathers and grandparents, improves cognitive outcomes, things like a child's vocabulary and memory, but that too much time in centre-based care, even high-quality centre-based care, was related to poor behaviours, including hitting others and arguing a lot. In their latest research this spring, the researchers have shown that this negative behaviour is measurable up to and including the sixth grade.
In short, while there are benefits to high-quality care, those benefits are not limited to centre-based care, such as the care proposed under Bill C-303. Rather, the benefits are seen in many different types of care in more informal settings. The drawbacks, like increased aggression in children, are seen in poor-quality centre-based care. Currently, care in Quebec is described as mediocre. High-quality care under a state-run, state-financed system is difficult to create.
There are other issues that should be addressed here; unfortunately, time does not permit me to address those. However, in conclusion, I'll say I believe you cannot measure this issue through strictly economic calculations. These are our children, our future, and they must be measured accordingly. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard.
While we recognize there is a need for high-quality child care within society, this one-size-fits-all approach does not meet the needs of many families and cannot be supported. This bill does not address the needs of the majority of Canadians who do not wish to use institutionalized child care.
I thank the committee for your attention. I would be pleased to address any questions you have in the discussion following.
Thank you for inviting me. I'm pleased to be here.
I'm particularly impressed with the teleconference, which is, I think, a way to get a lot more public and women's involvement in issues.
When you are discussing , I have to say that it's pretty well impossible to be against a bill to benefit children. I have, for 30 years now, argued for you to be looking at issues like this, to spend more money on children's care, to value the role of the person taking care of children, and to notice that these are pivotal years for the education of children, so that's all good.
I'm not here to criticize the bill for what it says, so much as to criticize it for what it doesn't say. It is actually excluding some important considerations legally and ethically. I've been a long-time promoter of women's rights, to value our paid labour and our unpaid labour, and to value children's rights. This bill is working for educational stimulation, health and safety, the right of women to participate fully in society in ways that they wish. All of those are good goals, but this bill is a problem because it doesn't go far enough.
This bill doesn't give all children benefit. It looks at only one lifestyle and gives it the benefits. That's a concern. So this bill, although good, needs a sister bill in order to be fair. It needs a partner to value what it left out. It did leave out children who are not in the child care settings being provided for--the third-party, non-family-based care. That is actually the majority of children. It omitted children in parental care or grandparent care; the care of a day home, a trusted neighbour, a sitter; home-schooled children; in the care of parents who telecommute, parents who take the child to paid work, parents who do paid work evenings only and weekends off-shifting. These people are also parents and they're also offering care of children, and they vote.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada signed at the United Nations, said a child has the right to be raised in the presence of the parents, wherever possible, and if the parents choose to assign a caregiver, trusting the best judgment of the parents, the caregiver can be anyone who shares their values, their language, their culture, and the things they want to endorse. The parents are the ones trusted to know the best interests of the child.
Children outside the centres are valuable too. This bill has forgotten them. In section 15 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we're told that we have to give equal benefit under the law to all children. So 's problem is that it's not universal. It says it gives universal access, but that's a legalistic trick and couldn't hold up under a court. Access to agreeing with a policy isn't really access to equal benefit under the law.
suggests a majority of women now earn, so they need this bill. In fact, it says its purpose is to help women earn. That's a problem, actually, because if we're going to value care of children, we shouldn't as a main focus be valuing those who are not caring for children. Many women in fact do earn, but they do so from home or part-time and aren't using the third-party-care style.
So this is not in any way a universal benefit program.
You have been told there are wait lists of children who need this service. That may be true in some ways, but the wait lists are a little bit inflated, because children's names appear on several lists and there are names on those lists of children not even born. So it's a little deceptive, and we're not sure the wait-list people are not just waiting for the funding.
Proponents say there's a patchwork of services and we need to standardize. You know, in a democracy a patchwork is actually a good thing because it's a quilt, it's diversity. What we have to be really wary of is something that requires a standardized one-size-fits-all treatment. That's what got us in trouble before.
Proponents of say universal child care is like medicare. Universal child care is not like medicare. We all risk emergency need of medical assistance if we have sudden illness or injury. Because of that equal risk we have, we pay a universal payment for health care. Child care centres are not locations of emergency risk, and employees are key, but they're not experts the way that medical doctors are experts.
