STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE
COMITÉ PERMANENT DES FINANCES
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Monday, October 27, 1997
The Chairman (Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua
(Vaughan—King—Aurora, Lib.)): I would like to call
the meeting to order and welcome everyone. Pursuant to
Standing Order 83.1, the finance committee is holding
pre-budget consultation hearings to get input for the
This afternoon we have the pleasure to have with us
representatives from a number of organizations. From
the Canadian Association of National
Voluntary Organizations we have Mr. Al Hatton;
from the Child Welfare League of
Canada, Mr. Mel Gill; from the Canadian Teachers'
Federation, Harvey Weiner, deputy secretary general;
from the Canadian Policy Research Network, Suzanne
Peters; from the Child Poverty Action Group, Christa
Freiler; and from the Learning Disabilities Association
of Canada, Roy Cooper.
I understand you have set up a special way to make
this presentation. We will start with the
Canadian Association of National Voluntary
Organizations. Each group should have no more than
five minutes, so give us an overview and then we will
enter into a question and answer session.
You may begin, Mr. Hatton.
Mr. Al Hatton (Canadian Association of National
Voluntary Organizations): Thank you. Thank you also
for having a special session on children.
I want to begin where Minister Martin ended in his
economic and fiscal update on October 15 in Vancouver.
Towards the end of his talk I thought he made a very
interesting point, which will lead into how we want to
cast our presentation today. He said:
It is for this reason that I stated at the
beginning of these remarks that the debate on how the
fiscal dividend should be allocated should not be
limited to dealing with new investment, debt reduction
and tax cuts only as if they were ends in themselves.
The decision should be made with the nation's
priorities very much at the forefront
of our considerations.
A little later on he said:
Some see the discussion ahead as a fiscal debate
only. It isn't. It's a debate about values.
And later on he says:
A strong economy is dependent on a strong society.
So we want to talk about the strong society.
Also, in the Speech from the Throne
there's a pithy statement at the beginning talking
about a “well-performing”
civil society. What does that mean?
If we see society as a three-legged stool, one
the private sector and business, the second the public
and para-public sector or government, and the third
the voluntary sector or everything else, then in a
sense our concern is that probably for the last ten
years we have been devoting the majority of our energy
to supporting the private sector. That's fine, but
we think it has been at the expense of both the government and
the para-governmental sector, and certainly at the expense
of the voluntary sector.
So we would say that the priorities and values of the
private sector are paramount, the public sector is
receding, and the community is peripheral.
In a sense we've been caught in a political debate
where the right is pressing for less government, not
necessarily good government, and the left is pressing
for more government, not necessarily good government.
We believe it is now time for the federal government
to fulfil and go beyond the promises it has made in red
book 2, the Speech from the Throne, and the economic
update. It's really about reinvesting in community,
reinvesting in citizens, and in a sense enhancing
citizen participation, and strengthening, if you will,
the voluntary sector. That would support 76,000
charities, 1.3 million staff working in this sector,
two-thirds of which are full-time, and igniting the
volunteerism of over 6 million volunteers a year
producing 1 billion hours of volunteer time.
For the record, the majority in our sector did not
want 34¢ on the dollar going to debt service. We
supported the move towards reducing the indebtedness in
terms of the deficit of the federal government, but we
did not see the effects of a war on the
poor instead of a war on poverty, with massive cuts to
welfare, social services, health, and education.
What are the priorities? In looking at the three
questions you have asked us to address, we would
generally support the idea of some portion of that—you
said 50%—going towards reinvestment; some portion
going towards targeted tax cuts, which we'll come back
to; and some towards reducing the long-term debt very
slowly, not aggressively.
In areas like reducing unemployment, why not have
targets of reducing unemployment from 10% to 5%? Nobody
believed five years ago that we'd get to zero in terms
of the deficit. Nobody believes we can reduce
unemployment significantly. We would argue that is
possible with some very strategic investments.
We would also say that resources should be restored to
the CHST so the provinces can carry out some of the
specific programs they've been supporting over time.
We need tax incentives to help modest and moderate
donations. We applauded the finance committee's last
two proposals to encourage large donations and
encourage philanthropy in giving through large
donations, but we have not yet finished the job in
terms of moderate and modest donations.
My colleagues will talk about investments for
children. I have three or four other ideas, and then
One of the first areas to be cut when people are
looking at cuts to social services is volunteer
co-ordination—the people who actually stimulate and
encourage volunteers in terms of recruitment, training,
and organization. People think volunteers just sort of
magically carry out fantastic things with no
organization behind them. That's not true. So that
would be one area where the government could look at
Support of pilot projects in community economic
development: There is a variety of exciting things
going on in small rural communities and urban areas
where people have banded together to do all kinds of
activity related to community economic development. We
have no public policy in this area.
Community organizations want to work in partnership
with the federal government and the provinces for a
whole series of new job creation ideas. Obviously if
our sector has been cut 15% or 20%—and we don't have
the numbers, we're gathering them, and it will probably
take a few more months or a year. But let's face it,
everybody knows about the effects of the cuts. Why
can't you reinvest, as you did with the private sector,
in the community?
The province of Quebec has some very exciting things
going on under the rubric of the social economy. That
experience should be parleyed across Canada so we can
look at a similar strategy for the rest of Canada.
We are not against being measured in terms of results.
We just want to know what the rules are. We can
deliver. We can ignite a lot more voluntary action and
a lot more community staff working for Canadians in the
areas that I think are important in keeping this
country together. Thank you.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Hatton.
Now we'll move to Mr. Gill from the Child Welfare
League of Canada. Welcome.
Mr. Mel Gill (Child Welfare League of Canada):
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I also welcome the opportunity on behalf of the
Child Welfare League of Canada to make this
I wear two hats in this regard. I'm also executive
director of the Children's Aid Society of
Ottawa-Carleton, and I want to talk a bit about
the way in which federal financial decisions have
impacted on the front-line services.
Before I do that, I refer you to a document that I
provided to the clerk, called “Investing in Children:
A Framework for Action”.
This is what a comprehensive national
agenda for children might look like, and we offer it to
you for consideration.
We commend the federal government and the provinces
for their commitment to developing a national agenda
for children. I understand there's considerable work
going on at the bureaucratic level, at the officials
level, in that regard.
This document emanated from a conference in late 1996
that had some 1,200 participants from across the
country, from all sectors of the economy and the social
and health services sector. It has been endorsed by
some 24 or 25 national organizations, and other
endorsements continue to come in. It provides a
guidepost for federal, provincial, and municipal
The first one is that the well-being of children and
youth should be a key focus of legislative and policy
decision-making. The second is that investing in
children makes good economic, social, and business
sense, and is essential to economic prosperity and
social stability. The third is that even the strongest
economic and employment performance will need to be
supplemented by income support and taxation programs
that provide for the unemployed and redistribute
The next is that income-based measures designed to
alleviate poverty will not in and of themselves solve
all of the problems of children. Access to
well-co-ordinated, community-based services, such as
early childhood education, adequate child care, and
recreation, is essential for all children. Early
investing in children has been demonstrated to provide
significant returns on investment through savings in
future social health, educational, and justice costs.
Finally, recognizing that government can't do
everything, we've suggested a number of things that
communities, businesses, individuals, people in media,
and labour unions can do at the community level to
enhance the well-being of children.
With that broad outline, one of the things those of us
in the voluntary sector and the human services sector
have often been criticized for is not offering ways of
financing the programs we suggest—that we're always
talking about spending without identifying ways we
might in fact raise some of the revenue necessary.
I'm going out on a bit of a limb with this, because
I'm not an economist and I don't pretend to have all of
the answers here, but the first premise has to be that
when you're looking at spending on children, you need
to look at it as an investment, not as sunk money that
doesn't have a return. There are, throughout this
document and in footnotes, examples of how dollars
invested for children's services in fact have an
economic, let alone a social, return for the country.
