Human Resources and Skills Development Universal Child Care Benefit—Child Care Spaces

Question Period

Senator Jane Cordy October 17th, 2013

Hon. Jane Cordy: As other honourable senators have done, I would like to congratulate Senator Carignan on being chosen Leader of the Government in the Senate. We worked together on Internal Economy and I enjoyed working with him.

Congratulations also to Senator Martin in her new position as Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Honourable senators, the recent report by the Childcare Resource and Research Unit indicates that this government's child care policies continue to fail for Canadian families. The Harper government's Universal Child Care Benefit, introduced in 2006, after scrapping the Liberal government's national child care program — which, by the way, had the agreement of the provinces — has only marginally improved access and affordability for high-quality child care options.

Claims by this government that the Universal Child Care Benefit provides families with greater choice and better child care options are proven to be simply not true. In fact, the report states:

. . . this public expenditure does not appear to have delivered "choice in child care" or even improved families' child care choices.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate provide this chamber with the number of child care spaces created since 2006, when this government took over, and tell us how many of those spaces are regulated spaces?

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): The government's plan in regard to employment and poverty reduction also improves the situation of children.

I would specifically remind you that Canada has created more than one million net new jobs since the recession. This is added income for families that also helps children; however, 1.5 million low-income Canadians in 2011 received the Working Income Tax Benefit, increasing the funds allocated to families and to children.

The National Child Benefit and Child Tax Benefit have also been enhanced. We also established the Universal Child Care Benefit, which provides an additional $100 per month for each child under six years and has helped pull about 24,000 families and 55,000 children out of the low-income tax bracket.

This child tax credit — which is available for each child under 18 — provides additional money for over three million children and ensures that over 180,000 low-income Canadians do not have to pay taxes. I do not think that increasing resources for families is something to be criticized.

The Speech from the Throne was also very clear about our intention to continue enhancing the disposable income of our middle-class and Canadian families and by other means outlined in the Speech.

To be honest, I expected to receive compliments on the government's excellent Speech from the Throne, which was aimed at increasing the funding available for families. I am rather surprised that I have not received those compliments so far.

Senator Cordy: Senator Carignan is saying there were 1 million net new jobs. Unfortunately many of them are part-time jobs. People are underemployed and unemployed, and they are working part-time jobs. We know that over 17 per cent of young people in Canada are unemployed. That is a striking, unfavourable number of young people to be unemployed in this country.

However, that wasn't even my question. My question was related to child care spaces. I don't think, in the leader's answer, unless I didn't hear it, that he answered the question of how many child care spaces have been created since 2006. If he doesn't have the numbers, perhaps he would take that question as notice.

Senator Carignan said in his answer that people are getting a little over $100 a month, which is $1,200 a year. Fortunately, I have become a new grandmother in the past year. Two of my daughters have new children.

In listening to them talk about what child care will cost when they finish their parental year, $1,200 will cover two to three weeks of the year. That leaves 49 more weeks of the year when my daughters and their husbands will have to pay child care. Fortunately they have quite high-paying jobs and are able to do it. However, many people in Canada are struggling to make ends meet and $1,200 a year will not go very far in terms of providing child care.

Having been an elementary school teacher, unfortunately I saw kids whose parents had to decide on food for the table or paying for child care. As a result, children were going home after school with nobody in the home for them, and that's a sad statistic.

My next question is — and perhaps the leader can also answer the other question that I asked — how many business workplace child care spaces have been created since 2006? Business workplace child care spaces were part of the Conservative election campaign a few years ago. In May 2007 I asked Senator LeBreton this very question. I asked if the leader would look at what happened with the creation of business workplace child care spaces, and she said:

Honourable senators, we are still hopeful that businesses will create child care spaces.

She also said:

Some businesses have created child care spaces . . . .

Perhaps, since my question in 2007, Senator Carignan can let this chamber know how many child care spaces in the business workplace have been created by this government.

Senator Carignan: With regard to employment, I would like to remind you that, of a million jobs, 90 per cent of those are full time and 80 per cent are in the private sector. With regard to the number of child care spaces, 114,000 new spaces have been created.