September 25, 2006
Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP) :
Mr. Speaker, every member of the House should ask themselves two questions.
These are two questions that go to the very heart of our duty as members of Parliament. The first question is: Do we want the best for our children of Canada?
The second is: Do we want a bright future? Those are simple questions but I urge all members to think about them seriously.
If any member of the House says no to either question, let that member go on the record and tell Canadians that he or she does not want the best for children and does not care about the future of our children. Let members say it loud and clear. Let them admit it and then resign because the only business of the House is working for a better future for all Canadians. That is what we are here for.
With this early learning and child care act we have the opportunity to confirm our commitment to the future. We have the opportunity to support and build Canadian leadership in the world. We have the opportunity to invest in success. Passing this legislation would ensure reliable provincial transfers of our child care spaces while entrenching the principles of quality, universality, accessibility, accountability and educational development. These are national standards for this vitally needed service, like the standards for health care. This would establish early learning and child care as a cornerstone of Canada, as it should be and must be.If we fail to enshrine this commitment to early learning and child care legislation, then we are saying no to those questions. We are saying no to children, no to the future and no to Canada. We will be giving up on the future, failing our duty and embracing complete failure.
When it comes to early learning and child care, Canada already has a failing grade and dismal performance.
We are at the bottom of the heap of industrialized nations, and that is not just the NDP speaking. That is the OECD, the international community.
Canada is completely failing our children and the OECD confirms this. The previous Liberal government neglected this whole area for years, even though it spoke about the importance of early learning and child care. It committed transfers to the provinces last year.
Finally there was some prospect of progress, but the last Parliament failed to enshrine the principles of our national commitment in legislation.
Now the new Conservative government has wiped out the provincial agreements. In a few months time when the transfers end, the bit of progress we have made will be gone. Then Canada will continue its downward spiral, falling behind the rest of the world, unless we take action.The OECD has put a global spotlight on Canada’s dirty little secret. We have a failing grade in early education and child care. We have tumbled down the rankings of other countries. We are way behind the leaders. We are way behind other western democracies, not just in spending but in the very nature of child care and early learning. Too much of Canadian child care is unregulated babysitting with no quality educational components; another failing grade. That is what the OECD says.
It is the very course that the new Conservative government seems determined to follow. Providing an impetus to big box profiteers fail our children even further. Throwing a bit of money at parents and then clawing back a big chunk of it in taxes is not early learning and child care.No wonder the new government is desperate for an early election. It does not want to face the rage of parents next April after they are presented with their tax bills. That is when Canadians will see that there is a lot less to that $1,200 promise than meets the eye. It is a lot less money and no new early learning and child care spaces, no new spaces at all, nothing for children, no investment in the future and a complete dismal failure for Canada.
The OECD has made a clear link between national investments in quality child care and early learning; productivity, economic growth, not to mention that the OECD demonstrates that early learning and child care is also a social good. It has a positive impact on the health of children and society and it alleviates poverty. Child poverty remains a terrible reality in this country, another dismal failure.
Again, this is not just the NDP speaking.
This is not just child care and educational experts talking.
This is not just parents desperate for child care for their kids.
This is not just the employers who want a productive workforce.
This is the OECD saying that we must deal with child care and invest in our children.
The OECD has recommended 1% of the GDP as a minimum government investment. We are at a dismal .03%, a fraction of the OECD benchmark. Some countries even invest 2%. No wonder Canadians’ productivity is just slipping. No wonder Canadian businesses and industries are worried about our competitiveness and the competitiveness of the workforce.
The Conservative government members like to boast about their business expertise and their economic stewardship. This is just as bogus as their so-called child care plan when they rip the money away from provincial programs next year, March 2007, Canada will be even worse in our OECD tables and the long term harm to our economy will be devastating.
This is why it is so important to enshrine the principles of early learning and child care in legislation. We can do that by supporting this act and this is not a luxury, it is an urgent necessity. We cannot afford to let Canada fall further behind. Parliament must understand the urgency and Canada’s future depends on it.
This is an action we must take. We must make it as an investment in leadership. The Prime Minister may think the best way to demonstrate Canadian leadership is to flex our military muscles, but surely the best way to show leadership is to support our children and our future. This is an area where Canada should be number one. There is no excuse for this. We urge the government and all members of the House to strive for excellence and success and not failure.
Remember the two questions I asked earlier: Do we want the best for the children of Canada? Do we want a bright future?
I believe that every member of the House knows what their answer should be.
Let us agree and move forward.
Let us support Canada’s early learning and child care act.
Canada’s children are relying on us.
Let us show them what true leadership is all about.