Proponents of say it's like universal education. We should start it from birth. The problem is that they don't have a monopoly on education. A child is born learning; it's born ready to learn. So although a child may learn in your child care centre, it's not learning any differently from or any better than in some very high-quality homes. Therefore, we should value education wherever it's happening.
Schooling and medical care are actually moving away from the one-size-fits-all formula for funding institutions. They're actually moving towards funding the home. We're trying to get more people cared for medically in the home. It saves money.
We're trying to get diversity for home schooling and other kinds of education to match the needs of the children. So to move to a one-size-fits-all standard is out of touch with what's currently found to be best.
Also, Bill C-303 will cost $10,000 per child per year. Just for the preschoolers in the country, it would $20 billion. The day care federations are saying that their goal is to provide a day care space for every child in the country. We simply cannot afford that.
Let's look at what we can afford that is still of universal benefit. The only way we could make that affordable is to raise taxes, as they do in Sweden, to a 60% tax rate.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for the opportunity to testify today.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for the opportunity to testify today.
Let's start at the end. We respectfully recommend the following.
Firstly, all federal MPs elected to ridings in Quebec have the moral obligation to vote against Bill , or at the very least, to abstain from all future votes. Bill discriminates against the children of Canada by showing prejudice and favouring only one type of child care: that of third-party child care.
Secondly, clause 4 must be deleted from Bill because it discriminates against nine provinces and the territories in Canada. It demonstrates clear prejudice by favouring one province, Quebec, which is exempted from the constraints provided by the standards, the conditions and the accountability provisions. In addition, the clause will create an intentional fiscal imbalance should it remain in the bill.
Thirdly, all reference to universality in Bill must be removed because universality is not only unrealistic, it is also fiscally unwise.
Even now we are having difficulty paying for our legislation. If bill C-303 is passed, we are doomed to pay for it with our collective credit card, also dooming the same children whom we say we want to help to bear a huge financial burden. How ironic! Ultimately, the children will be paying the bill. The pernicious effects of universality are creeping into our elementary schools in Quebec. The quality of life, the air quality and the lack of space are deplorable, because, in large part, of the universality of before-school and after-school child care programs that destroy our school infrastructure and undermine the healthy educational climate. There are only so many fish that you cram into a can, even when they are sardines. The can has a lid, but there is no lid on school infrastructure in Quebec because no-one has the courage to put a lid on Utopia. What will it take to do it one day? At the moment, ladies and gentlemen, mum's the word.
Let's start at the end. We respectfully recommend the following.
First, all federal MPs elected to ridings in Quebec have the moral obligation to vote against Bill C-303, or at the very least abstain from all future votes. Bill C-303 discriminates against the children of Canada by showing prejudice and favouring only one type of child care above all others: that of third party child care.
Delete clause 4 from Bill C-303 because it discriminates against nine provinces and three territories in Canada. It demonstrates clear prejudice by favouring one province, Quebec, over and above all others, as Quebec is exempted from the restrictive standards and conditions that will be applied.
In addition, it will create—intentionally, imagine—a new fiscal imbalance, should this remain within the bill.
I always ask myself the same questions in circumstances like these. How many of us went to daycare when we were little? The average age of your committee is around 46. I really doubt that many of you have any experience of daycare at all. If you did, how many went full time, five days a week?
And how many of us who did not attend day care as children—because we might have benefited from other care settings, like our own homes, or with a relative, grandmas, and neighbours—would have preferred to go to day care? Each of us knows the answer deep down inside.
Above all we must not deny this feeling because we have already come out in favour of . There is still enough time to look once more at the whole question of child care inclusively rather than to start from a biased position that favours third-party care.
As adults, we're obliged to take a serious look at the past 10 years of Quebec's day care experiment before short-sightedly imposing a utopian dream, a dream for which the supposed benefits remain unproven to this day.
Quebec MPs are well aware of parents' concerns with third-party child care. Those who use the services know the current shortcomings: a rigid schedule, Monday to Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., no part-time service, no right to pay extra for better services for their children, even out of their own pockets. All in the name of universality.
I'm actually not French. I can't really even say my own last name. I did marry one, so it's 50-50 in our house.