We contend as well that addressing the social deficit
in this country is as important as addressing the
fiscal deficit and debt.
With respect to economic policy, we're proposing an
economic policy that would develop a government deficit
and debt reduction strategy incorporating low real
interest rates and moderate inflation and wage growth,
more than 0% to 3% inflation growth. There is
substantial evidence in other OECD countries that those
countries with inflation in the area of 3% to 4%
generally perform better than countries with lower
It also would incorporate a minimum tax on wealth and
a progressive tax on wealth transfers in excess of $1
This country has something in the order of $1 trillion
that will pass from one generation to the next within
the next 20 or 30 years. There is some onus on the
part of those who have benefited the most from this
country's enormous wealth to contribute back to the
country. If you simply took 50% of that $1 trillion
and applied it against the debt through a wealth tax,
the federal debt would be virtually eliminated.
We recognize that there's a flight of capital issue
here, and we're proposing that there be some increased
protection for that.
Clearly there should be a correction of tax inequities
of modest- and middle-income families with children.
Again, those countries with less disparity between rich
and poor have tended to fare better on economic growth
than those without.
Also, there should be a substantial commitment to
physical and social infrastructure projects for job
creation. There is a note at the back of this document
in explanation of that, but let me say three other
At the front line of services, the decision to
eliminate $7 billion from transfer payments to the
provinces, and the decision before that to put a 5%
ceiling on growth for the three richest provinces, has
had an enormously deleterious effect on front-line
services. All of you will have an appreciation for the
difficulties that child protection services are in
across this country. There have been inquiries in
B.C., Ontario, New Brunswick, and Manitoba into child
As a result of those decisions, front-line services
have been cut back drastically. You can't pretend the
provinces have more spending discretion by transferring
tax points if the total amount of money they have
coming into their operating revenues is going down. In
fact their discretion is narrowed, not broadened, by
that kind of approach.
We've suggested very specifically that as a first
priority, the government look at reinvesting the $7
billion into targeted rather than universal
programs—early childhood education, prevention, and
early intervention programs—and that that amount of
reinvestment at the very outset should be an additional
0.75% of combined federal-provincial revenues.
Another area that is grossly underfunded, particularly
in the broader children's sector, and in child welfare
even more particularly, is research. We need a
national research strategy around children's issues.
We're suggesting a very modest 0.01%, which is $35
million, of additional spending on research in this
area. We commend the government again for its decision
to establish centres of excellence for children, but
that's $20 million over five years—not nearly enough.
I'll give you one further example where there's
tremendous support across the sector, and that is the
reallocation to crime prevention of 1% additional of
the total expenditures on criminal justice across the
country per year until you reach 5%. Again, if you
look at some of the explanatory notes here, you'll see
that the Quebec model of implementation of the Young
Offenders Act has produced substantially less cost with
better results than any other province across the
These kinds of things can be done creatively, and we
encourage you to look at them, but with the emphasis on
reinvesting to reduce the social deficit that's been
created by the slash-and-burn policies of the last few
years, as well as addressing the fiscal deficit and
Thank you very much.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Gill.
We'll hear from the Canadian Teachers' Federation, Mr.
Mr. Harvey Weiner (Deputy Secretary General,
Canadian Teachers' Federation): Thank you, Chair.
We, as well, are pleased to be here in the capacity of
discussing children's issues.
We see in our society, on a day-to-day basis, very
strong, well-organized lobbies on health issues,
seniors' issues, etc. The voice of children is a voice
that is certainly not heard often enough or with
As teachers—and we represent 242,000 teachers across
this country, teaching in elementary and secondary
schools in every province and both territories—we see
on a day-to-day basis the baggage that young students
bring with them to school. We feel it is time we began
to look at children's issues on the basis of the needs
of these young people, because they are the future
taxpayers, the future leaders, the future citizens who
will be determining the strength and the success of
this country as we move into the 21st century.
We often forget that it is these children, as adults,
who will be paying the taxes, who will be supporting
the pensions we hope to have when we reach the age of
retirement, who will be supporting the kind of health
system we hope to have when we are in need of health
So, coming back to a theme that is resonating around
this table, we look at children's issues from a
perspective of investment rather than a perspective of
One of the key problems that has not yet been overcome
is the jurisdictional problem. When we talk about
children, it seems the federal government looks at
jurisdiction as prenatal to perhaps about age five or
so. Then the youngsters go to school from age five to
about 16 or so, and they drop off the federal map and
into the provincial map. Then suddenly, when there's a
transition to work or the labour market, they're again
a federal responsibility.
We say this is nonsense. The federal government has
to develop partnerships with both the provinces and the
communities at large—and we're pleased to see it has
begun to take some leadership in this
area—partnerships that we around this table believe
must be enlarged to include the voluntary sector, the
non-governmental sector, in building and developing
sustainable plans to ensure that every child born in
this country has a full opportunity to become a
healthy, productive, self-sustaining individual
contributing to his or her community. It is in this
way, we would suggest, that a lot of the expenditures
that governments are currently involved in will be
substantially reduced. So we are truly talking about
To borrow some of the jargon of the day, when we talk
about human resource development or human resource
investments, the human resource doesn't begin to exist
at age 16 or 17. The human resource begins to exist
from pregnancy onward. It is how healthy the
development is of that embryo and that child, when the
child is born, that will determine to a large extent
the capacity of that young person to be the kind of
citizen we would like to see every youngster in Canada
Abundant and ample research has been done in the world
on these particular issues to show that the first two
or three years, if not earlier, are the most critical
in terms of the child's development—the development of
the brain, the neurons, etc. The research is there.
The Canadian government has been investing, through
Human Resources Development Canada, in a study that we
are proud to have worked on: the National Longitudinal
Survey of Children. It is a critical research
study that must continue to be funded, a study that
will be tracking more than 20,000 youngsters to
adulthood. It has already begun to produce a lot of
results that indicate quite clearly that targeted
investment in a number of areas could in fact save
substantial dollars for Canadians and produce, again,
the kinds of citizens we would like to see.
The people you have around you today at this table and
others working in the voluntary sector have
considerable expertise in the day-to-day services that
young people need.
We are recommending very strongly
that this committee, in its report to the minister, in
making recommendations on investment—sustainable
investment in youngsters—put forward the notion that a
true partnership must involve the organizations around
this table and others in building an agenda that is
going to make a meaningful impression on the kinds of
problems we deal with day to day.
Let me conclude by saying we recognize around
this table that we cannot achieve all of our objectives
at once, that there are not obviously—and we recognize
this—adequate dollars to put into a budget to address
all of the problems at once. But if we don't start
today, we will have to start tomorrow or the day after,
or the cycle we see of poverty, of problems of
various types, will continue to perpetuate itself.
We are very strongly recommending therefore that this
committee, in its recommendation to the minister, make
reinvestment in our children, the future of this
country, the highest priority.
Thank you, Chair.
The Chairman: Thank you very much.
Now we'll move to the Learning Disabilities
Association of Canada. Mr. Roy Cooper.
Mr. Roy Cooper (Learning Disabilities Association
of Canada): Mr. Chairman, members of the committee,
thank you very much for inviting the Learning
Disabilities Association of Canada to appear before you
I have to point out that I feel I am different from
most of the others around the table in that I have been
a volunteer with the Learning Disabilities Association
of Canada, the Learning Disabilities Association of
Ontario, and our local Ottawa-Carleton chapter for 20 years.
I first became involved with the association because
one of my daughters has learning disabilities. So I
have a personal stake in what you do to provide for the
needs of future children who will enter the world and
have learning disabilities.
