STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE
COMITÉ PERMANENT DES FINANCES
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Thursday, November 18, 1999
The Chair (Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua
(Vaughan—King—Aurora, Lib.)): I would like to call
the meeting to order and welcome everyone here this
As everyone knows, the finance committee is
holding public hearings on pre-budget consultation as
we get ready to make recommendations for Budget 2000.
We've travelled from coast to coast to coast seeking
input from Canadians.
Tonight, here in Ottawa, is
no different. We will be seeking input from you, the
We have the pleasure to have with us
representatives from the Canada Family Action
Coalition, the National Children's Alliance, the
Canadian Child Care
Federation, and the Learning
Disabilities Association of Canada.
We will begin with the Canada Family Action Coalition
and Mr. Peter Stock, national affairs director.
know, you have five minutes to make your introductory
remarks. Once all the panellists are finished, we will
proceed to a question-and-answer session.
Welcome, Mr. Stock.
Mr. Peter Stock (National Affairs Director, Canada
Family Action Coalition): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Canada Family Action
Coalition is a national non-partisan citizens' action
group. We're interested in promoting and defending the
family, parental rights, and other issues related to
that, like community standards for decency and so on.
receive no government funding, unlike some of the other
First of all, as an
organization we'd like to extend
our thanks to the finance committee, specifically
for the work it has done in the past year on the issue of
family taxation and on the child care
expense deduction in
particular. Some of the members who are here tonight
worked very hard on that subcommittee. We're grateful
for the work that was done.
One of the things that committee clearly looked
at was the need for an examination of the whole child
care system. Of course, in our view and, I think, in
the view of most Canadians, the best quality child
child care—and I emphasize the word
child care that's provided by the parents of the
The government has recognized this fact—or at least it
appears it's about to in this next budget—with
an extension to the EI leave for parents with regard to
We still think there's some work to do in the area
of family taxation, but we're encouraged that the
government is moving, seemingly in the right direction.
We would like to see discrimination resolved
in the area of
taxation on marriage. We think marriage
should be promoted, not discriminated against.
There are some areas of the tax system where
some work needs to be done.
The second point we'd like to make tonight is that
taxes are too high overall. In our view, there are no
new social programs needed. We are encouraged by the
fact that the government has a so-called children's
agenda. We believe that children's
interests are of course best represented
in their families, and
families with lower taxes are better able to care for
We're encouraged that the government is taking a
serious look at what's best for children and we hope
that in doing so they will do what's best for families.
In our final area, we come
to the finance committee with
items like this every year. Families are concerned
about spending they see as wasteful,
otherwise contributing to a negative situation in their
This year we decided to take a little look at the
Canada Council. There are a few grants there that
all aware of: Bubbles Galore,
the pornographic film,
$60,000 of taxpayers' money; dead rabbits hanging in
the woods near Winnipeg, $15,000. Finally,
this one didn't make the big front-page news, but
I'd just like to inform the committee
that at the end of September and the beginning of
October, Simon Fraser University hosted a panel—a
literary panel, they called it—“Sex, Drugs and the
Law: Pushing the Boundaries”. The
contributed $10,000 towards it. Guess who was a
featured speaker at that panel? None other than child
pornographer John Sharpe.
We feel there are probably better ways that
this government, this committee, can be spending
taxpayers' money. We would encourage you to continue
to look at those items, and we'll be encouraged to see
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Stock.
We will now hear from Neil McFadyen.
Mr. Neil McFadyen (Individual Presentation): My
wife is actually going to make the presentation.
Ms. Sheridan Gardner (Individual Presentation):
I'll speak on behalf of Mr. McFadyen.
The Chair: Ms. Gardner.
Ms. Sheridan Gardner: I'd like to talk about
family tax fairness, in particular, section 63 of
the Income Tax Act.
Family tax fairness is about fairly treating
children, regardless of whether
one or both parents work
outside the home. It means treating each member of a
family the same as any other individual.
Specifically, it means protecting the individual
rights of those who are
identified as spouses. It's
not about asking for a freebie or a bigger spousal
exemption for no good reason.
In fact, it's about
recognizing child care work performed by
has value to society and which, if performed by any
individual other than a spouse, would be governed by
minimum wage legislation and
Canadian labour law and
could be expensed under the Income Tax Act.
fairness is about recognizing the cost to parents and
the value to society of the so-called unpaid work
performed by spouses. Historically, this unpaid work
has been referred to as “women's work”. Therefore,
family tax fairness is really about fairly treating
spouses who provide child care.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is
supposed to guarantee individual rights regardless of
marital status. Therefore, the individual status of
a spouse should be irrelevant. Why, then, does
Tax Act continually subordinate married persons,
generally married women, as spouses and eliminate their
individual rights? It's the elimination of the
individual rights of the spouse, typically a
woman, that results in the unfair taxation of families.
I just want to tell you briefly why my spouse and
I are interested in this subject.
I was a government employee posted overseas. My
spouse accompanied me and worked abroad. After we
returned to Canada, he was assessed
more than $100,000
because he was married to me. As a spouse of a
government employee posted abroad, he was denied
non-resident status and he was denied
access to the
relevant tax treaty. This has been
a devastating experience for us.
So I can say that we have experienced first-hand, in a
most extreme manner, the tax discrimination imposed on
spouses through seemingly benign legislation. This
was section 250 of the Income Tax Act.
The Minister of Finance recently saw fit to make
amendments to that legislation, for which we are
extremely grateful. However, we are still both on our
way to...well, not on “our” way...my spouse
has been to
Tax Court and I'm on my way to Tax Court,
so therein lies
the reason for our interest.
Section 63 of the Income Tax Act effectively prevents
one spouse from paying the other spouse for child care
It also discriminates against spouses. Tonight I want
to propose some changes to the Income Tax Act to
address this family tax fairness issue and to protect
the individual rights of spouses by recognizing the
value to society of raising children.
Child care is of no less value to society when
performed by a stay-at-home spouse than
by anyone else
hired to do the job. For tax purposes, Canadian
society already recognizes the child care expenses
deduction of $7,000 for a child under seven years of
$5,000 for a child over seven years. Why must a parent
perform this function for nothing? The Supreme Court
describes this situation as exploitation in the recent
M. v. H. case.
I am quoting from the ruling:
...there are many people living
together in such
relationships who are being exploited by their
partner[s]. They have been induced to enter
relationship and to stay home and raise the children
arising from the union, or children of another union,
and have thus been put in a position of total
dependency on the person as a result of being out of
the labour market for a lengthy period of time. Many
of these people are later abandoned and, under the
present law, they have nowhere to turn but to the
welfare authorities for support.
Must a spouse or a parent provide child care for
nothing because no one will pay the spouse or parent?
No. Spouses or parents must provide child care for
nothing because existing tax legislation effectively
prevents a partner from paying the spouse or parent by
denying the right to claim such an expense for tax
In 1993, Mr. Jim Boland went to Tax Court to fight
section 63 of the Income Tax Act. He did not wish to
exploit his partner and tried to claim a deduction for
paying his wife for child care. The judge did not find
the case to be discrimination under section 15 of the
Charter of Rights on the basis that stay-at-home
parents are not a vulnerable group historically subject
This, I think, is in direct conflict to the Supreme
Court's reference to exploitation of stay-at-home
parents. What the judge failed to recognize is that
the vast majority of stay-at-home parents caring for
children are women, who do comprise a vulnerable group
historically subject to discrimination.
Section 63 discriminates against stay-at-home parents
and spouses and perpetuates the exploitation of this
group, who are primarily women. The tax legislation
consistently acts to keep money out of the hands of
spouses. In particular, it keeps money out of the
hands of women who are spouses. Section 63 is in fact
very similar to subsections 74(3), 74(4),
and 74(5), which were
repealed in 1980. This section 74 prevented a spouse
from being paid as an employee of his or her spouse, of
his or her spouse and partners, or in partnership with
his or her spouse.
Effectively, a spouse was
provide free labour to his or her spouse, and this is
an example of historical exploitation and
discrimination against spouses. Marriage should not be
something that condemns women or spouses to servitude
free labour for their spouses or for the benefit of
society. Marriage doesn't make one spouse a meal
ticket and the other a freeloader or a slave. Marriage
does not mean a spouse ceases to be a person. However,
this is exactly what section 74 did and what section 63
of the Income Tax Act does now.