Listening to Dave, Yvonne and Bev, I'm only going to give you a quick introduction of who I am and I'll skip my speech, because it's all the same thing. We all want choice.
My name is Sara Landriault. I am a stay-at-home mom with three girls. I was yesterday, I am today, I will be tomorrow. Whether I go back down to $10,000 a year, $50,000 a year, or $150,000 a year, I will fight my butt off to do that because it's what I believe. But it's not what my neighbours believe and it's not what everybody else believes. They all have their different choices. I want their choices respected as much as mine.
I've started a group, and it's the fault of you guys--no offence. It's a grassroots organization called National Family Childcare Association. We came about because of bills like this, and when the Liberals were introducing the national day care last year, or the year before. We came about because it made us mad. We're sitting on the couches eating bonbons, watching soap operas--whatever you guys believe we're doing. It really ticked us off.... Sorry, I try not to swear.
So I did something. I've e-mailed every one of you. I'm sorry I don't speak French. I have tried, and my translator has been busy lately. I have e-mailed each one of you my thoughts. Sometimes I'm angry, sometimes I'm not. Today we're in a good mood because I'm not angry; I'm terrified at speaking in front of you.
It's not that we don't want the bill. The NFCA, I myself, everybody involved in it--we want a bill like this. We simply want a bill that's going to help all of us, because there are families out there--and you will be introduced to them--that are making $20,000 and $30,000 a year with three or four kids, or more, or less, that are at home. Okay, they're eating their Kraft Dinner, they're driving beat-up old cars, they need new tires, they need this, they need that. They're not putting their kids in hockey, not because they don't want to but because they can't. They simply believe in caring for their own children, and that's what they want to do. There should be no discrimination toward them, and no discrimination to women who want to go out and work, get paid for it, and move up the corporate ladder, or stay at McDonald's. I mean, there should be no difference between any of us. We should all be respected as parents.
I don't even extend the “as women” bit, because lots of dads are staying at home. There are men's groups popping up all over the place--dads at home, stay-at-home dads. It's not all about being a mom. It's about being a parent. Whether you're straight, gay, black, white, it doesn't matter. We're parents. We should be respected for what we believe is right with our children. Sorry, I didn't mean to yell that at you.
You can read the rest in the briefs I've put in, but honestly, they have said everything I could have said on the statistics. I am no scholar. I'm not going to give you the right statistics; they're actually better off with that. I get what I get off the Internet at home. My computer's in my bedroom with a bunch of files called “Childcare”.
For anything else you want, please feel free to ask me any questions.
Kids First Parent Association of Canada began in 1987 with two objectives: support for the optimal care of children, and support and recognition for parental child care. Unlike the day care lobby, we are 100% volunteer-run and are neither founded nor funded by government, unions, or corporations.
Personally, I am a low-income, single mother in what others call poverty. The day care lobby has a paternalistic habit of speaking on behalf of women like me without our consent, which feminists call appropriation of voice. I understand that you have also been speaking about women like me, so I'm sure you'll be glad to listen to one of us.
Though most of my work is unpaid, I have been doing paid work since four months after giving birth. I have both used and provided high-quality child care and early learning in parent-regulated situations without state involvement.
Kids First opposes this bill. Our reasons include the following.
This bill promotes the false premise that child care and early learning are defined as government-regulated situations only. This discriminatory, exclusive definition is not found in any peer-reviewed research. Child care is the care of a child. Early learning is the learning a child does, and a child care space is a space a child is in.
All children need child care 24/7, 365. This is a universal essential need. We are fully in favour of child care and early learning, and of course research shows that it's good for children. They'd die without it. However, no peer-reviewed research shows long hours in group care improve children's long-term outcomes, and no peer-reviewed research supports the hypothesis that day care expenditures produce returns of $2 or $7 or $16 per dollar spent. This bill is another crass attempt by the day care lobby to hijack all funding for child care and early learning by hijacking these definitions.
If you are truly concerned that mothers are poor or that families have no choice, empower us. Fund families directly with the money now spent on day care spaces and bureaucracies. That's over $20,000 a year for one infant. This bill is based on a campaign of disinformation intended to manufacture consent for unmarketable, hidden agendas. You've heard of activist judges. We are concerned about activist statisticians.