I would like to begin by stating that the Learning
Disabilities Association of Canada is pleased with this
government's deficit reduction achievements. During
the past few years the government faced tough decisions
and made difficult choices. Without its leadership and
vision of the future we would not be here today
discussing forward-thinking priorities.
In the global and competitive economy in which we
live, we believe the future of our nation relies in part
on the investment we are willing to make in children
and families. For many years it was believed that 10%
of the population head learning disabilities. Current
research in the United States of America shows that this
number may be as high as 20%. Research also shows that
the earlier the diagnosis and intervention, the better
At the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, and
as the parent of a child who has learning disabilities,
I can tell you that we live with this every day. It is
astonishing to us that in Canada very little, if
anything, is done to address the fact that 70% of young
offenders have learning disabilities. This does not
mean that learning disabilities inevitably lead to
criminal behaviour. What it does mean is that without
early diagnosis and intervention, far too many young
Canadians with learning disabilities tire of going to
school, tire of not being able to keep up with the
class, tire of being told by their teacher that they
are lazy, dumb or stupid. It also means that as a
nation we end up paying between $70,000 and $90,000 per
year to keep one young offender with learning
disabilities in custody.
The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada has a
national constituency with over 10,000 members in every
part of the country. Unfortunately, not all those with
learning disabilities belong to our association,
because then we'd be talking in excess of 3 million
people. It seems to us that our hard-earned tax
dollars would go much further if this money were
invested in early diagnosis and intervention instead of
waiting for crime to happen and simply dealing with it
We urge you to demonstrate the same leadership and
vision you have during the past few years
by: ensuring that
all teachers receive training
on children with special needs before graduating from
teacher preparation programs; making it mandatory that
every Canadian child who falls behind by one year
receives an assessment by a psychologist or educational
psychologist; providing young offenders who have
learning disabilities with targeted programs and
support needed to help put a stop to criminal
families who need to hire tutors, send their children
to remedial classes or buy specialized software for
their children; investing in research to help identify
environmental contaminants that affect neurological
development of the fetus and the young infant; encouraging
Finance Canada to work with the Learning
Disabilities Association of Canada to clarify and improve
the disability tax credit guidelines where learning
disabilities are involved.
While we recognize that some of these recommendations
would require federal government involvement in new
areas, and to work co-operatively with provinces and
territories, we recommend that you consider the
alternative, which is the financial burden of carrying
20% of our population with learning disabilities for
years to come.
I thank you for your time and attention.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Cooper.
Now we'll move to the Canadian Institute of Child Health.
Dr. Graham Chance, welcome.
Dr. Graham Chance (Canadian Institute of Child
Health): Thank you, Mr. Chairman and committee. With
me is Ms. Jenny Tipper, also from the Canadian Institute
of Child Health.
Mr. Chairman, while the deficit was being
successfully brought down, the number of Canadian
children living in poverty increased by 400,000. The
number of food banks nationally rose to 460 attended by
2 million Canadians, including 900,000 children. The
income gap widened to be the third highest among
OCDE countries and the proportion of young people
unemployed or living in poverty progressively
Clearly, the social safety net, which was designed to
protect the dignity of Canadians, developed large holes.
If we as a society value our values of compassion and
tolerance we must conclude that the
deficit reduction had adverse impacts
on vulnerable people in Canada. Consequently, the
Canadian Institute must assert
that Canada is failing to honour the commitments it
undertook as a signatory to the United Nations
Convention on the Rights of the Child.
answer to the question of priorities for spending
issues was given by the Prime Minister in his September
throne speech when he stated that children must remain at
the top of the agenda. From what I've just
stated, it is clear that children are not
yet at the top of the agenda,
but we agree they should be placed there. As the
Prime Minister also commented, we owe our
greatest obligation to our young.
My colleague from
the Canadian Teachers' Federation has stressed the need
to invest in human capital. Wherever else spending
increases might be considered, there is no question that
the greatest long-term value will accrue from
investments in the young. Research over the years,
as he has stated, has proven
without question the value of investment in early brain
development and has indeed shown the profound impacts
of environment on the growth of a child's brain. This
value, the value of investment in the young growing
child, has been shown to outweigh any other
form of economic investment.
Specifically, then, the
Canadian Institute would recommend that
the investment in the national child benefit should
continue but should be fully indexed to inflation and
not tied to parental employment status.
In Canada at present the elderly have resort to the
CPP, working-age Canadians have their unemployment
insurance, but from the child point of view there is no
comparable fund. We would therefore agree with
Campaign 2000, that a comparable social investment
fund for children should be created to ensure
a decent standard of living for modest- and
low-income families, accessibility of Canadian children
and their families to comprehensive and nurturing early
child development, child care, and parent support
Job-protected parental leave and benefits should be
expanded, recognizing again the critical importance of
parental time—which is at a premium in this
country—spent on young children. We
commend the implementation of the centres of
excellence, but along with
the Canadian Teachers' Federation we
would recommend that it be expanded and
A national system to monitor and report
on the healthy developments of all children in Canada—a
national children's report card—should be developed so
that society in Canada can know in detail the
health of our country's children and the impact of
economic and social actions taken by governments.
We recognize that in implementing a
national children's agenda the federal government will
be working jointly with every province. We urge the
federal government to continue to demonstrate
leadership in this area and build on the past
collaborative successes, such as community action
programs for children.
Society's attitudes and values must acknowledge that
children neither determine the circumstances of their
birth nor the environments in which they grow. For the
quality of life, as we know it in Canada, to survive
globalization, the needs and well-being of children and
their families must be given first priority.
We truly believe that then, and only then, will the
other priorities of society be ordered correctly.
The Chairman: Thank you, Dr. Chance.
We'll now move to the representative from the Child Poverty
Action Group, Christa Freiler.
Ms. Christa Freiler (Child Poverty Action Group): The
Child Poverty Action Group is a public interest policy and research
organization that began in 1985. That was even
before anyone in Canada agreed there was child
poverty in this country, and we were one of the founding
members of Campaign 2000.
I want to begin by addressing the deficit reduction
process question and the phenomenon that some people
have called the triumph of the fiscal imperative, which
is the view that the fiscal deficit is and must be the
nation's priority and that we have no choice but to cut
social programs. I will later contrast that with what
we're calling the social imperative, the perspective
that we need to assess human needs and investments in
people and that these should determine our economic
In 1994, almost exactly three years ago, the Child
Poverty Action Group was one of a number of public
interest organizations that argued that Canada's fiscal
crisis was not the result of an unaffordable system of
social programs. We demonstrated that Canada had neither overprovided
nor overspent on social programs, but rather this
country had undercollected relative
both to our capacity to collect revenue and compared
with other industrialized countries.
It is now well known that during the period from 1976
to 1985, a majority of advantaged middle-income
Canadians, as well as Canadian corporations, enjoyed a
tax holiday that resulted in a serious decline in
public revenue. This is relevant to the situation now
For two decades Canadians were subjected to
distortions about the source of the fiscal deficit and
bombarded with the notion that we pay too much tax.
This is not a new situation. The evidence, however,
does not bear this out, not now nor then.
Equally important, contrary to media reports, the
public is not demanding tax cuts. In fact, during the
last federal election only 7% of Canadians stated that
keeping taxes as low as possible was their first
priority. Canadians understand that they have to pay to keep
their social programs and to address national
priorities, which they themselves have identified, such as child
What has changed since 1994? Well, one important change
is that the federal government has made significant
progress in reducing the fiscal deficit and a
post-deficit surplus is being projected.
Canadians are being told there will be enough
money for both investments and reductions in the
What has not changed? What has not changed is that,
although less explicit and therefore less transparent,
the struggle is still between the social imperative and
the fiscal imperative. We should not assume that there
will be enough money for debt reduction, tax cuts, and
social investments, as much as we would all love to believe that.