It should be noted that the only circumstance in
which one spouse may pay another for child care is if
the partners separate or divorce and payments are made
as alimony. It is a sad comment on the value of
marriage towards society if one partner has legislative
access to the family wealth only upon breakup of the
Income splitting has been proposed as a solution to
the family tax fairness problem. Again, this proposal
to keep money out of the hands of women and spouses
by denying them earned income. Further, income
splitting does not recognize the value of the work
performed by the stay-at-home parent who cares for
children. Income splitting would likely be available
to spouses who did not care for children, because to
deny them the benefit of income splitting would be seen
as discriminatory taxation based on family status.
Therefore, it's essential that the solution
to the family
tax fairness problems starts with recognition
of the value
of child care provided by a parent or spouse. It is
earned income that recognizes the contribution to
society of those who provide child care. With earned
income, stay-at-home parents can have all the rights and
benefits that others with earned income have, that is,
they would be able to contribute to an RRSP, they'd be
able to contribute and be
eligible for CPP, EI, and
disability insurance, and they'd be
able to get credit
cards, bank loans, etc.
The solution is to begin with
repealing section 63 of the Income Tax Act. Then Canada
will be the best place in the world for women to live.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Gardner.
We'll now hear from Mr. Stokes.
Mr. Frank E. Stokes (Individual Presentation): Mr.
Van Wagner will speak.
The Chair: Mr. Van Wagner.
Mr. Charles E. Van Wagner (Individual
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Ladies and gentlemen, my colleague and I are
two private citizens. Our
subject is once again the income tax system and our
viewpoint that of the husbands in two retired senior
couples, each living on one pension.
Now, our professional backgrounds may not include
economics or taxation policy, but we do have some
relevant experience, namely, we've paid income tax for
40 or 50 years and we are, in addition, very curious.
Several years ago, we began asking why it was that our
incomes are taxed almost as if we were single when
there are obviously two people living on them.
After a small mountain of correspondence and reading,
we have not yet heard an argument in favour that
could, in our view, withstand five minutes of honest
Start with the concept that our income tax system is
just a blind set of arithmetical
equations. Its assumptions can be
readily inferred from its structure,
and no interpretation can stand as valid that does not
match that structure and its output exactly.
Analyse the tax codes arithmetic and it is obvious
that couples with equal incomes pay the least tax.
These therefore become the logical standard of
comparison. All other couples pay more as
their incomes diverge. Call this extra tax the income
difference penalty and its maximum value the single
income penalty. The tiny spousal credit when one
income is zero still leaves the breadwinner taxed
almost as a single person. Note that it matters not
whether these two incomes differ by choice or
necessity. The tax penalty is exacted regardless.
The figures in our tables, which I hope are before you,
lay all this out clearly, and we may hope that
they intrigue and interest you.
Obviously these tax differences have become very
large, especially since the disastrous revision of
when the penalty for living on one income doubled or
tripled at one shot. Few Canadians, we suspect,
including some people in government, understand the
size and nature of these penalties. They are almost
certainly the largest such penalties in the world,
if not in the entire universe.
Now consider two different views of marriage that
exist side by side in Canadian law and are
about as unlike as
oil and water. In family law, marriage is a social and
economic union of two partners sharing equally and
enjoying the same living standard.
In tax law, by contrast, marriage is
two people under one roof but living like strangers on
their separate incomes, no matter how unequal.
tax authorities really believe that Canadian couples
sink or swim on their individual incomes? Or worse
still, do they believe that we should live that way,
even, one could ask, when raising our children?
Oh, the crucial missing ingredient
in the tax marriage
model is, of course, informal sharing.
This is, without
doubt, a slippery concept. Deny that it exists and one
may as well claim that water can exist at two different
levels in the same tank, but once admit that it exists
in any significant degree and any defence of the
present income difference penalty collapses.
Next, consider what happens when the tax system bases
some secondary feature on joint family income: an
intractable contradiction instantly raises its head.
The reason is, joint income is not, as of now, a
true measure of anything about a married couple,
certainly not tax payable or after-tax disposable
The prime example example of this is,
of course, the
matter of children. As long as the parents are taxed
separately, it will be impossible to design an
equitable child benefit scheme based on joint income.
Only equal incomes will, as now, receive the full
intended benefit. All the rest will pay back more
in an income difference tax as
their incomes diverge
at the same total.
Note that this inequity is not just between
single-income couples on the one hand and dual-income
the other, but all through the range of dual-income
ratios as well. In other words, unless the tax system
gets it right for couples in general, we cannot see how
it can get it right for children.
This is, I believe, the International Year of
Older Persons, a good time to reflect on what happens to
the parents after their children have grown,
for it is
among retired couples that the primary inequity is
most exposed and indefensible.
There's no employment expense, no children, no
question of re-entering the workforce—just couples
living on their combined pensions and paying tax. In
fact, the single-income penalty actually increases after
retirement. This is because all three of the special
features for senior citizens work against
single-pension couples and in favour of two-pension
Worst of all, any parents spending their family years
on one income can never completely recover. Even if
both earn after the children have left, two equal
pensions are out of the question, and it may
be only one.
The tax penalty of their family years is thus a life
sentence for their retirement years as well.
Cumulate several decades of some of the penalties
in the tables before
you, and it is clear that many older
couples have lost a small fortune merely because their
incomes were never listed evenly under both names, a
reason incomprehensible to any couple that innocently
shared equally all their married lives.
Back in 1966, the last Royal Commission on Taxation
said that of course a married couple is a single
economic unit and, one way or another,
should be taxed as
such. Their arguments, rejected at the time, seem to
us now more valid than ever.
Of course, tax relief is
very much in the air but by itself would only
perpetuate the present inequity.
With cash on hand to spare, surely the government has
a golden opportunity to carry out some serious tax
reform as well. As the new millennium dawns, we say it
is finally time that Canada has a neutral tax system
that no longer favours one lifestyle over another or
penalizes any married couple just because their incomes
happen to be different.
The Chair: Thank you.
Now let's hear from the Canadian Child Care
Federation, with Ms. Dianne Bascombe,
past executive director.
Ms. Dianne Bascombe (Past
Canadian Child Care Federation): Hi. I'm glad to be
here this evening.
I'll keep my remarks on
behalf of the Canadian Child Care Federation quite
brief. We wanted to just to speak briefly
again—and I know that many of you are well aware of
research that looks at the importance of early
childhood in making sure that Canada's children can grow
and reach their potential in this country.
I think we have an incredible opportunity here in
Canada with the signing of the Social Union Agreement
and the national
children's agenda. We're
certainly at a time where we can take positive action,
really begin to make a difference, and really begin
to compensate for some of the cutbacks we've seen
in the some of
the programs, which have affected our
most vulnerable citizens, our youngest children, those
between the ages of 0 and 6.
What we're asking you to consider at this
time is this: that when you put forth
Budget 2000 in February
of the year 2000, we start the millennium with a
children's budget, with a serious commitment
by the federal government to
really show leadership and set the stage for making the
national children's agenda something real.
All of us who have been reading the
papers and looking at the research studies note
a growing consensus in this country that we need to
invest in our youngest children. We need to ensure
that they get the high-quality early childhood care
and education that will set the stage for them for the
rest of their lives.
I also wanted to make the point
that when we talk about
early childhood care and education, we're not talking
about programs for just one type of family. We're
talking about programs that serve the range of needs of
all the families in this country, whether the parents
work, whether the parents are at home.
We need to recognize that our economy is
structured such that families and parents do work.
We have to ensure that when they work or study their
children receive high-quality child care. We also need
to recognize that for families who are at home we need
to make sure there's a full range of community and
social supports to serve their needs as well.
We need to look at family resource programs. We need
to make sure we have early intervention programs
for children who are risk, for our vulnerable
populations. When we're talking about early
childhood care and education, we're really
talking about a broad
range of community services that will meet the needs of
our youngest children.
Briefly, as members of the National Children's
Alliance—who are going to be presenting with a
colleague in the next go round—we certainly support
all of the recommendations that are coming forth from
the alliance. In particular, we really think that it's
timely for the federal government to put an investment
into a fund for early childhood care and education.
We're thinking about $2 billion as a good down payment
to move forward and make a real difference in the lives
of our youngest children in Canada.
Also in terms of moving forward on the
children's agenda, it's critical that the federal
government put some money on the table in Budget 2000.