One untruth is that 70% of mothers are working. All mothers are working mothers. Dr. Donna Lero has worked for Statistics Canada and says that this 70% is for paid, full-time work, including mothers of infants and toddlers. Actually, only about 6%, and not 70%, of mothers of children under three spend 30 hours or more per week on a job.
A hidden fact is that only 14.9% of children six months to five years are in day care centres. You can find this fact buried on page 97 of the 99-page Statistics Canada 2006 report. They did not publicize this fact, and instead their press release says 54% are in child care, giving the false impression that day care is the norm.
Another fact is that wait lists are bogus. They are reservation lists at best. Names are multiple-listed, put on far in advance of possible use, and not removed. Using these lists as an indicator of demand is an indicator of the abysmal level of day care scholarship. In fact, hard data from the You Bet I Care! report from B.C. and Toronto show that vacancies are common in day care centres and indicate an excess of supply over demand.
Another false premise of this bill is that regulation by government assures high quality in child care and early learning. It doesn't. Canadian studies such as You Bet I Care! and Quality Counts! find that the majority of licensed day care is of minimal to mediocre quality in Canada and Quebec. Even in Sweden, the ministry of education reports that poor quality is pervasive in day care there.
One key reason for poor quality is poor allowable staff-child ratios. A U.S. study found that with ratios of one staff to three or four children ages 14 to 24 months, fully 45% did not receive adequate caregiving, and fully 50% did not receive adequate developmental activities. But ratios in Quebec and Ontario are one to five for under 18 months. At 18 months in Quebec, it jumps to one staff for eight. These are the same bad ratios found in Australia, where for-profit day care chains dominate.
Dr. Jay Belsky, internationally renowned developmental scientist, called this “a licence to neglect”.
Dr. Edward Zigler, Yale child development guru, has said licensed day care provides “psychological thalidomide”.
Another false premise of this bill is that it is about children's “well-being”, as the preamble mentions. The strange mix of bedfellows that make up the day care lobby is dominated by the corporate right. This includes the OECD and Fraser Mustard's backers, the World Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada. These entities are not known promoters of children's well-being or justice for women. What is the left, the NDP, doing in bed with the World Bank? With socialists like this, who needs capitalists?
Dr. Mustard's organization's chairman, Charles Coffey, is also the vice-president of the Royal Bank of Canada. In a speech to the World Bank, he states that early child development is “a business imperative”. He looks to investment opportunities, including “data collection”, and indeed he praises Dr. Clyde Hertzman of UBC, who is now busy harvesting children's private data from “preconception to early adulthood”.
The OECD ideologues reject what they call “the ideology of the family” and say that we are in transition to a new order of greater state intervention in the family and something called “the new child” and “the public child”. Try to sell that to the voters.
The corporate right's hidden agenda is partly for day care to “subsidize low wage employment ('welfare in work')” . We call their misogynistic so-called post-familialist policies with jobs for moms in the forced labour force.
We urge you to dump this bill and revive the Liberal government's 1999 policy, which embraced equality and stated that policies should “neither encourage nor penalize caregiving choices”.
It's a good thing our chair has to be neutral, so he can't partake in any questioning.
First of all, I wanted to thank all of you for coming here. I think out of today's presentations it's extremely unfortunate that we are actually having a debate and listening to testimony that is pitting stay-at-home moms against working mothers against parents that have chosen, both mothers and fathers, to put their children in non-profit day cares or profit day cares or put them in whatever day care space is available to them within their particular community.
I heard a number of comments from all witnesses in regard to inflated wait lists. I believe that in Ottawa there is one centralized waiting list, and taking a look at that waiting list, there are over 10,000 children on that particular waiting list. In other communities there are not opportunities for individuals or parents to have centralized waiting lists.
When you take a look at Ottawa alone, I believe it's certainly not a list that has been inflated, because when you talk to parents across this country you realize they have to wait years and years to ensure their children actually get access into day care spaces that are high quality, that are universal, and that are affordable.
I wanted to touch upon something that I believe Ms. Ward has stated in the past. Can you tell us who your organization is funded by?
I am quite perturbed by the presentations that are being made to us today. Generally people who come before us provide quite rational reasoning in the context of their expertise, their objective and their position on a situation. They come to share different opinions -- very different at times -- but every time, it is done with structured and respectful reasoning.