The size of the post-deficit surplus is probably being
overstated by the tax reduction proponents in order to
convince us that there will be enough money for both,
or even all three, but that reductions should come
This time around—and I mean in this coming federal
budget—the fiscal imperative must not triumph as it
did in 1995. We would argue for the social imperative
taking precedence in the 1998 federal budget.
The case for social investments in children, youth, and
families has already been made in the federal throne
speech and is strongly supported by a majority of
Canadians, and obviously all of the people around this
table. According to public opinion polls, Canadians believe
that investing in children and young people is an
On the other hand, tax cuts will deprive the federal
government of the revenue needed to make social
investments in children and families, and tax cuts will
increase the likelihood that social spending cuts will
be seen to be necessary the next time Canada
experiences a serious recession.
Why should child and family poverty be a national
priority? Canadians have indicated that child poverty
should be a priority because they understand the
devastating impact, which some of my colleagues talked
about already, on the lives and life chances of almost
1.5 million children and their parents.
Canadians are in effect telling our governments
that they will not tolerate squandering the lives
of another generation of Canadian children.
But child poverty should also be a priority
for governments and policy makers because
it's a symptom of other problems: a symptom
of a labour market with a shrinking
number of decent, secure jobs; a symptom of a social
security system that has had to simultaneously
compensate for falling market incomes and contend with
spending cuts; a symptom of a fragile and underdeveloped
set of family polities in Canada that treat children
as a private responsibility rather than
a shared one between the parents and society; and finally,
a symptom of the fact that women in Canada are
not adequately supported as either mothers or workers.
The relationship between child and family poverty
and economic vulnerability of women with
children is not accidental.
In conclusion, we support Campaign 2000's contention
that children must have first call on the social
dividend. Campaign 2000 made a presentation to this
committee in Toronto on October 20. We
support, as do other people around this table, the
development of a national children's agenda, but one
in which the federal government plays a significant
role and to which it makes a fiscal commitment.
Indicators of movement toward these goals in the 1998
federal budget would for us include the
expansion and improvement of the national child benefit
system as first announced in the 1997 budget.
The $850 million down payment in the 1997 budget is an
important first step, and we must recognize that. We
would expect the second instalment of $850 million—that's
what I have here; we should be so lucky—in the 1998 budget
in view of the magnitude of the investment required.
A federal investment of $2 billion, which is
what some people think is the end point, clearly
is not enough to make a dent in both alleviating
and preventing child and family poverty.
The second indicator of movement toward this goal
would be to make early childhood education
and child care a priority of the national children's agenda.
The third would be to state a commitment
to introduce other needed elements
of the national child poverty strategy, such as
a child support advance maintenance
system, and, as a couple of people
have already suggested, a family leave
or family supplement program that recognizes the
importance and legitimacy of raising children.
Fourth, I support the Campaign 2000 recommendation
to introduce a social investment fund in recognition
that a new approach is needed to pay for the required
investments in families with children.
Thank you very much.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Ms. Freiler.
We will now move to the representative from the
Canadian Policy Research Network, Suzanne Peters.
Ms. Suzanne Peters (Canadian Policy Research
Networks): Thank you.
I come to the table in the midst of a research project
that's trying to understand in a very lateral way,
across programs and policies, what might work together.
I come to the committee trying to look at that
problem from a very long-term perspective with the
sense that the kinds of investments we can make today
are the beginnings of what we can achieve over
the longer term.
I think the reality we all face is that the current
policies in place are largely informed by
top-of-the-mind public opinion polls—they tell us only
superficial judgments—and that the policies and programs
we are looking at are reactive. They have been
put in place as responses to crises. We haven't
thought through how they connect and what are the
We also understand that they're scantily evaluated.
While we have very good research, as my colleagues
have suggested, on some of the basic determinants
of what's wrong with children, we don't know
very much about how the programs we actually
have in place work, and what makes a difference.
The problems we have in place, when they are
evaluated, also tend to deal with outputs, what the program
is doing, and not with outcomes. I would say
that the national children's agenda
is making a very big stride forward under
the national child benefit to assess outcomes
of child poverty.
Finally, one of the biggest problems we have in this
whole long-term view is that there is very little
that allows for feedback and adjustment in the system.
I come to the project with the notion that we have
to base our future actions on a sense
of what the public's values are; on what is the deliberated
kind of public judgment in this country; and on
the kind of excellent research we have in place
and need to put forward.
From that point of view, an ideal societal strategy
would be much more explicitly responsive to deliberated
values and judgment. It would be interconnected and
systematic, taking into account the ways in which
programs and policies affect one another, and it would
use our resources to best effect. It would be
evidence-based and would look at effectiveness sharply.
It would be outcome-driven and self-correcting,
using those values and that evidence to get to better
results over the long term. It's essential.
I take this as a starting point, and when I look at
other countries, as the study we're involved in does,
both internationally and interprovincially, it's clear
that societies that invest strategically in children
are getting better outcomes.
So if we look at different countries with their
different strategies, we have choices in front of us in
Canada. They are getting better outcomes than we are
in Canada as a whole. Particular provinces in this
country, including Quebec and Saskatchewan, are making
strategic investments and are getting better results.
We need to think about those models and how they can
inform what we can do in Canada as a national strategy.
In a study over recent months, I've tried to look
deeply at how Canadians would deliberate and develop a
best-policy mix, essentially for a town that I asked
them to construct. I asked them to think about the
kind of place they want to live in and about what they
would do for children.
One of the things that's clear from this research is
that not only are children a priority in the sense of
being at the top of the public opinion poll, but when
you give Canadians the chance to evaluate those
expenditures we make on children in contrast to the
expenditures we're making in other areas, there are two
reactions. Number one, they're surprised at how little
we're spending on kids relative to other areas, and
number two, they're willing to make larger investments.
They want outcome results. They want that money to be
used well and they're willing to make that investment.
They see it as more important than getting a tax break.
We all know this happens in the context of a lot of
distrust and a lot of skepticism that government can
achieve these kinds of results. The decline in the
sense of trust—that this can be just handed over—is
there and it's in front of us all. It's in front of
the researcher as well as the government.
They do expect us, however, to find a way to
collaborate across sectors, and they expect governments
to find a way to collaborate to put children at the top
of the priority list.
Let's look for a minute at what they expect
governments to do...not to do it alone. They do think
communities are important and families have to be
supported. They want the three levels to work
together. They offer incredibly broad support for the
kinds of infrastructure spending we're already doing in
health care and education. If I don't put it on the
list, they say, “Wait a minute.” If I put it on the
list, they say, “Why do you bother to ask us to debate
this? It has to be in place.”
They reject very few proposed programs on the basis of
cost. If they reject a program, it's because they
either see it as too restrictive in that it cuts down
on parents' options or as regressive in that it cuts
down their choices as to where they are in their
current ability to be in the labour market and to raise
There's a tremendous emphasis on prevention, that is,
in going upstream and making those investments for very
young children. What's surprising from this study is
that there's a tremendous emphasis on making certain
that we reach all children, not just children at risk.
One of the things that comes out of the study is the
awareness that every child is at risk and in
uncertainty, given the uncertainty of families in
relation to the labour market in Canada today.
That suggests that they support a universality in
services. They accept that there must be targeted
services in place for people at special risk, but they
want accessible services across the board for all
families in response to the difficulties families are
facing in just holding on to a job, in staying in the
labour market, in making the most of their resources,
and in keeping track of the kids.
They want flexibility. They imagine communities as
anchors. They think of communities as places where
parents help to decide, where parents help to deliver,
and they see governments as part of that package.
Therefore they want flexibility. Not every community
in this country is the same. A national strategy or a
national children's agenda must offer them the capacity
to flexibly design what will work for their
They want to make sure that no one falls through the
cracks. The income support issue is the issue where
you have the least resolved public judgment in this
country today. They want that national enriched
children's benefit. When we give them a list of
options, that's what they choose, but they want those
supplements offered in a context whereby families do
not face barriers to being in the labour market.