That can really act to kick-start a whole process
whereby all levels of government, the voluntary
sector, and people in our communities begin to
rally round to make sure we have the
coordinated kind of system we need to serve the
needs of our youngest children in the broad range of
services for early childhood care and education.
The Chair: Thank you.
We'll now hear from the
National Children's Alliance, with
Mr. Harvey Weiner.
Mr. Harvey Weiner (Deputy Secretary General,
National Children's Alliance): Thank you, Chair.
It is a very distinct pleasure to have the opportunity
to speak for the National Children's Alliance,
a network of more than 25 national organizations across
Canada that provide services directly to children and
youth across this country.
I think it is a small miracle in itself that we, as an
alliance, the 25-plus member groups who touch the lives
of millions of children and youth across the country,
and whose constituencies—if you look at the list on the
last page of our brief—would involve, I would suggest
conservatively, some one million taxpayers across the
country who are involved in these voluntary
non-government organizations, such as my own, the
Canadian Teachers' Federation...we have come
together to share our expertise and
our knowledge as service providers in terms of all of
the areas that do affect the well-being of health of
children and youth across the country.
We see the work
that has been done within a number of federal
government departments, within provincial departments
through joint committees that have been set up, work
that has resulted in what we believe has the
potential to be an opportunity to
move into the new millennium with agreements that
will provide comprehensive and sustainable services to
children and youth across this country.
The framework agreement, the Social Union Agreement
that was reached jointly by the federal, provincial,
and territorial governments, provides a real opportunity
to forget about the jurisdictional hassles and to work
together collaboratively with us in the voluntary and
NGO sectors to make the lives of children and youth
We believe that in the upcoming budget a
commitment of $5 billion over a period of
two years to children, youth, and families
would be an excellent
way to move this agenda forward. It would be a clear
signal to the provinces and the territories that there
are significant dollars on the table in the event that
they can reach agreement with the federal government on
an extensive set of programs, services, and income
supports that will help improve the lives of children
and youth across the country.
In the specific area of income security measures, we
believe that part of this investment should be
dedicated to the national child benefit: to raise the
amount provided to $2,500 per child and to index the
system to inflation. It also would provide an
opportunity to expand the scope to include all
low-income families regardless of source of income.
We see some essential elements of tax reform that
would tie in to the needs of children and families.
In that respect, we recommend the introduction of the
non-refundable tax credit of $2,000 per child, to
support all families with parents at home or in the
We are very pleased with the government's announcement
in the Speech from the Throne regarding the extension
of parental benefits. We think it's a good first step.
As an alliance, we recommend that the two-week waiting
period for benefits be eliminated and that the levels
be increased from 55% of prior earnings to 75%.
In the area of community-based supports, we, in the
discussions we have had and in the work we
have done and are going to continue
to do as an alliance, say that we do need
to have a comprehensive
range of services and community supports to make sure
that all children can benefit from healthy development.
In that respect, we would see establishing a designated
fund in Budget 2000 that would provide for an
investment of $2 billion over this budget and Budget
2001 to allow for critical improvements in a variety
of community services in areas of particular need, such
as early childhood care and education, social housing,
programs for children and youth at risk, youth
services, parenting supports, as well as a
comprehensive range of preventative health services.
In moving towards the implementation of this national
children's agenda, it is critical—and we share this
view with government officials who have been working on
this—that evaluation mechanisms be provided for to
ensure that we are able to monitor how well our
children and youth are doing. This monitoring should
take place on a long-term basis.
We are delighted with the work that is being done
thus far through the national longtitudinal study of
children and youth. The outcome's preliminary
indications are all supportive of the kinds of
initiatives we are putting forward to you today, but
we still lack a set of basic quantitative data on
service delivery to children, youth and families.
We believe an initial investment of $50 million
develop and implement a national strategy that would
monitor the health and well-being of Canada's children
and youth, in collaboration...and we're prepared to lend
our expertise and our in-kind support
to that. I am
talking, of course, about the voluntary
and the NGO sectors.
In conclusion, Chair, we believe the federal
government has a true opportunity to continue the
leadership it has begun to show by making tangible the
initiatives it has set out in a very caring way.
The tangible way to do so would be to make
specific allocations in this upcoming budget to make a
long-term commitment, as Minister Martin has done in
the past with success on deficit
reduction and as
he apparently intends to do with tax reduction.
Surely our children and youth deserve no less than
that kind of long-term, sustainable commitment.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
We'll now hear from the Learning Disability
Association of Canada, with the
past president, Mr. James
Mr. James Horan (Past President, Learning Disabilities
Association of Canada): Mr. Chairman and members of the committee,
I'd like to thank you for your invitation.
I am past president of the
Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. I've been
with that association for over 15 years at the chapter,
provincial, and national levels. Our
mission is simple: advance the education, the
employment, the social development, the legal rights,
and the general well-being of persons with learning
My presentation today will actually focus on four very
key recommendations: early identification of children,
compensatory equipment, assessment of post-secondary
students, and tax relief for post-secondary students
with learning disabilities.
As I make the
recommendations, be aware that the Learning
Disabilities Association is aware of the precarious
position this committee is in, for we see
that you have a
national debt on one side and a multitude of
people with needs on the other. That is a very
difficult position to be in, but it's a position that
is not insurmountable. For Canadians, there is an
internal flame that is within each one of us, so
the Canadian spirit will allow us to be great as we
move into the next millennium.
The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children
released a report today, and I think we all know what
it says. The newspapers are pretty clear with the
headlines. According to the report, Canada meets a
lot of the obligations of the convention. However, it
clearly shows that Canadian children with learning
disabilities are not receiving the basic
social services they require. The report highlights
the lack of appropriate early diagnosis and
intervention for children with learning disabilities.
Comprehensive bodies of research and experience with
our membership show that if you have early diagnosis,
if you offer a continuum of service, and if
you put your
investment up front, those young people with
learning disabilities turn into young adults who will
have opportunities in this country.
For you see, right
now we make investments: we invest a tremendous amount
of money in young people who
are 16, 17, 18, and 19, who
have learning disabilities and who
are in detention
centres, who are incarcerated. We make investments.
There is no question about that.
The question is, how can we
remove money from that and move money into early
intervention? Isn't that a better
investment? It just makes good economic sense to
shift money around a bit. If we invest today, the
payoffs are much greater tomorrow.
Therefore, we recommend that the Government of
Canada commit to a national children's agenda and
that it include a universal and accessible screening
mechanism for children between the ages of three and
Recommendation 2 is for
compensatory equipment: computers
and software. As we move
into the technological age, there is no question
that those who do not have
access are shut out. Those who do not have access
will live in poverty and will not
be able to participate
in the day-to-day activities that go on in this
We've had many discussions with Finance Canada.
Their concern is that if they give it to us it could be
abused. What we say in return is that we're talking
about a very small percentage of Canadians who are
severely learning disabled and who, without
and hardware, are basically at a
those young people and those who are physically
disabled and have a retrofit on a car, yes, we know
that is a legitimate expense. What I say to you
that for those young children, for those young
adolescents, for those adults who are severely learning
disabled, we level the playing field by ensuring that
have an opportunity to actually have the hardware and
software they need.
Therefore, we recommend that the Government of
Canada provide tax relief for the purchase of
compensatory equipment, such as software and hardware,
for persons with severe learning disabilities.
Assessment of post-secondary students: I'm
thrilled to talk about this. At one time, very few
Canadians who were learning disabled ever went to
university or ever had the opportunity to go to a
The Government of Canada and the Canada study
grants, formerly special opportunities grants, provide
assistance to students with permanent disabilities.
Under the CSG, a student with a permanent disability
is eligible for a grant
of up to $5,000 to cover those
exceptional education-related costs associated with
Unlike student loans, the grant does
not have to be repaid, but in order to qualify for a
CSG, a student with a learning disability must have
documentation showing a permanent disability that
limits the ability to participate fully in
post-secondary studies or in the labour force.
In other words, a student with a learning disability
must have a formal diagnosis with accompanying
documentation—often within three years. While the
study grant covers exceptional expenses—tutors,
interpreters, special equipment—it never covers the
associated cost of a psycho-educational assessment, and
they run between $800 and $1,500 now.
Assessments are used to make recommendations to
professors on how to adapt the teaching and the
examinations for students with learning disabilities.