But good heavens, it is quite offensive for you to come here and tell us that child care in Quebec is mediocre without a word on how that opinion is arrived at. In Quebec, we do not claim to have the best possible child care, but it is child care that families want, and want to preserve. So all this is showing a great lack of respect for the people of Quebec.
When you provoke, and spew venom, as Ms. Coupal did to support her views, it is not only harmful, it is disrespectful, given the opportunity she has been given to speak on behalf of the people she represents, if indeed she represents anyone at all. When we are told that we are prescribing “psychological thalidomide“, it seems to me that she has a problem understanding the work we do here.
Earlier, I asked my colleague if she knew these organizations. She said no. I do not know them either. We understand that, on occasion, individuals can appear and express their opinion, and so on, like Ms. Ward did earlier. That is no problem as long as it is done in a way that gives people credit for some intelligence.
Still, I would like to check. I have here a publication from the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, a journal, very well-prepared documents. Researchers, especially economists, are involved, and have as their mission to educate families, to do research, to come up with innovations in family policy, etc. So it is quite disconcerting to hear the views that have been submitted to us today.
Following the lead of our Liberal colleague Ms. Dhalla, I would like to know what your specific situation is, Mr. Quist. Whom do you represent? Does your organization have members? Who are they? Who finances you? Could you tell us, so that we can try to see where you are coming from? I have read your documents, and I have not found anything about that.
Mr. Chair, the reason I did that is that Mr. Lessard was generous enough at the end of the last meeting--
An hon. member: I heard there was hara-kiri all over--
Ms. Olivia Chow: No, he was offering time for each other, and Mr. Savage was also, so there was a great deal of--
An hon. member: A great deal of consideration.
Ms. Olivia Chow: That is why I continue that tradition.
I have some letters here. One is from British Columbia, and there is a huge number of letters, over 200, but I thought I would pick one or two because they go into this whole argument about parents, stay-at-home moms and all that. Just give me a minute. I thought I'd read it. And of course they are writing that this legislation is good for children, families, our communities, and our economy.
One reads like this:
Currently fewer than 20% of families in BC have access to quality, regulated child care, yet our finance minister is proudly stating that “jobs are looking for people” in our province. Without a way to insure child care for parents, these jobs will continue to “look for people”. How long will it be before employers leave the province if they can not find employees? Already 44% of BC employers are reporting labour shortages.
Child care is everyone's business! It affects multiple areas of our society--parents, children, employers, business owners, co-workers, and grandparents, to name a few.
We need to get past the argument “Should a parent (mother) stay at home to raise children rather than work?” The fact is “Parents (including mothers) work.” The argument is a smoke screen that deflects the issue. The fact is some parents have to work--they have no choice. Parents who work need reliable, affordable, quality child care.
Provincial governments need to be accountable for the child care dollars they receive from the federal government. Bill C-303 will make provincial governments accountable for spending any money received for child care on child care”.
And that's from Cathy Cross, Port Alberni, B.C.
I guess, Helen, you are from B.C. and others here are parents and mothers who are saying they have to work, maybe because the income level is not high, or the dad's income level is just not high enough, and this mom has to work. In that case, what do you do? You need to have child care--and quality child care.
There was discussion about training. If we have to have child care, then surely we need to have decent quality and training. If that is the case, then I know early childhood educators take two or three years of education in college, so they are very well trained. We want trained child care workers who get adequate pay so they can make a living, so they can take care of the kids of parents who work.
I see complete logic in all these letters. What would you say to a parent like Cathy Cross? What would she do to her parents?
Surely, I think, Mr. Quist would agree with this “love thy neighbour”, because I believe you are from a church-based organization, are funded a lot by religious organizations--
A voice: This has no bearing--
Ms. Olivia Chow: Okay, whichever it is, we won't go into that.
Say your neighbour is a mother who works outside the home--to define it more precisely, in a hotel--and the father is driving taxi, with both of them working double shifts, working long hours. They're barely making their rent and are having a hard time putting enough food on the table, and their kids need high-quality child care. What do you do with a family like that?