They are divided on how to support labour market
interaction vis-à-vis child care as a formal system, on
whether or not we need to create tax breaks to support
parent options in child care and on whether income
supplements should be in place for families whose
members stay at home.
have to say to you that there is no resolved public judgment
on that issue. It's the one they say is primary. It's
systemic, that every family faces, but they know and
recognize, as they begin to deliberate and trade off
these options in groups, that they themselves haven't
come to a resolution on that particular conflict and
that we as researchers and as the voluntary sector and
as governments have to help them work through some of
I think the findings of this study—and they are
midstream—suggest that as a country we are ready to
make larger and more strategic investments in kids, and
we need to begin to engage citizens more deeply and
more widely in a process whereby we can understand what
they want to do, resolve some of these conflicts, and
generate a new social pact across stakeholder groups.
If you look at the international evidence, if you look
at Quebec in terms of the Projet de société,
it's when everyone comes to the table and
makes decisions together that you begin to see progress
on major fronts of this kind.
We need to begin to think about the basic core pieces
that Canadians have said to us are important, that is,
the broad social infrastructure, addressing poverty,
creating community anchors for services, and creating
new options to support that interface that almost every
Canadian with a child is facing: how are they going to
Finally, we can begin to think, as we think through
the learnings of what is the best mix, of how we
construct and evaluate pilots that teach us about the
effectiveness of what works, and we use those pilots
not just as microcosmic research evidence but as a
platform to go back to the public and say this is
working and it can work in your community too. We need
to try these things out. We can make a difference. We
can create greater public learning, greater awareness,
and we can begin to develop social cohesion around
issues like children in this country.
I would agree with my colleagues that the social
imperative, as Christa put it, is in front of us, that
Canadians are with us on that front, but they need help
and support. There's more work to be done, and we must
see this as a long-term path to a societal strategy
that can begin in 1998 but must cover future years.
Thank you very much.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Ms. Peters.
Now we will move to the question and answer session,
and I'm sure from your excellent presentation some very
interesting questions will be asked.
Mr. Dick Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley,
Ref.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just so I get an idea
here, other than Mr. Cooper, is anyone else here as a
volunteer representing the organization and not as a
paid representative of that organization?
Mr. Mel Gill: I'm a volunteer with the Child
Welfare League of Canada, paid to work in the field.
Dr. Graham Chance: I'm chairman of the
organization, but I'm totally a volunteer.
Mr. Dick Harris: Thank you.
I was listening to the presentations, and I want to
comment on one thing and maybe ask a question. There
was a lot of concern over the government's “slashing
and burning”—it was mentioned a couple of times—as
they sought to decrease the deficit.
In fact, the numbers will bear out that of all the
deficit cutting in the years 1993 to 1996, only about
slightly over $2 billion was actually cut from CHST
entitlements. So what I'm saying is, I don't know if
the slashing and burning of social programs can
actually describe the huge bulk of deficit cutting that
the government has done over the last couple of fiscal
years. I tend to think, given the actual numbers,
there may be an exaggeration there.
Also, I have a couple of specific questions, one for
Mr. Gill. Mr. Gill, you talked about a social deficit.
Briefly, why do you think we have a social deficit?
Mr. Mel Gill: There's a social deficit because we
have increasing numbers of children living in child
poverty. We have an enormous increase in the numbers
of abused children coming to the attention of organizations
like mine. The incidence of child
abuse in the community is substantially higher than the
incidence of AIDS or cystic fibrosis or a lot of those
other things, and yet there's no research money put
into that area.
We have increasing numbers of kids ending up in the
criminal justice system. Those create social
deficits, learning disorders, and so on.
Mr. Dick Harris: So what you're saying is that it's been
the cutting of spending to social programs that's
causing this, then.
Mr. Mel Gill: It's certainly contributing to it.
I would take issue with your $2 billion. That may
be what's been cut out of the CHST, but when you
consider that the Canada assistance plan, which was in
place prior to that, used to cost-share 50-50 on child
protection services and many other services at the
community level, that's been pulled out.
Prior to that, there was a 5% growth ceiling on
Canada assistance plan shared costs for services like
that for Alberta, B.C., and Ontario.
Mr. Dick Harris: The massive deficit spending
pretty well stopped somewhere around the year
1992-93. For about 20 years prior to that, we built
up a huge annual deficit because the government was
providing money for just about every function of our
country that you could imagine.
I guess I'm finding it hard to rationalize if
this social deficit is.... Do you consider it to be just a new
thing? In fact, if it's not a new phenomenon, then
what caused the social deficit that we had, say, 10 or 15
years ago, and all the social problems we have now, when
we had money for everything? Why did we have a problem
back then? Did we have a problem back then, or is this
just something new because the government is starting
to get its bank in—
Mr. Mel Gill: I think it's been growing.
Christa Freiler already indicated, as Statistics
Canada did in the 1991 report, that only a very small
portion of the current accumulated debt is as a result of
transfer payments or payments on behalf of social,
health and education programs.
Ms. Christa Freiler: Two things.
In the research
literature, the comparative social policy literature,
Canada is commonly referred to as a social policy
laggard. “Laggard” means we're away behind anyone
else. So if there was a social deficit prior to the CHST,
which there was, it's because Canada has never
distinguished itself by spending a lot, or even a
reasonable amount, on social programs. European
countries—and I think Suzanne was alluding to this—have
always spent considerably more. I'm not
talking just about Sweden.
So the social deficit is a long-term problem that has
been exacerbated recently.
The $2 billion that you're
identifying is the first time I think any one of us
around the table has heard about $2 billion. All of the
available information is that $7 billion will have been
cut from the Canada health and social transfer by the
time it comes to maturity and that it is the
single largest contributor to the federal government's
deficit reduction strategy.
Mr. Dick Harris: Mr. Weiner, I listened to your presentation
and I found one thing really unsettling. It was the
fact that all through your presentation, talking about
the kids and stuff, not once did you mention the word
“parents”. You talked
about organizations like this around the table, dealing
with parents' problems. You talked about federal
jurisdiction being transferred to provincial
jurisdiction and back to federal jurisdiction.
In your grand vision of how kids should be raised, do you
see a place for parents to take responsibility? Or was
that just an accidental omission?
Mr. Harvey Weiner: As a parent, obviously I
consider that there is a very important place for
parents in raising children.
I'm actually very pleased
that you asked the question, because not only has the
number of parents, percentage-wise, in this country
gone down, but so has the number of children that parents tend
to have. I think we have to develop a new mind-set in
this country, that these are not your children or my
children, but these are our children.
The organizations that you see around the table
here and others that are not here—which are
representing parents, in some cases specifically, but
parents working as members of these organizations to
deal with these very real problems that children have—are going to
need not only the understanding but
the help, assistance, and participation of those who
don't have children any longer or never had children,
because they are our children and they are the citizens
of the future, who will be providing us, we hope, with
the standard of living we would like to
have in our retirement years.
Mr. Mel Gill: I refer the member to the preamble
in the domestic violence and children document. It really
outlines the assumptions we operate on. Clearly
families have a primary responsibility, but there are
residual roles for communities and the state.
Mr. Al Hatton: Just a quick comment, Mr. Harris.
If in fact you track the cuts over various departments,
some of which ostensibly are not under Health,
such as Heritage, which used to support voluntary
action...that department was wiped out. Human
Resources Development sent hundreds of thousands of dollars into
communities for employment training, and a whole series
of skill training programs have now been
rolled over to provinces. People don't know how
that's actually going to have an impact over time.
If you look at Justice, if you look at Environment, if
you look at almost every department, the cuts going out
into communities and through provinces are far more
severe than what the numbers say, because at the same
time as the federal government stopped money going to
the provinces, the provinces began to do exactly the same
thing. The cumulative effect of that has been quite profound.