In essence, it levels the playing field. It allows a
learning-disabled young person in a university
setting, who has beaten the odds—just think,
the odds, they've made it all the way to
university—an opportunity to have
the level playing field they need
For you see, if they fall through the cracks and fall
out of university, then we're back to the wrong type of
investment—because we're going to have to carry them.
If we can help them convocate, they can then of
course be contributors in Canada, and you
will get your
investment back because they will pay taxes.
At this time, assessment waiting lists are very long.
Some universities and colleges
will provide the
assessment for a fee. Others don't even
provide the assessment. Those few that do
provide an assessment have very long lines.
Therefore, we have this wonderful opportunity of
young Canadians who are learning disabled
going to university
in greater numbers, but we need to offer them a helping
hand. If we can help them help themselves, we
will be paid back.
The report by the National Educational
Association of Disabled
Students, a brand new
report on ensuring access, showed that
91% of the 70 institutions
surveyed require disability documentation from
students requiring accommodation. Institutions further
report that documentation must bear the signature and
credentials of the physician, psychiatrist, or
registered psychologist. Therefore, if you don't have
a current formal diagnosis and you're in university,
you're not going to qualify for the Canadian study
grants. In fact, you're not even going to qualify for
academic accommodation at that university. Therefore,
the playing field is no longer level.
We recommend that the Government
of Canada expand the
Canada study grant guidelines to recognize learning
disabilities assessment as an exceptional
education-related cost. Furthermore, we recommend that
Government of Canada make $25 million available to
universities and colleges for assessing post-secondary
students with learning disabilities and for
institutions to provide training for instructors to
enhance teaching skills.
Lastly, in 1996, the federal task force on
disability issues—better known as the Scott task
force—advised the Government of Canada not to treat
the Canada study grants for students with disabilities
as taxable income under the Canada student loans
program. We recommend that
the Government of Canada not
treat Canada study grants for students with
disabilities as taxable income.
In conclusion, as we move towards
the new millennium, I
don't think any of us have the right to
and put out our hand without offering something in
return to the government. The Learning Disabilities
Association of Canada, four years ago,
in front of Jim
Peterson, said that we would
work on literacy and we
would not ask the government for money. Four
we have a national tutoring program up and running in
three sites. We have two more provinces that will be
up and running within 12 months. That national
tutoring program is
making inroads. We are doing it
with corporate partnerships,
with corporate donations,
and with our membership.
Therefore, I challenge every single person around the
table, as you go back into your
your communities, to let the eternal
flame within each
Canadian sparkle almost like a star in the sky,
because when we do that, when we help each other,
it is guaranteed that we will be a much stronger
country in the next millennium.
Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
That concludes the panel discussion. We'll go to
the question-and-answer session.
We'll start with Mr. McNally. It's
going to be a 10-minute round.
Mr. Grant McNally (Dewdney—Alouette, Ref.): Thank
you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all of you for your presentations.
I know it's getting on into the evening and we're all
busy people with lots of commitments,
so I appreciate you
taking the time to make your presentations. You've
certainly covered a lot of material. I'm sure you'll
get lots of questions from all of us.
I'd like to start at the beginning, with Mr. Stock.
made some interesting comments. You
made some comments
about Simon Fraser University and a
conference that was held there. I just recently
graduated from there myself, so I'm going
to check into
that one a little further. You mentioned an incident
or a funding proposal I wasn't aware of, a $10,000
Mr. Peter Stock: That's right.
Mr. Grant McNally: I'm sorry, but I
didn't catch the
details of that.
Mr. Peter Stock: This was reported in
the Canadian press on September 28, 1999. Both
the B.C. Arts Council and the Canada Council jointly
funded a literary panel held at SFU. The panel was
called “Sex, Drugs and the Law: Pushing the
Boundaries”. It was organized by The
Small Press Action Network and
ran from October 1 to 3.
was given to John
Sharpe, who's the pedophile
who is currently challenging
the laws on prohibiting possession of child pornography
in this country. That case, of course, is
going to the
Supreme Court on
January 18 of next year. Our
organization of course has a big problem with people
possessing child pornography, and we have
a problem with
government grants, taxpayers' money, going
to fund a
platform for such a despicable individual to speak from
and to promote his filth.
Mr. Grant McNally: Thank you. I have
the details of
that now. Thank you for filling that in—
Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.): Is—I
Sharpe a pedophile or...?
Mr. Grant McNally: I think it's my time, Mr.
The Chair: Mr. Szabo.
Mr. Paul Szabo: Do you know he's a pedophile
or he is
just someone who was charged with
possession of child
Mr. Peter Stock: He's been charged with that. I
think if one reads his writings, he would
claim that is
his predilection, yes.
Ms. Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul's, Lib.): He
has never been charged with—
Mr. Peter Stock: He can sue me if he wants.
Mr. Grant McNally: Thanks. I think
that's a well-documented fact.
You also mentioned that, in your group's
opinion, marriage is discriminated
against. Can you
tell us more
details about this?
Mr. Peter Stock: Yes. In fact, we did hear
from some of
the others around the table about exactly that point.
There are many areas of the Income Tax Act that we feel
penalize marriage. It's quite clear that those who
live together who do not get married or who perhaps
divorce do receive several tax benefits. Those are
things that, again, we've heard some detail about.
They've come up before this committee before.
Specifically, one we're really concerned
about is the
child care expense deduction. It's not
against marriage per se, but it does discriminate
families who do take a view that having a parent in
the home is an excellent way to raise their children
and would like to do so, at least for the first years
their children are around.
The Chair: Do you have any
Mr. Grant McNally: Yes, I have a couple of
questions for Ms. Gardner.
You talked about the notion of unpaid work by spouses.
You are clearly advocating, then, that spouses be
allowed to pay each other for child care.
Ms. Sheridan Gardner: Yes.
Mr. Grant McNally: Can you expand on
on how you see that being put into place in a
practical, nationwide...? How would we
set that up and
make it work?
Ms. Sheridan Gardner: I was hoping we would have
some legal minds and some real legislative
developers dealing with the wording of something like
don't want to be sexist about this. The notion
is that for women who stay at home to raise
will uphold that it is largely women who stay at
home—their work is of value. For tax purposes,
that value has already been defined.
If I choose to go out to work and my husband chooses
to go out to work, I have to hire a
third person and I'm
told what I can write off in terms of expenses to have
them provide the very necessary child care that we
Now, if just one person, one parent,
decides to go out
to work, why is his spouse simply put in the
position of having to provide
free child care? Marriage
is not servitude—
Mr. Grant McNally: Excuse me—sorry to
interrupt. So you
say that the current system is
discriminatory in that—
Ms. Sheridan Gardner: I would say that the current
system is very discriminatory against spouses.
course on the surface the legislation
would appear to
be quite benign, but it is not.
If you look at some history as to the way women have
been treated, and if you simply look at
section 74 of the Income Tax Act—some of
which was repealed as recently
as 1980—section 74 deals with spouses being able to
work for their spouses, spouses being able to work in
partnership with their spouses, and spouses
to work for their spouse and that spouse's partners.
Now having given you some history on that, in
1952, I think, a man took his case to the Supreme
I believe. He was an employee
of his wife and her two
partners. He took it to court. It was a different
section of the legislation. It wasn't section 74 at
the time, but it was the same type of legislation that
prevented him from earning an income.
His income had to be declared as his wife's income
because she was the owner of the business. He took
his argument to court in 1952 on the basis of
the wording “the employee”. He was supposedly “the
employee” of his wife and,
therefore, as “the
employee” he could not be paid.
His argument was that there were 86 employees so he
wasn't “the employee” but simply “an employee”,
and he wanted to be treated like every other employee.
But we didn't have human rights legislation at that
time, so his argument hinged on the
the words “the” and “an”. Even though the court
ruled against him, subsequently the law was changed to
really ensure that spouses are put in a position of
servitude. It's unacceptable.
I think re-examining section 63 of the Income
Tax Act, which prevents one spouse from paying the
other, is going to do a lot to deal
with family tax
fairness and the whole issue of
adequate tax benefits not being provided
for families with
The value of child care to society is the same if it's
provided by a non-parent or by a parent.
We're talking about tax legislation here. We're
talking about the recognized value for tax purposes.
Whether or not I think $7,000 is enough to stay at home
and look after a child under 7 years of age...? No,
it's not, but that is what the tax system
is allowing us to
write off at this time.
It's very important that we look at spouses
just as people, as individuals,
tax legislation and stop trying to discriminate against
them by using this sort of gender-neutral term,
“spouse”. It typically applies to women, and
typically a group that has historically been
discriminated against. It's time that
we re-examine this.