In Ottawa, for example, there are 7,000 kids waiting for child care. In Toronto it's a huge number, sometimes 10,000 or 12,000. In Vancouver, B.C., I am sure there's a huge waiting list. What do you do with parents who end up working two or three shifts in order to make ends meet, and then the kids end up being at home, not being taken care of, because there's no choice whatsoever? What do you say to those parents?
I don't know who would want to answer.
There are a few points that I want to raise in my five or six minutes now.
Just for starters, I would note that we are doing this in three weeks, and I appreciate the volunteers being here in such a compacted timeframe. Look at the Canada Health Act. That was done through 10 years of federal-provincial negotiations. We are certainly trying to work on child care in a very brief timeframe.
The two areas I want to look at are the withholding of payments and also universality.
On the point of withholding of payments, I have concerns with that aspect of the bill, giving governments a tool to take away child care funding. That is what this bill does. If we look at the bare bones of it, it gives the federal government a tool to take child care money away. We saw that happen in 1993, when the Liberals were in power and took $25 billion out of social transfers. We see McGuinty doing that now in Ontario. I don't know why we would want to give government another vehicle through Bill C-303 to take funds away from parents.
Right now we're all saying that we're in favour of child care, but there is $2.4 billion going toward a universal child care benefit. Mr. Dion has already said that he doesn't support that. Are we going to take $2.4 billion away from Canadian children? I'd be aghast at that. This bill would allow a Prime Minister to say to the provinces, “Do you know what? I'm not going to agree with sending you those social transfers.” It happened in 1993. It could happen again. That's a reality.
On the point of universality, subclause 5(4) states that the criterion of universality must be met in order for a province to receive funding. Right now we know that the Quebec level is 50%. Ms. Savoie said that her view of universality is 54%. So already we're leaving a bar where there are different views of universality. If this bill is passed, technically the federal government could say no province--any province, not just Quebec--meets that and so none of them gets funding. This bill is certainly not thought out very clearly.
I imagine that many of the organizations here today have concerns with that.
There were some references paid to health care. I know that is something that has been brought up before in these hearings, the universal nature of our health care that we are all very proud of. In our health care system you're not going to tell five out of ten people who break their leg, “You're going to get no help from the government, you're going to get no help from hospitals”, but that is what this does with children. It says to five out of ten children, “We're not going to help you”. It picks and chooses winners. It picks and chooses parents. It picks favourites.
Government is not about picking favourites. You're saying to a dad who works a night shift, “We're not going to pick you”. If we have a dad who wants to stay at home with his kids, we're saying according to this plan, “You're not one of us. You're not someone who we believe deserves support. Your children aren't good enough under this bill.” That is just ludicrous. The government is not about picking favourites; all children need the benefit of the Canadian government to help them with child care.
I want to know your comments and your perspectives on those two fronts--one, on how this universality principle is actually not achieved, and two, about the withholding of funds and how that's dangerous.
We could start of with Mr. Quist.
I want to thank the witnesses for coming and giving us their presentations.
It is always a bit of a treat to follow Mr. Brown. It's a little bit like an afternoon at the improv, as he goes through some of his frightening tactics. I think he's been sitting too close to John Baird in the House of Commons.
To react to the comment he made the other day about the cut of $25 billion in the transfers, unless they're planning to bring back Mr. Mulroney and build up a $42 billion annual deficit, I don't see this as being imminent. I don't think even the Conservative government, under a minority Parliament, can be in power long enough to rack that up, but I hope you keep your eye on this and make sure it doesn't happen.
I'd like to ask a question about choice, because I think we all agree choice is the issue. I believe the plan the Liberal Party introduced provided choice. I believe this plan will provide more choice. You very clearly believe the opposite.
In my own province of Nova Scotia, among the people most excited about the Liberal plan that was introduced and signed in 2005 were parents of special needs kids and parents of francophone families, because they can't get child care spaces in Nova Scotia. As part of the deal that was signed with the Province of Nova Scotia, those spaces would have been created. That, to me, is choice that they otherwise don't have.
I wonder whether you have a view on that, anybody who wants to answer.
Some days it is difficult to sit here and hear what we hear about Quebec child care. I want to say very firmly that, in Quebec, we have a universal service that meets the needs of the majority of Quebec parents, and of which we are very proud. What is more, we want to keep it as it is.