The rationale was that the private sector would
increase spending or contributions to the
community to offset that, but that has not happened.
When you take all those things together, that's why
we have a growing social deficit. Part of it is more
awareness. A large part of it is also the fact that
there have been cuts across various departments.
The Chairman: Mr. Perron.
Mr. Gilles-A. Perron (Saint-Eustache—Sainte-Thérèse, BQ):
Excuse me for being late and for my attire. I got stalled on
Thank you ladies and gentlemen for coming.
Knowing that the deficit is about to be eliminated this year
or at the beginning of next year, in other words very shortly, and
that a dividend is supposed to arrive, knowing also that the
Finance minister is planning to commit 50% of that dividend to debt
reduction, 25% to investments in new or existing programs and 25%
to tax cuts, I was quite surprised to see that none of you
commented that this morning. I would like to have your opinion
about that. Do you think that this 50-25-25 allocation formula
which was announced by Mr. Martin is appropriate? Would you have
other proposals to submit to Mr. Martin?
The Chairman: Mr. Weiner.
Mr. Harvey Weiner: I cannot speak on behalf of every
organization around this table, but we think that priority should
be given to some reinvestments in children. However, that does not
mean that we collectively believe everything should go into the
reinvestment basket. My organization did not take any specific
stand on that 50-25-25 allocation formula, but taking into account
what's going on in our society, we believe that our government can
reinvest in children. In our mind, it's top priority.
The Chairman: Thank you, sir.
Ms. Suzanne Peters: I think one of the
difficulties the government faces is that you are under
equal pressure to show results in some of the programs
you've made claims you'll make progress on as you
might be making progress on
tax breaks. From what I read what citizens
are saying, they would rather see those results in good
areas than see the tax breaks. I can't guide you by a
proportion, but that's certainly
the message I hear.
Ms. Christa Freiler: I would agree with that.
The 25% and 25% may be competing with each other.
The 25% in tax cuts may prevent the 25% from being
spent on social spending. I don't think they are
complementary, I think they compete
with each other.
I would like to
support my colleagues who are arguing that Canadians
are not asking for tax cuts. The pressure is coming
from a small advantaged group of communities. I don't
understand why the federal government feels it's
necessary to bow to those pressures when there doesn't
seem to be any pressure from Canadians at large.
The remaining question then is whether it should be
50% into social spending and 50% into debt reduction.
I think one of the points we hinted at, which maybe
needs to be made more strongly, is the commitment to
invest in kids has to be an equally strong commitment
in bad times as well as in good times. What we've seen
in the last 10 years is that whenever there's either a
surplus or a projected surplus, or times are good, then
we talk about investing in kids. When there's a
recession, when there is the need to balance our fiscal
books or something, then we cut back on services to
I think Canada's commitment in the UN convention was
that it was in bad times as well as in good times. So
the question is that if we start committing 50% of the
fiscal dividends to debt reduction, are we going to
have enough to invest in families with kids during bad
times? Or is this just a commitment we make when the
sun is shining and then when it's raining we cut back
again? I think the formula is somewhat flawed unless
it takes that into consideration.
The Chairman: Thank you, Ms. Freiler.
A final comment, Mr. Hatton.
Mr. Al Hatton: I was here last year. I was here
the year before when the fairly broad group
representing think-tanks and the banks and two of us
from the community talked for five hours the day after
Mr. Martin gave his last year's address about getting
closer to zero. Then the debate was 100% about getting
to zero. We fought on the left side of the table—not
necessarily on the left side of the
perspective—against people on the right side of the
table—not necessarily on the right side of the
perspective—about the fact that when we got to zero we
had to again reinvest in people.
I don't want to play the percentage game, but the
bottom line now is we're close to zero. It will be
sometime soon, as you say, and we don't exactly know when.
Unless we start redressing the balance between the
economic and the fiscal we're going to continue to
divide Canadians into the rich and the poor, into the
well skilled and the less skilled, into those who have
an advantage in this new economy and the new society
we're trying to build and those who don't.
In opposition to the body of
thought that says the priority is the debt now, now
that we've got to zero, or give a tax cut back to
Canadians, we would argue that both of those things are
shortsighted. Eventually, yes, that's where we have to
get to, but the sooner we reinvest in people in the
areas we've been talking about, both children and
others, the better state we're going to be in as a
society. We're going to be able to compete, if you
will, globally across a whole series of sectors, not
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Hatton.
A final comment, Mr. Cooper.
Mr. Roy Cooper: As a parent I'd like to say that
whatever the percentage is, my taxes are moved wherever
they go and wherever the leaders of the country think
they should go.
I'm speaking as a parent who can provide
some of the services my daughter needed in order
to get through the system. But I'm one of the
fortunate; I'm one of Canada's middle class. I'm a
public servant. I'm a scientist. I make a good
My cry is for those people who are single parents who
live on welfare and find out they have a child who has
learning disabilities. The school system is supposed
to provide services for that child. There are supposed
to be services before they go to school, but they don't
get those services because they're not there.
The money goes there, but the regulations that ensure
people get those services only apply for those who
can apply the pressure to the system—those of us who
have a knowledge of the system, those who are better
It is not apparent that if you have a child who
you suddenly find out is learning disabled you can
go down to the office and have somebody help you go
through the needs. In fact, the organization I
represent can only serve a few of those, because we
don't get any dollars from the government to provide
services. We do it on a volunteer basis. Unless
everybody can get equal service in spite of what their
value is, that they can get the needs...we will save
money. We will not spend money because it takes $7,000
to educate somebody who is learning disabled per year.
If you incarcerate him it costs $70,000 to $90,000 a
year. So it's money saved up front.
It's prevention. It shouldn't be that way, but
it's a fact of life.
The Chairman: Mr. Riis.
Mr. Nelson Riis (Kamloops, NDP): Thank you very
much, Mr. Chairman.
It's interesting we have this discussion today,
while outside these precincts the debate is raging
between tax cuts and education, basically. One can put
their own spin on that, but basically that's what this
is about. It's a tragedy that's unfolding out there.
We've heard some interesting interventions today.
Somebody pointed out how we've identified as a society
that we're prepared to invest heavily between the ages
of 6 and 18, or grade 1 and grade 12,
but before that and after that we are reluctant
I agree pretty well with everything everybody said
here today, but I have two questions, one, not to be
taken the wrong way, about the volunteer sector. I
listened with interest to Mr. Martin's statement in
Vancouver and I think he mentioned the word
number of times. To what extent do you think we're
looking at volunteers as a way to compensate for
inadequate support, to say that rather than invest in
children or invest in young people with learning
disabilities or whatever, we're going to rely even more
on the volunteer sector, and perhaps come up with
some tax incentives to encourage that or the
organizers; whatever? Is this just an easy way out for
government—providing some minor support for
people like yourself?
Secondly, although maybe people have explained
it, why do you think we have been so lax in dealing
with the needs of young people when you compare us with
other countries, as somebody mentioned? In our
social policy our record is somewhat abysmal.
Somebody mentioned earlier—I forget who it was—the
increase in child poverty in the last handful of years.
It's a horrible situation out there. Why has this
occurred? We're not an uncaring society. We're
not uncompassionate. Why have we simply abandoned
so many kids, and why do we continue to do so?
Mr. Al Hatton: I think some people in government and some
citizens see this as an easy way out. I don't think
there's any question about that. There's a certain appeal
to thinking, well, if we have to pay for this, as
against letting volunteers do it.... It doesn't take
a rocket scientist to figure, oh, volunteers are a
great way to do it, a humane way to offer services.