Maybe it is a
large change in thinking, but maybe when section 74 was
revised in 1980 that was a large
change in thinking.
I think this time has come. We are going
into a new
millennium. We do have to re-examine it.
Mr. Grant McNally: So you would advocate, then,
that the tax law not treat one family arrangement or
child care arrangement over and above another.
Ms. Sheridan Gardner: That's right.
Mr. Grant McNally: So if somebody were to choose
to stay at home and look after their kids, or to
have their children in day care, or to have
look after the children, the tax law should be neutral
Ms. Sheridan Gardner: I think it gives families
the option to choose what they prefer. When women
leave the workforce to stay at home...and many
women are in the workforce. I believe the statistic
the 1998 census: 69% of married women were also in
the paid workforce. When they choose to leave
the workforce and stay home
to look after their children, they shouldn't have to
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. McNally.
Mr. Szabo, followed by Dr. Bennett.
Mr. Paul Szabo: Dr. Bennett will go first.
The Chair: Okay,
followed by Mr. Galloway for one question.
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: My question is for
Mr. Horan: how early can you detect a learning
disability in a child?
Mr. James Horan: At this point, someplace
around the age of three. Of course medical
are moving so quickly in this field that we really
are starting to be pretty accurate even
around the age of three.
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: Is there any evidence
to show that the
outcomes are better depending on how early it's picked
Mr. James Horan: Yes, there is. There
is a body of
research presently available, which really
indicate that if you have a continuum of service you
can make a difference. In regard to our membership,
we've worked with so many families at risk across the
country, when we work with those families we do see a
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: Are there some kids that
aren't picked up until they are in prison?
Mr. James Horan: Yes. It is interesting
that Correctional Services has recently started a
screening process for some of our
they're finding, sad to say, is that a number have
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: I've seen studies that say
high as 70%.
Mr. James Horan: Yes, you're correct. I think
what bothers me more than anything is working with
a 14- or 15-year-old who is learning disabled and who
has had no service but is on their way
to a detention centre. It's a terrible
thing to go to through and to watch. In essence,
what you see is a broken toy—basically
a human being that's very difficult to put back
together at 14 or 15 years old.
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: Maybe I'll put this to
you, Mr. Stock. Are you aware of the
evidence that shows
that people who have been exposed early to childhood
educators are in a better position in terms of readiness
to learn when they arrive at the school door?
Mr. Peter Stock: I think your question is
about early childhood education, and
I'm not really sure—
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: Well, I think having
a trained childhood educator who understands about
reading, maybe picks up on learning disabilities, maybe
understands conflict resolution, sharing, all of
those things...there's no question that no
one can love a child as
much as a parent. I guess the question in terms of
actual early childhood education is...I don't
think I was
born an early childhood educator or that when
my baby was
born I became an early childhood educator—compared
to the patients I had who sure knew
a lot more
about this than I did.
I guess that the research now is showing that this is
really important in terms of the readiness to learn and
in picking up some of these things,
from fetal alcohol
effects to learning disabilities. When I was
in practice, there was a
children's storefront down the street where the
moms dropped in and had
stimulation, whatever, and would run things
by their peers
in terms of how the kid's doing, of whether the kid
able to read by now and those kinds of things, like
how to fight, how to share, all of those things.
I think what I'm hearing is that you're
sort of opposed to the state having anything
to do with this. I guess what all of the Ministers of
Health across this country have
agreed that there's this opportunity gap in terms of
how we don't actually see kids until
they're six and we
start investing then, but in terms of the brain
malleability and the ability to do all of this, we've
missed the most important time by the time we start
investing in kids.
I was just wondering whether you would be opposed
to the existence of early childhood development centres
whereby the parent who stays at
home would be able to
avail themselves of those services.
Mr. Peter Stock: The short answer is yes.
I think these things can be done privately. For
example, when I was young, my mother started a day
care centre, and—
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: Did she have any training?
Mr. Peter Stock: No, she didn't have any training.
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: Well, let's go
over here, then, because—
Mr. Peter Stock: I'm sorry to interrupt, but
I'm not quite
finished. There are two other points I wanted to
The second is intervention,
and quite frankly—
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: Did she get paid to look
after other people's children?
Mr. Peter Stock: No, this was strictly
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: Because I think that's one of
my concerns. We have a huge underground
economy in this with people who are basically
untrained. When you say you're
worried that a national day care plan
would have a
domino effect on children who are looked after, I
problems with it...that a lot of those people have no
training, that there are no standards, and that
some of those
children are worse off than if they were in a certified
day care with trained people looking after them. Your
idea of the problems in terms of the
Ms. Gardner, having been a
family doctor for 20 years, my main problem with your brief
is this compelling evidence
that the income tax law has...I mean, you've
that income tax law is causing Down's syndrome.
If we actually go to the bottom of the page,
it reads, “compelling evidence
that income tax law has
affected choices...about getting married”.
like to know what that compelling evidence was.
Also, it says that the Income Tax Act tells
people to delay their
families. I don't get that.
Ms. Sheridan Gardner: I just think about
women—and I'm thinking about my age group—who
have gone to university and have decided to apply
themselves to a career. They have not
said, oh, I'm
going to put the career on hold in 3 years; they
have applied themselves to their careers
for 10, 12, or
15 years, which requires that they—by that time
they're financially stable, presumably—
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: But you've said it's
because of a problem in the Income Tax Act. Can you
help me with that?
Ms. Sheridan Gardner: The Income
Tax Act doesn't support; there's no child tax deduction
any more. There's no incentive to stay
home with your
children once you've had your 15
weeks or whatever it was. Now it's 25—
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: But even if you weren't going
to stay home, why would you delay your family?
Ms. Sheridan Gardner: I think part of
the reason you delay your family is that
you're getting your
career on track. You're putting in the 15 years it
takes to get your career going so that maybe when you
do take some time out, you'll be
financially able to do so.
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: This doesn't sound like
compelling evidence in terms of my experience,
but I will accept that you have anecdotal
evidence of it. But I think that—
Ms. Sheridan Gardner: Seventy per cent of
women are in the workforce in 1998, but I entered the
workforce in the mid-1970s. Having worked at my
career for 15 years before having
my children, I did have my children over the age of 35,
and yes, the Down's syndrome
test is one of the tests that
I got for free because of my age. I don't think my
experience is unique. I think my experience is
actually quite normal for my age group.
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: I just think that what we're
trying to find is the best policy mix and balance so
that people actually have real choices about this
I didn't have any choice. I went back to work
after six weeks because my husband
was in the film
business and we had one income. I think every
family is very different—
Ms. Sheridan Gardner: Yes.
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: —in terms of the
really have. Some families just make a choice
about moving neighbourhoods, and it's not
anything other than they'd rather
have a backyard than
a balcony, and that's the reason both people are
That's the dilemma of this committee: we're
trying to find fairness in terms of real choices for
that particular family, not the apples and oranges of
two different families at $60,000 but
that one family at
$60,000 or $30,000 or whatever, whether they decide to
go back to work or not, not comparing themselves to
their neighbours, whether it's fair for them to make
It's as if we talked about a bachelor
versus yourself. At least in your tax
getting two sets of health care, two sets of...there is
some reason why, when there are
two people covered in a
set of taxes, you would be...you're actually a lot
better off than a bachelor, aren't you?
Mr. Charles Van Wagner: How would you
rate a couple
that has two equal incomes that amount to our one total
one? This is the problem.
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: Yes, well, if you compare
way, but it just depends on who you want to compare
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The Chair: Are you finished with your questions
and your comments?
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: Yes.
Mr. Paul Szabo: Let's finish
with Mr. Van Wagner.
Mr. Van Wagner, when the finance
committee did a study of
taxation for one-income versus two-income
with the same total income, exactly what you're saying
was demonstrated, but we found that
comparing you to
somebody else was really a soft argument. The
real question would be that if both of you
earning $30,000 and one of you decided to stay out of
the workforce, the other person's income wouldn't go up
to $60,000 to be equal.
We make choices in life, so
you can't compare one $60,000 income to two $30,000
incomes. It's a
non-argument; it's not a valid argument at all.
It's an issue that triggered a lot of debate, and a
number of people here have tried to talk about it.