You should know that this service was not built in a day. My oldest child is 35 now, and even before he had come into the world, we were already fighting to get child care. A number of battles had to be fought, men and women together, for us to get what we have today. The battle went on for a long time; a large number of people were involved and it arose from a very specific need: men and women with children who wanted to work and who wanted a service that was well set up, where children could receive an education, and where they were safe. It was a social choice.
A social choice means that the majority of people in a given place decided what was good for their children. If nine other provinces and the territories decide that they do not want child care service, more power to them. But in Quebec, we chose what we thought was good for us. And never, ever, will I accept your coming here and telling us that we have a discriminatory system. If you want to talk about discrimination, I can give you many more relevant examples than children.
By and large, we are educated and informed people. We love children, and so there is no way we would put them in a system that you are daring to call mediocre. When you say that, you insult everyone in Quebec. Now, that is nothing new, neither here nor elsewhere in Canada. But at least in the interest of being fair and equitable, you should be able to recognize what most people and most credible institutions in Canada and around the world record recognize, that in Quebec, we have just about the best system of child care there is. The system is so well regarded that some MPs are holding it up as a model and submitting it as such to the House.
Of course, in any model, adjustments have to be made here and there. It is a universal system -- I am going to keep calling it universal --, but that does not mean that it works for 50% of the children, as someone here said; it means that it is accessible to everyone.
Of course there are problems with spaces. We are working on it. We would like to get to the point where all children have access. However, you will surely agree that a system like that is not put into place overnight. So it is universal in the sense that everyone has access and in the sense that the first come is the first served, precisely to prevent discrimination. People have access whether they are on welfare or whether they are lawyers or teachers. That is what universality is for us.
So if you want to look it up in a dictionary, go ahead. But coming up with your own definition to denigrate the system is not going to fly.
All I want to say here in that we have our system, we put it into place and it works for us. If you want to use it as a model, go ahead. If you do not want to use it as a model, do what you like. But we want to keep it, and we are going to do everything we can to keep it.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
You said there are two neighbours. You've somehow merged them both into one. We're talking about one who wants to go to work, who wants day care; the other side is on welfare, has decided that her work is at home with her kids. Yes, maybe she was a nurse, maybe she wasn't. Maybe this side was a nurse, who knows?
Under this bill, the lady who wants to go to work and wants to go out and get paid for it, has an option under this bill. I'm thrilled for her; really, I am. Honestly, I am. Then you have a lady on welfare, with two kids, who does not have an option, except maybe to go to Ontario Early Years or other provinces', which I love--I used it myself, I don't want it to go away--to find a pamphlet that tells her how important milk is, but where is that milk coming from?
As you said, rent in Ontario is $1,200 easily. There are two kids; let's throw them in a one-bedroom apartment for $800 or $900 a month. She's still at home. She's managing to do what she can, begging and borrowing and favours and everything, to keep her kids because she has an honest belief...and I have it myself. The only difference between her and me is our bank accounts. We are both good parents. Some parents suck, but it goes both ways. Some day care workers suck too. It's a natural instinct in that person. It has nothing to do with an overall image of day care or parents at home.
On this side you have the mom, on welfare too, ready to go to day care. I know you said $10,000 before, but in Ontario Mary Anne Chambers said it's $18,000 a year to create a day care space. With two kids, it's costing $36,000 a year for her to go to day care--to put her two kids in day care, not her.
This side is getting $11,000 plus. All that comes to $15,000 or $16,000 a year. I'm not saying give her the $36,000, but don't you think bringing her up to a little above the poverty level might help her buy that milk, rather than running to--
Yes, I think it's interesting to note the combativeness of the opposition parties. I think they're realizing the shortcomings of this bill. And it's interesting how combative they get when faced with parents who simply want a choice and want to be treated fairly under a system.
I noted that Ms. Dhalla talked about pitting stay-at-home moms versus working mothers. I would point out that that's exactly what this bill does. It pits one type of parent over another type of parent, one family against another, and it does so because it wouldn't treat them all fairly.
I would note that in our program right now we have $5.6 billion allocated to families. It is three times as much as the Liberal Party had in theirs. The funny thing is that they don't argue with the numbers. What they seem to take issue with is the allocation of that money. In fact, I think one of the members, Mr. Savage, was quoted in the House of Commons as saying that the child care credit does nothing. I would think that some of you might take some issue with that.