The problem is it's not universal. The problem is it's
based on a group of people coming together or an
individual giving service. It's very spotty. At the end
of the day, if we don't partner with government there
are going to be huge gaps in services, and that is not what
So we do not see reinvesting in
the voluntary sector as a means by which government can
stop, in a sense, fulfilling its responsibility to
provide services equitably across the country where
there are gaps. We would not fall into that
trap. Workfare and ways to fob stuff off onto the
community are not what we're talking about. We're
talking about working in partnership with government,
using the resources for maximum output. I think that
would be the strategy we're promoting.
We know there's a danger. Part of it is pitting
unions against the community against the voluntary
sector. That's not what we're about. We're trying to
take the high ground and say the government has a
role, the private sector has a role, and so do we; how
do we rejig those arrangements for maximum investment
Mr. Mel Gill: On the second question,
the fact that kids don't vote is one factor. I
think most Canadians think we ought to do more for
kids but don't know what to do. We haven't had a
national strategy. There has been no goal we can
set our sights on.
Perhaps I can come briefly to the
earlier question. I think the question you're
asking is important, but it has to be taken as one
question in a broader context. Tax cuts really
are intended to put money back in the hands of
consumers. We've had probably the most astronomical
growth in consumer debt, which is being charged back, in
the credit card case, at virtually usurious rates. We've
had no wage growth to speak of in the last half-dozen
years. If you really want to look at how to put
money back into consumers' pockets, you need to
look at the broader picture,
including targeting tax cuts.
Dr. Graham Chance: I don't think it's a case of
abandoning children. I think most parents in fact
would argue otherwise. But one of the problems surely
has been the view that children's growth and
development are essentially a responsibility of
In the past, that worked relatively well. But in
fact parents these days find it impossible to fulfil
the responsibilities they want to be able to fill
either financially or from the point of view of having
the time available to do it.
We've tended to stress parental responsibilities
instead of saying that we as a society have
responsibilities to children. I don't think we have
followed societal responsibilities to children as we
should have. I couldn't have quoted those data had we
been a caring society. I think it's a misnomer to say
that we are a truly caring society when we see the
situation of children in this country. Basically, we're
an uninformed public with regard to the overall state
of health of children in this country. I think we have
to recognize that.
That's why, in fact, the Canadian Institute of Child
Health feels so strongly that there should be a true
database of the health of Canada's children. It's so
that everyone could know, from community to community,
where the problem areas are. We don't have the data.
Communities know they're in trouble, but they don't
Others have clamoured much louder than children,
because children cannot clamour to have their own needs
met. Those needs are being met for some but not all.
But essentially children cannot clamour. Children's
voices can't be heard.
So over the years, we watched the accumulating debt of
social capital, which we've been prepared as a public,
as a general society, to watch accumulate. As long as
we go on watching that, we'll see this country
The Chairman: We'll move to Mr. Jones.
Mr. Jim Jones (Markham, PC): Thank you, Mr.
I really believe that we might have a social problem
in this country, but we have a bigger problem, which is
really a job problem. If parents can't get a job and
they're living below the poverty line, then they really
can't look after their children. So I think
this is a symptom of a bigger problem, and we should be
addressing this problem.
I think Mr. Hatton said that over the last three
years the government has been supporting the private
sector versus the government side or the voluntary
side. I'd like him to explain what he meant by that.
Also, Mr. Weiner talked about an investment in
children. I assume that coming from the Canadian
Teachers' Federation you're really talking about
probably education or in that arena. Canada is one of
the countries that spends the most dollars per capita
on education. How do you explain a country like
Singapore, which just a few years ago was near the
bottom of the totem pole in education but now ranks
at the top, and it's spending more money on education?
I would just like you to quantify what you mean by
Also, I think Christa talked about how we don't
have a social problem, but we have a problem in the
undercollection of tax. I'd like you to be able to
provide me with the data from the situations to which
you might have been inferring.
Then, last but not least, I guess it was Suzanne
Peters who referred to the Quebec and Saskatchewan
situation, of which I'm not aware, and how they're
making strategic investments. What are these strategic
investments and how are they working?
Mr. Al Hatton: I made the comment that over the
last probably 10 years, the values of the private
sector have been primordial, ruling everything,
including our sector. This has been about
globalization, living within your means, the bottom
line, cuts, downsizing, and right-sizing.
We're not against that, but it's not the answer to
everything. You can't quantify human development. You
can't put a number on justice. It's said that in our
sector we're not accountable. It's said that
government is not accountable. How are you going to
quantify volunteer activity? Are you going to put a
price on it? Say it's $10 an hour. Okay, that's $12
billion at $12 an hour. That could be somebody at an
entry-level job of $6 or a CEO making $2,000 a minute,
and all of them volunteer.
That's not to demean the private sector.
It's simply to say that I think the balance
has swung too far, to that ruling everything.
We've lost sight of the very useful role
government has played over the last 30 or 40 years
to in fact distribute certain benefits and wealth
across both regions and within populations
that deserved more attention.
Second, I think some in the right-wing have basically
been saying that government is out of control;
it's incompetent; bureaucrats are faceless wasters of time.
That's very simplistic, yet that in a sense
is what has ruled a lot of public policy. We see
some provincial governments making tremendous mileage
with that kind of perspective.
But if you study the polls, if you really look at what
Canadians are saying, that's not what they're saying.
They think, yes, governments have been living beyond their
means, but they don't think bureaucrats are incompetent.
They're saying, we need more results from your work,
and how do we work on that?
In a sense, I think everything switched too far
in one direction. It has to be rebalanced. The sooner
it's rebalanced, I think everything will proceed better.
Government's on the right track. Some
governments are trying to say, okay, what business
are we in? What's our real role? We would
support that, their figuring it out. Then we'll
come in—there would be assets in the resources
that exist in the community—and try to improve things
in partnership. We don't have the answers alone.
We know government doesn't. How do we work together?
That's what I meant.
Mr. Harvey Weiner: We'll be participating in an
education round table, so I'd be prepared to go into a
lot more depth on it. But I think it's symptomatic
of a problem we have to deal with in this country.
Who is it who said there are lies, damn lies,
and statistics? You're referring to a specific test
and a ranking of the test scores. I would suggest to you
that you spend some time—I don't know, maybe
you have—reading the TIMS document,
a 140-page document.
I think you will find that on
that one test where the Singaporean students
scored the highest—and I have the press release; I would be
delighted to share it with you—Singapore announced
in July that it is going to be investing $5 billion
over the next seven years. The employers who are
receiving the Singaporean students are finding
that the students, who are very good at regurgitating
memorized facts, have very little creativity
and very little in the way of skills
to apply the knowledge in a job situation.
You'll be interested to note, I think, that
Canadians are being brought in to help address
this particular problem.
We're finding this in terms of many of the scores.
People like a score so that they can reduce something
to a number—we compare this way or we compare that way.
But very little attention is paid to the interpretation
of many of these scores.
When we look at the research, etc., we find that
every country has problems with education,
and there are choices that have to be made in education.
No system has a perfect education system. We can learn
certain things from what others are doing, but there
are also problems. The phenomenon of the grass
is greener on the other side is something that applies to
us, but as I've just pointed out, it also
applies to the Singaporeans. So there are choices that
When we look at the United Nations
and its evaluation of education, it has Canada
as number one. Percentage-wise, Canada has more
people at a higher level of education, with more
post-secondary students on both a part-time
and degree basis, etc., than any other country in the world.
When you go into this, I would suggest to you that
you read the reports, you go into the data, and you look at
the interpretation. The problem we have in this
country is that a newspaper gives you a 30-second clip,
a headline, and raw scores.
Perhaps I can give you an example. There was
a ranking done of secondary schools in Montreal.
A school was ranked at 100. The focus was put
on that particular school. What the newspaper
failed to indicate was that the school was
a second-chance school for drop-outs,
and 30% of those drop-outs were succeeding
in getting their diplomas. The way
it was reported, 70% of the kids were
failing in that particular school.