The fact is, if you have a couple who are both in
the labour force, and they have a child, they
have two choices. The two choices
are: one, pay
someone to care for this child and
claim the child care
expense deduction, or two, have one of
from the labour force and provide direct parental
Most people say the discrimination—and I hear it from
Ms. Gardner—is in the child care expense
deduction, but you'd be interested to know
that in 1997,
which is the last full year that Revenue Canada
reported on the income tax returns filed by Canadians,
only about one-quarter of families that
could—two-income families with kids—claimed anything.
Of those that actually did claim something, the
average claim was $2,554 when, in
could have claimed up to $5,000 for one
child. As we know, some families have more than one
So Dr. Bennett is absolutely right. There
is a huge
underground economy in this
whole child care thing.
That is one of the reasons, I think, why we came to the
conclusion that because we do have, as has
earlier, so many different configurations of whatever,
there is no possibility of having a fair and equitable
system and accommodating all those different
and combinations, with and without children, etc.,
and still be fair to everybody.
The tax system is based on the individual unit of
taxation. It's progressive and
it deals with a broad
range of situations, such
as one income earner,
two income earners, a lone parent that can't split
income, etc. There are so many different ways.
I want to ask the panel, because you all have a vested
interest in this to some extent, would you prefer
that—I'm talking about couples with children—changes
be made within the Income Tax Act to deal with it or
outside of it, for that matter, which would
money into your pocket so that you could make choices
as to how you want...?
Or would it be a better
approach to introduce programs? There's
been a lot of
talk about enriched preschool, early childhood
development programs, etc. I'm curious as to
whether there is a consensus about whether or
not a broad enough base of programs could be introduced
to meet all the needs or whether we really are talking
about how parents have to choose because they
are the only ones
who can really figure out what the best possible
arrangement would be for their children. I'd be
interested in your comments.
The Chair: Mr. Weiner.
Mr. Harvey Weiner: I think we would come out
clearly on the side of programs and services. Parents
certainly are the primary caregivers. There's no
question at all about that, but the
children and youth
we're talking about are Canada's children and youth.
There is a collective contribution that all of us have
an interest in making in order to ensure that
they grow up to be
healthy, well-adjusted, contributing members to civic
society, contributing members to the economy—and
the more we
can do to ensure that happens, the greater our tax base
Mr. Paul Szabo: Do you favour a formalized
Mr. Harvey Weiner: Absolutely.
Mr. Paul Szabo: Okay.
Mr. Harvey Weiner: Without question, and
Mr. Paul Szabo: Sure. I want to get on with the
Mr. Harvey Weiner: —the parents
would opt in to these programs and
services, which would be accessible
to them, coherent, and integrated, and would
be there on a
timely basis to meet their needs.
The Chair: Ms. Bascombe.
Ms. Dianne Bascombe: I'd just like to make
the point that without an investment in infrastructure
for early childhood programs there will be no choices
for parents, because there will not be available in
their local community a range of high-quality early
childhood care and education services for them to
I think we don't really have a choice but to make
an investment in some infrastructure and in
and services so that parents actually do have a
choice, whether they are at home or in
the workforce, so that they have some
viable options for
quality programs for their kids.
The Chair: Mr. Stock.
Mr. Peter Stock: First of all, I resent
the implication that my mother was involved in the
underground economy. This was a volunteer situation.
Mr. Paul Szabo: Just to clarify, in
economy situation, someone would pay someone to
care for their kid but would not claim the
deduction, and the person they paid
would not claim the
tax. That is tax fraud.
Mr. Peter Stock: Absolutely.
Mr. Paul Szabo: That's what I'm referring to.
Mr. Peter Stock: I realize that's
what you're referring to.
The earlier comment was
untrue, though. The day care my mother
was involved in was strictly
volunteer all the way around, and I think that's maybe
the case in a lot of situations. There's a case
in my family
presently where my brother has his child cared for by
his mother-in-law. Again, there's no money changing
hands. It's simply looking after
family, but the
parents are in the workforce. There isn't
necessarily the huge underground economy there. There
are alternate avenues for child care
that don't involve
so-called quality day care paid for by the government.
The other point is on the child care expense
deduction and who is claiming this. We
brought this up at
the subcommittee. You referred to 25% who
are actually claiming an
average of about $2,500. I believe those were
figures. Probably what we're seeing there,
more realistically, I think, is that
about 10% are actually
claiming a very significant amount. The
other 15% are
probably claiming a very small amount for things like a
summer camp or whatever. That would correlate
quite closely with the number of people who are
actually using this licensed and receiptable day care
on a full-time basis so they can be in the workforce.
Mr. Paul Szabo: You see, that doesn't work if both
are employed and have preschool kids. Somebody
must be taking care of them. Two income earners
not claiming a child care expense
deduction—or just a
tiny amount—means there's something wrong.
Mr. Peter Stock: No. I'm suggesting
that there are
a lot of alternate forms of care, like
the ones I was
referring to earlier with my brother and with my
Mr. Paul Szabo: Okay.
Mr. Charles Van Wagner: In our position,
the first thing I could say is that we've
been there and we
have seen it all, so we know about
raising children and all
the choices that have to go with that. Things were
quite different in our days. We tried to
consequences of adopting that lifestyle, which appeared
to us to last for the remainder of our lives.
You would prefer, sir...I've heard this before and
we've of course read the report of the subcommittee
on children's affairs...the idea of a choice
between two incomes and dropping one is a very
significant part of that report. But have you observed
what happens to that single income when the parents
have foregone one of them? It is then fully exposed
to the very single-income
penalty we talked about—
Mr. Paul Szabo: —and changed, though.
Mr. Charles Van Wagner: Oh, yes.
Mr. Paul Szabo: It was something and when
the other part dropped out, their income
still was the same amount.
Mr. Charles Van Wagner: The example
in that brief, in
your report, was the 36:24 ratio of a $60,000 couple.
decide to forego the $24,000 in order to keep a
homemaker at home. They are left with $36,000. It is
all in one name. The income tax that they will pay on
that $36,000 is—
Mr. Paul Szabo: It goes down.
Mr. Charles Van Wagner: Yes, but
it is still $1,000
more than if their income were evenly split. They're
paying a single-income—
Mr. Paul Szabo: That's not true—
Mr. Charles Van Wagner: —penalty of $1,000.
Mr. Paul Szabo: —because you get a spousal
Mr. Grant McNally: Let him finish.
Mr. Charles Van Wagner: The spousal
exemption is about—
Mr. Paul Szabo: It's $6,000.
Mr. Charles Van Wagner: —one-tenth of the
average family income. A better way
to look at it is
that it reduces a breadwinner's income by
a mere $1,400, which makes him almost
like a single
person. However correct your
in quality and quantity, the situation
is too ludicrous.
Mr. Paul Szabo: Another issue many of you
talked about is caring for kids. In regard
to some of the
answers you've given, you know what?
All of you are correct, but you are
correct depending on your assumptions as to whether
we're talking about children who are zero to three
four to six years because, to my
knowledge, there are no enriched preschool or
education programs for infants. In fact,
concern is the healthy brain development,
neural development, of a child, the engaged,
care of an adult, not necessarily a parent...but a
consistent attachment with
an engaged, committed adult
is going to take more than you can buy from day care,
if that's what you're talking about.
If you are talking about the child when he is out of
diapers, etc....and we don't have junior
senior kindergarten any more. If we did
that took the place of that, where there in fact is
stimulative, active variety, etc., there's no question
that the child coming out of that
environment will do
better when they hit grade one or kindergarten compared
to one who has to start with the ABCs when they get to
So all of you are right. I ask the
question, then, when we're talking about
healthy outcomes of children as your objective, if
you had only one dollar to spend, would you
spend it on
children of zero to three or children of four to six?
Mr. Peter Stock: I'd spend it on zero
to three, on
allowing parents a better opportunity to stay home with
Mr. Paul Szabo: Okay.
The Chair: Mr. Weiner, do you have an opinion on
Mr. Harvey Weiner: We have more than one dollar
to spend. It seems to me that if we go into forced
choices like that we're shortchanging not only the
kids but ourselves.
Mr. Paul Szabo: Let me not be coy. What's more
important: zero to three or four to six?
Mr. Harvey Weiner: They're both important.