They basically say there are some choices worthy of help and that some choices aren't worthy of help. I'd like to hear you comment on that. I think most of you would be in the category where your child care choice isn't worthy of financial help. Could you comment on that?
I'll start with Mr. Quist first, actually.
It's good to be here. I'm the MP for Labrador. I must say, as a visitor, a fill-in this afternoon, it's one of the most energetic and animated discussions at a committee that I've seen in some time.
I would say the witnesses' views are very much in line with the Conservative Party of Canada. What the Conservative Party members espouse is obviously exactly what Ms. Smith would espouse, or Ms. Ward would espouse, or Mr. Quist would espouse.
Ms. Beverley Smith: I do not agree. Excuse me, I'll speak for myself.
Mr. Todd Russell: That's my view and my impression, and I just wanted to share it with you.
Ms. Helen Ward: You're wrong. You're very wrong.
Mr. Todd Russell: You're in very, very, very close alignment with the views of the Conservative Party of Canada.
I want to do two things. The first thing is to correct the record with respect to what was in place when we took power on February 6, 2006. The second thing I want to do is highlight the reason I oppose this bill; I think the issue speaks to a broader question about political community.
On the first issue, and that is regarding the facts, the original Liberal national child care plan was really a two-step process. The first step in the process was to execute 13 bilateral agreements between the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories. The second part of the plan was to actually execute 13 bilateral funding agreements between the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories.
When we took government on February 6, the case was that in terms of the first stage of the process, the agreements in principle, only 10 out of the 13 had been signed. The three territories had refused to sign the first stage in the plan because they were holding back on base funding, in addition to per capita funding. With regard to the second stage in the process, the process that would actually trigger the funds that would flow, only three bilateral agreements had been signed; seven provinces and three territories had not signed funding agreements. The three provinces in question that had signed these bilateral funding agreements that allowed the money to flow were Manitoba, Quebec, and Ontario.
When we took power on February 6, we did three things. We triggered the one-year termination clauses in those three funding agreements with Manitoba, Quebec, and Ontario. We released the funds for the balance of the 2005-06 fiscal year, the $1 billion in funds that had been allocated, and we committed to the provinces that in the fiscal year 2006-07 we would flow the $1 billion to the ten provinces and three territories on an unrestricted basis. That was the case.
The reason I point that out is that even after all the effort on the part of the previous government, the national plan had not actually been fully executed. This serves to highlight the challenges of cross-jurisdictional programs and the problems in coming forward with a national program in this particular area.
The second point I wanted to make today had to do with national programs.
Regarding Outremont, for example, if this bill is passed and the act goes into effect, the member for Outremont will be able to vote for child care services in my riding of Wellington---Halton Hills in Ontario. But he could not vote for child care services in Outremont, because, under clause 4 of this bill, Quebec is not part of the national system.
One of the reasons I oppose this bill is what I call the Outremont question. It really is a situation where, because you're exempting Quebec from the provisions of this so-called national plan, you create a situation where the honourable member from Outremont can vote for the service levels and standards of this program in Wellington—Halton Hills--it affects the Canadian citizens of Wellington—Halton Hills--but she would not have the authority to vote for or have a say in the services and standards that would apply to Canadian citizens living in her own riding of Outremont.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for being so kind.
I wanted to touch upon a couple of things. The discussion at some points has been heated, but we obviously have substantially different viewpoints on this side versus our friends on the other. But I think that ultimately it is important that we talk about what we think is the best approach to ensure that our children, who are our future, get the very best.
I do want to comment before I ask my particular question. If I'm not mistaken, Ms. Smith stated in her earlier comment, when my colleague asked about what type of child care was appropriate, that children in day care do not receive love. Since 54% of children are in some form of non-parental care, that is an absolute insult to those young children and those parents who have invested time and energy in putting their children in quality spaces and work with child care educators who, on a daily basis, try to provide the very best for those children. I think those children are receiving love and they are receiving care, because for many parents across the country, that is their only choice.
I did want to bring up a question that Sara commented on and also mentioned in her report. You had stated--and I know this was disputed--that according to Statistics Canada, 54% of children are in some form of non-parental child care.
Sara, how much do you think it costs for a day care space across the country?