Ms. Christa Freiler: I don't want to give you all
the statistics. I just happen to have with me—and I'm
happy to give you—a report that we co-authored in
1994, called “Paying for Canada: Perspectives on Public
Finance and National Programs”, that can answer your
I just want to point out two of the statistics in
here. In the period from 1975 to 1981 Canada had the
largest drop in central government tax revenue of all
G-7 countries and Canada was the only G-7 country
with a drop in total government tax revenues during
With information from the Organization for Economic
Co-operation and Development, Statistics Canada and the
Canadian Tax Foundation, there are tables in here that
show that Canadians' income tax and social security
contributions are low by international standards, and
are even lower than those of the United States when
social security contributions are included.
This was written three years ago, so some of these
statistics are a bit out of date. If you give me your
card, I will happily send you updated versions. But
there is a lot of statistical data that would support
my point about undercollection.
The Chairman: We'll move to
Ms. Redman, followed by Mr. Assad.
Ms. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.): I
really appreciate your comments today. A lot of the
thoughts you're expressing were indeed expressed by
Minister Martin in the pre-budget statement he made in
He specifically talked about private and voluntary
sectors and all levels of governments as key players.
I do believe government and society have passed the
point where they can throw money at problems, and
Minister Martin did talk about cutting up a credit
card. I don't think there's a huge windfall of money.
I think we have taken a prudent course and paid down
the deficit, and I support that.
What we've heard on our cross-country tour is that
there is a human cost to that.
I also believe in dealing with things in context, so
a lot of what I'm hearing today at this table
I find to be really appealing.
Ms. Peters did hit on the nub of my question—I would
ask Mr. Gill and Mr. Weiner to comment on what they see
as being the appropriate role for the federal government to
One of the things we heard when we travelled
across the country was a great deal of disenchantment
and some suspicion in certain provinces about turning
money over to the province in that jurisdiction. So I
guess I would just like to hear from you what's
appropriate for the federal role.
Mr. Mel Gill: This is an issue that was discussed
at some length in the preparation of this document, and
there was enormous skepticism that we would ever get a consensus
on this kind of a document.
What came out of it was that there must be strong federal
leadership with the provinces in the development of a
national agenda for children and that
clear targets must be set in specific areas and that the
federal government should not get out of the business
of cash transfers, that there should be a floor rather
than a ceiling—and I think Mr. Martin is committed to
that—on cash transfers, because without that sort of
hammer you simply have no control over what the
I think the approach with the child benefit and
provincial government commitment to reinvesting moneys
freed up is probably the way to go.
Ms. Karen Redman: Before Mr. Weiner responds, can
you just comment on the $12.5 billion? In your
estimation, is that adequate?
Mr. Mel Gill: I have no way of measuring that. It
was certainly intended to go much lower than that. I
think you need to look at it as a proportion of total
federal-provincial expenditures and find some benchmark
in that way.
Mr. Harvey Weiner: On the issue of leadership,
someone has to take the leadership role in this and we
believe the federal government is best placed.
If this is to become a national priority, it can only
be the federal government that can take that kind of
leadership. But leadership does not mean that the
federal government can or will be able to impose one
set of programs or one way of doing things. Nor does
it mean that the involvement of the voluntary sector,
parents, everyone in this particular process, should in
any way be diminished.
As a matter of fact, the federal government should be
making provision.... That's one of the things the
organizations around this table share in common: that
we want a place at the table as these issues are being
discussed and developed.
We don't want to be in a position where have to react
to a plan that's been developed without the benefit of
the expertise, the knowledge, and the information that
we can bring to bear on it.
We think the same should hold true for the
provinces—and presumably it will—and the communities
across this particular country or else these agreements
will not be reached.
That doesn't mean one pattern or one size fits all,
but it does mean that the federal government has to
assume that leadership role. We think the federal
government is the only partner that is placed to take
the leadership role. As Mel said, in order to assume
that in an effective way—quite frankly, the way in
which the world works—there has to be a significant
cash component that the federal government is putting
up as part of the carrot for that kind of
The Chairman: Mr. Assad.
Mr. Mark Assad (Gatineau, Lib.): Thank you, Mr.
This is extremely interesting. What comes to mind is
the fact you mentioned, which is very true: we do
not have any policy in the area of community
organizations, and I think it shows. Somebody else
mentioned that there are many programs out
there, but we can't seem to size them up. God knows
there's been no evaluation of these programs and
how effective they've been.
With respect to this issue of child poverty, we hear
about it more because it's been more evident in the
last years. I'm familiar with some organizations and
their volunteer groups. Often we discuss it and ask
who is best suited at the level of the street, if I can
use that term, to pinpoint it exactly—we know it's
there—and to identify the poverty and the resources
needed. These resources have to be continuous.
I'm sure you can tell me that organizations like your
own are probably best suited to give the necessary
information to the federal government. If you want
the federal government to be the leader, I agree. It
should be the leader, but I think the bureaucrats need
the information that only you have in order to be able
to pinpoint this kind of poverty.
If you'll just permit me, in conclusion here, there
are many answers and many questions that I have in
mind. One of our colleagues, Mr. Harris,
mentioned the deficit. In 1990
Statistics Canada presented an extremely interesting
document. It showed the evolution of the federal
deficit and it showed clearly that social programs were
not responsible for our level of indebtedness. That's
the first point.
Secondly, there are a lot of voices out there that are
not heard from very often. Even the Canadian
economists' association pointed out in a publication
that one of the reasons why the deficit got out of
control was the monetary policy and the extremely high
interest rates we had in the late 1980s and 1990s.
But I'd like to get back to whether or not you
believe—and I'm sure you do, because I
do—organizations like your own are best suited to
point us in the right direction as to what kind of
programs we could have. We have $850 million on the
table. I'd like to know if anybody can tell me exactly
how this money's going to be channelled.
Mr. Mel Gill: I'd like to reinforce my hope and my
sincere desire that people will read this document. It
is very comprehensive. It bridges many of the
philosophical divides that exist around government
Mr. Al Hatton: Mr. Assad, there is a coalition
called Campaign 2000, which has been fighting the issue
of child poverty and has a whole series of policy
recommendations. That's one vehicle.
Another is a group called the Children's Alliance.
It's another vehicle that brings a number of community
organizations together, organizations with various
sorts of expertise related to the issue of children in
general and child poverty specifically.
There are several instruments and ways by which we can
meet with both federal and provincial members or
bureaucrats to talk about a series of solutions,
depending on what the issue is. The framework provides
an overview. As specific issues are identified, we
have a series of people in community organizations and
at the community level who can work with whomever wants
to target specific options. We can spend more time in
detail working those options out.
We don't have all the answers, but we have some of the
areas in which we know what the problem is, and we have
some solutions. In working with officials, I think we
can toss those solutions out to see what the best mix
The Chairman: Ms. Torsney, did you have a final
Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.): It's more of
Ms. Freiler, I wonder if you could get
a copy of the documents in to the clerk.
Also, Ms. Peters, could we get your
study? I don't think we received some of the
information, but I think it would form a really good
basis for us when we're writing our report.
I just wanted to assure you that, at least in the
meetings that I chaired across the country, there
wasn't a huge cry for tax cuts. Even amongst the
business community there was a lot of support for our
society. I think you should be somewhat comforted that
this was the case, although clearly some provinces have
different priorities than others.
That was more of a message than anything, and I really
appreciated the information. I look forward to working
with the document Mr. Gill provided to us.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Ms. Torsney.
On behalf of the committee, I'd also like to express
to you our sincerest gratitude for a well thought out
presentation. It certainly provides us with a
framework within which to work, and I'm sure that
you'll find many of your thoughts and ideas reflected
in our report. Thank you very much.
The meeting is adjourned.