Mr. Paul Szabo: What's more important? What are
In all the research, from Fraser Mustard right
down the line, year one is dynamite. He told
that to the human
resources development committee. Every report done
says that 80% of the lifetime development of
the human brain occurs by age three. I'm sorry, but
don't have the physiological and neural
place, I don't care what you do for them when
four, five and six, because you have damaged goods—the
way it's been described to me in the past by some
Early childhood development means from zero on, and if
you didn't do well in zero to three,
don't expect to make
Mr. Harvey Weiner: Zero to three is critical, but
if you're telling me that we're going to write off from
four onward because 80% or whatever...by the way,
there's a lot of good work that Mustard has
done, but his research is in fact controversial in a
number of aspects. The early years are extremely
critical, very important, but making arbitrary cut-off
decisions that we're going to spend
a dollar for zero to
three...? We have more dollars
The Chair: Ms. Bascombe.
Ms. Dianne Bascombe: I'm certainly
not going to
argue about the importance of zero to three.
going to make the point that I think 70% of
mothers in the labour force do have children in that
age group, so when we're talking about making sure we
have a range of early childhood services that serve
kids from zero to six, they're serving kids from zero
We certainly support the extension of
to one year, but realistically we know
that families need
to be in the workforce for economic security.
know that even kids of one, two, three,
four, and five years need access
to these high-quality
environments, whether parents are at home or
in the workforce.
In some ways, it is a false
choice in that it's the same kinds
of family and community social supports that
are going to serve the needs of
those families with young children. We don't cut them
off at age three. We need the range of programs and
The Chair: Mr. Horan.
Mr. James Horan: I think history
will judge those of us sitting
around this table by what we do for the most
vulnerable—and that means our youngest.
I am the
past president of the Learning Disabilities
Association, but I'm a principal of what's
is known as a
compensatory school. What does that mean? I feed
every child in my school at 10 o'clock every
If someone asked me where I would put all of this
paper, number one would be early identification
of children at risk.
Where would I put in my resources? Before
they ever come
to see my school.
Better Beginnings is tied to my
school. It's a wonderful program and is for those from
the age of zero
until the time they
get to me. It's working. But let me
assure you, if you were to come and
spend time with me and live with me every
there would not be one single person
around this table
who would not say, hey, let's put the dollar into
vulnerable, into the youngest. Either we invest today
or we pay a terrible price tomorrow.
Dr. Bennett, you're a family doctor. You've been
in this business 20-odd years. You've seen it
all—just like me, a compensatory school principal.
We have seen it all.
I'll tell you something. Be
there, walk with me a while, walk into
a practice that
Dr. Bennett picks out for you, spend some time in a
north end community health centre, spend a day.
When you come back, you'll have a whole different way
of looking at Canada.
The Chair: Mr. Gallaway, do you have a question?
Mr. Roger Gallaway (Sarnia—Lambton, Lib.): Yes,
thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Neil McFadyen: Mr.
Chairman, may I...?
The Chair: Sorry, Mr. McFadyen, did you want to
Mr. Neil McFadyen: I just wanted to
comment about spending the money on early childhood
development centres. I guess you're talking about
creating some kind of improved day care.
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: Like parent drop-in,
Mr. Neil McFadyen: But you were implying
that in some of the existing centres
qualified enough or that you're sending your
child to the
babysitter down the street and she's not qualified
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: I'm saying
childhood educators running them—
Mr. Neil McFadyen: Okay, but when you're sending
someone aged zero to three to a babysitter,
qualifications does the babysitter need? How do
you know that
parent or that babysitter down the street
is not giving the
same or better care than
someone hired off the street—
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: You could say that about
Mr. Neil McFadyen: —to go into a day care who has
passed a test—
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: If we didn't have registered
doctors...some of them would be pretty good even
a licence and some of them wouldn't be. What
is that Canadians should have
confidence in where they put
their kids, that there's actually a set
of standards and a
core training that you can count on.
Mr. Neil McFadyen: Are you saying
parents should have a qualification, then,
can take care of their children?
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: I'm saying the kids are
better off if the parent knows enough to drop into one
of these centres—for sure.
Mr. Roger Gallaway: I have a question.
The Chair: Yes, Mr. Gallaway.
I hope the rest of you don't mind, but we'd
like to join
in. Mr. Gallaway
has been waiting for a number of
minutes now. Mr. McNally probably wants another
round and he's going to get impatient soon, so give
the chair a break.
Go ahead, Mr. Gallaway.
Mr. Roger Gallaway: Thank
you. It's nice being a spectator here
Mr. Weiner and Ms. Bascombe, this is your
summary of actions, and Mr. Weiner,
I think this is your chart. One of you mentioned $2
billion; another one dropped
the figure of $2.5 billion.
say that what I've been hearing here from you tonight
is that parents, in some way,
are not the best equipped
to deal with their children, that we're going to start
dumping them into centres. As a parent, I'm quite
alarmed by what I'm hearing here about this stuff.
find that this is about choices. We're
choices. Usually having a child is about having
choices. There are all kinds of choices
we make in life.
You talk about income
security, social and community supports, and national
research and monitoring, and I think
you put on it a number of $50 million or something
My question is simply this: what would
you estimate the cost of income
securities to be? Those things are doable
through the Income Tax Act. Of the $2.5 billion
you requested, how much would you devote to that and
how much would you devote to programs?
Ms. Dianne Bascombe: We have revised our brief
time. On the income security measures, we're looking
for a $2 billion investment in the
national child tax benefit.
Mr. Roger Gallaway: We're talking per annum, I
assume, when you talk about $2 billion—
Ms. Dianne Bascombe: We were looking
at it being
spread over a two-year period.
Mr. Harvey Weiner: Over a two-year period.
Mr. Roger Gallaway: Over a two-year period...so
then what are we talking
about in terms of social
and community support?
Ms. Dianne Bascombe: Two billion dollars.
Mr. Harvey Weiner: Over two years.
Mr. Roger Gallaway: I'm confused, then. What
is the tax
portion of it, then? How much is
the income security?
Mr. Harvey Weiner: An additional
what...? Isn't it $2.5 billion?
Ms. Dianne Bascombe: For the national child
Mr. Roger Gallaway: Well, you have six items
listed. You must have quantified it.
Mr. Harvey Weiner: It's $2.5 billion per.
Mr. Roger Gallaway: All right. There's
$2.5 billion per for social and community
that what you're telling me?
Mr. Harvey Weiner: Yes.
Mr. Roger Gallaway: Over two years.
Ms. Dianne Bascombe: That's correct.
Mr. Roger Gallaway: So you're talking about $5
billion over two years.
Ms. Dianne Bascombe: That's
Mr. Roger Gallaway: All right.
Now, I find all this conversation very interesting,
but we're sitting in this room on Parliament Hill
and the Fathers of Confederation are watching us.
We have choices to make here, and we have
to go out on
the streets to talk to people and find out what
they're saying. There's this connection
between what you're saying and
what people on the streets believe.
I should tell you
that the Department of Finance has had extensive
polling done very recently. People are concerned about
the health care system. People are concerned about
post-secondary education. People are concerned about
tax cuts. They're concerned about the national debt.
And way down here is this whole
idea of a children's
agenda. Taking a bunch of money and giving it to a
bunch of social workers and teachers just isn't
Mr. Paul Szabo: Oh, oh!
Mr. Roger Gallaway: It's just not palatable. What
we're talking about is—
Mr. Paul Szabo: Don't be coy.
Mr. Roger Gallaway: Yes. Let's be real here.
That's all I'm saying. Let's deal
with reality here,
not with theory.
As for what you're telling me here tonight,
I don't think I can sell it to
anyone in my riding—that I've
Ms. Carolyn Bennett: Buzz Hargrove can.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Roger Gallaway: Before Dr. Bennett gives me
Down's syndrome here, what I'm saying
to you is that I
think there's this big gulf between what you're saying
and what Canadians are going to buy. I'm
not buying anything you're saying.
Mr. Harvey Weiner: We're probably not reading
the same polls, Mr. Gallaway. Let me give you some
arguments that you can use with your constituents who
may be saying that.
Mr. Roger Gallaway: Let me just tell you that I've
made statements in the press in my riding and I haven't
had anyone—other than one person—come forward and say
they disagreed with me. The person who came forward
is an early childhood educator.
Mr. Harvey Weiner: Okay.
Mr. Roger Gallaway: I can't find anyone. I'm
looking. I'm being provocative. I can't find
Mr. Harvey Weiner: I guess one of the
problems is that children and youth don't get much of
an audience at meetings such as these.
I think there's another issue. Our
health, our pensions,
the quality of
life in this country, and the financial supports for
that, even the financial supports
for our tax system
and the tax cuts, which I think all
of us at some point
would certainly like to see, are going
to come—and come
in greater quantity—based on the kind
we're prepared to make in our children.
I use the term “our children” advisedly.
Certainly by no means did
anyone imply—and I certainly
would be the last one—that the parents
are not the major
critical caregivers for children.
We talk about
“our children”, Canada's children.
Whether you had a
child that is now an adult or you never had
any children at all, these are the children
that will grow into adulthood and determine
the quality of life you and I are
going to have when we retire, the
benefits that we're going to be able
to enjoy—that we
would like to enjoy—when we retire.
They're going to be the support at the bottom of that
pyramid, so to speak. If we don't give them every
opportunity to succeed...every last one of them is
born equal and every last one of them should have the
maximum chance to reach his or her potential.
It's been demonstrated conclusively through research,
Canadian, American, and European, that
this kind of
investment is the best investment
you can make. We will end up getting
bigger and better tax cuts down the line. We will end
up cutting down on non-discretionary expenditures that
we are forced to make: to incarcerate
remediate people, to fix broken people. The
research is there to support it. It's an investment,
not an expense.
Ms. Dianne Bascombe: With respect,
I don't think I want to up
your polls poll by poll, however, I think there
certainly are polls to the contrary in terms of
Canadians' support for children and families in this
country. We can—
Mr. Roger Gallaway: I don't want to—
Ms. Dianne Bascombe: So I don't want
to go on with
the poll thing, but what I do want to
say is this: the
reality of the situation is that millions of our
children—our very young children—are being
situations every day where they're cared for outside of
the home while their parents
work or study and we need to
make sure they have high-quality child care
environments. It's a fact: they are out there.
We need to support that. I can't imagine
don't support the fact that our young children need
high-quality care. We're not talking about dumping
money into social workers or into
programs that are not
completely effective and outcome-oriented, programs
to make sure
that kids meet their potential.
I don't think you would quibble with the
research about the importance of the early years
either. We have to recognize that we need to make
sure parents have access to high-quality programs
while they go to work.
Mr. Paul Szabo: Mr. Chairman, could I just
correct a point? That 70% of people
who have kids—
Ms. Dianne Bascombe: Preschool
Mr. Paul Szabo: —and 70% of women—
Ms. Dianne Bascombe: Are in the
Mr. Paul Szabo: —work. It's not exactly...it
doesn't give the right information. One-third of
women with preschool kids are in the labour force.
One-third stay at home. Full-time work
in the labour force
or workforce is defined as 30 hours and more. The
is anywhere between 1 and 30 hours a week.
I've seen the numbers. We're going
to get them from Statistics Canada; we've asked for
That means, I
think, that you're going to find that
a vast majority of
that middle one-third actually have a very low number
of weekly hours because they're working part-time,
overlapping, or going to work after the husband gets
home. So they are in fact providing direct
think we're going to find that the majority of parents
with preschool children are providing direct parental
care to their children, contrary to what HRDC has been
saying to you and to many other Canadians for a long
Ms. Dianne Bascombe: The numbers
are still huge, no
matter how we cut this thing. The numbers are huge in
terms of the range of kids needing care in the
preschool years. Whether their
parents are full-time in
the workforce, part-time in the
workforce, or at home, we need to have a
range of those services to meet the needs for all those
families. The numbers are huge
and we certainly don't have
the kind of infrastructure for early childhood services
in this country.
The Chair: Mr. Stock.
Mr. Van Wagner, you still want to make a
comment about a
Mr. Charles Van Wagner: Mr. Chairman,
I wonder if it's
just possible to take another look at this idea of
the proper basis of comparison and make a little
dent in Mr. Szabo's argument if I can.
The argument that one should compare
the choice of
having two incomes with one income is a very fine way
of looking at it, but it's not right, I don't
believe, to look at it only that way,
to throw out the idea that in fact joint
family income is
some kind of basis for taxation. The government
wants to use it in judging how to deal with children,
but it refuses to recognize it when taxing the couple
themselves. This seems to me like a very bad
thing in any kind of systems analysis; you don't do
that in the professional world of systems analysis.
Besides, if a couple that has only one income is
in fact living just exactly the same as another couple
that has two halves of that income under their separate
names, it's very hard to find a reason, then, for
thousands of dollars more tax from them. They're
getting the same services, you see. It's
Mr. Paul Szabo: It's difficult, but
you do need to
have fairness and equity within the system. You
have to ask yourself, if you have a couple that
chooses not to have children
or that just lives together
for convenience, where one decides
they're going to have
this person stay home and just keep a nice home for
make their social arrangements and all
that other stuff,
and they'll get to split
their income with them...that
creates a problem.
All Canadian taxpayers pay
for every tax benefit or tax expenditure that we give
Mr. Charles Van Wagner: Oh, yes.
Mr. Paul Szabo: —and they do that in the
expectation that the tax expenditure meets some sort of
national objective or value. I don't understand
why you would suggest that because two people decide
to live together they should be able to split
their income when there may be no expectation or
possibility of that having a national
value or benefit.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Szabo.
I'm just getting to the point where I think I'm going
to get Mr. Szabo as a witness.
Mr. McFadyen, Mr. Horan,
and Mr. Stock.
Mr. Neil McFadyen: I just
thought I'd comment about the talk on polling
Gallaway and Dianne. I was just wondering if
anyone has actually polled the kids. Go to a day care
and poll them when they're being dropped off at 7.30
in the morning. Ask them if they want
to go to day care
stay home with mom or dad. Let's see what the
result of that poll is.
The Chair: Good point.
Mr. James Horan: We have 140-odd chapters
across the country, so we're in every province, every
territory. We get a lot of questions about 14-, 15-,
16-, 17-, or 18-year-olds who are
incarcerated or on their
way to a detention centre. Often they'll ask me when I
knew about it and what could have been done.
That question comes up time and time again when dealing
with those young people who are learning disabled.
That's why I keep going back to early
children at risk. We somehow have to make it
accessible and universal. How we do that is for
another day and another discussion, but I think
you have to come to a consensus in this country that
for young children at risk, early identification
way to go. If not, we will continue to get the
questions at our national office, at every chapter in
the country, when they see young people on their way to
detention centres. They'll say, “What could we have
when could we have done it?”
The Chair: A final comment, Mr. Stock.
Mr. Peter Stock: I have just one
quick point. It's
interesting that Mr. Gallaway mentioned the Fathers of
Confederation, because one of the
terms that keeps
coming up here is this idea of early childhood
education. When the Constitution was written,
education, as we
know, was assigned as a strictly provincial
responsibility. So if we're talking about a social
program that is glorified babysitting and
government-subsidized, that may in fact be
an area of federal
responsibility, and it may be legitimate
to come before this committee and ask for more funding.
But if we're talking about education, these
witnesses really should be heading
to Queen's Park and
some of the other provincial legislatures to make their
The Chair: Mr. Weiner.
Mr. Harvey Weiner: I would suggest that the
previous speaker look at the social union framework
document. It is a document that has been signed by all
the provinces, with the exception of Quebec, and by the
federal government, and it clearly makes
the provinces and the federal government to come to an
agreement on all of the programs we've been
talking about in our presentations.
The Chair: Thank you.
Are there any final comments?
Ms. Sheridan Gardner: I have a final comment, Mr.
Chair, thank you.
I would just like to say that I'm not against early
childhood education. The years zero to three are
very important years, and yes, maybe it would be
good to have a drop-in centre where I could take my
children, but the point is, I'm never going to be
able to do that unless I have the option to stay home
and look after them. The way to do that is to put
more money back into the pockets of families, and the
way to do that is to look at the legislation to see
where we can even things up. This is a situation in
which section 63 of the Income Tax Act is glaring in
its discriminatory bias, and I think it
should be addressed.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, I really
thank you very much. One thing is
certain: there's really no consensus on
this particular issue,
tonight anyway, which leaves us with the difficult
decision of figuring out where we go on this.
But all kidding aside, I want to express to you our
sincerest gratitude. As you know, we have choices to
make, and they're going to be challenging ones.
Judging from the quality of
the debate I've seen
tonight, I'm sure that writing this report is indeed
going to be quite a challenge.
sure your points of view are going to be expressed
within that particular text.
On behalf of the committee, thank you, and good