May 5, 2017
Check against delivery.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning everyone.
I would like to start by thanking the Association québécoise des centres de la petite enfance for inviting me here today. I’m very happy to be here and to participate in the summit on early childhood education.
As Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, and as a father of three, I strongly believe that all children have a right to a real and fair chance to succeed and flourish in life. I know it’s a goal that we all share.
And it starts in early childhood.
As you know, daycares are much more than a place where parents drop off their children and forget about them all day.
Early child care must go hand-in-hand with learning so that our children can reach their full potential. Quality child care is important for the social, emotional, physical and cognitive development of our children.
And when quality educational child care services are affordable, parents—particularly women—can more easily participate in the labour market and invest in their careers.
Taking gender equality seriously means taking child care services seriously.
All Canadian families should have access to quality child care services.
And vulnerable families are the ones who benefit most from quality educational child care services.
Among these vulnerable families are single-parent families, low-income families and families who are isolated and socially excluded. Parents in these families often face difficult choices. They often hesitate to accept a job if the wages don’t cover child care costs. But when child care services are affordable, the choice to reintegrate the labour market becomes easier. And by increasing their income, more families can avoid poverty.
Here in Quebec, a family policy was implemented nearly 20 years ago to develop educational early child care services.
Long before becoming Minister, I became a father. And I was able to experience the evolution of Quebec’s family policy. Our oldest son attended an early child care centre for two years. His little sister went for three years. And our youngest son went there for his entire early childhood! As a father, I felt the direct benefits for my family.
I would like to talk to all of you educators in the room about the “parent experience”:
– A hug in the morning
– A smile on my child’s face in the morning and in the evening
– Love every day
– Confidence and laughter
– Educational monitoring
– Trust in you for what is most precious to us as parents
– A feeling of safety
– Deep gratitude
And as an economist, I was also able to closely follow the benefits for our society, particularly for women.
As Pierre Fortin put it, “We can now see that it is almost certain that a large part of the increase in the participation rate among mothers . . . can be attributed to the universal child care system . . . introduced in 1997.”
It is estimated that, thanks to these reforms, over 70,000 mothers in Quebec joined the labour market. And it is no accident that the family poverty rate has fallen. Access to jobs allows more families to join the middle class.
And of course let’s not forget the benefits for children, especially those who are most vulnerable. The researchers Sylvana Côté and Richard E. Tremblay came to the conclusion that in grade six, there is no difference between the level of academic achievement for children from wealthy families and those from underprivileged backgrounds, as long as the latter attended a child care centre.
This indicates that daycare centres in Quebec help eliminate the difference between children from different backgrounds.
They help put all children on an equal footing. They help give them a real and fair chance to succeed.
QC vs OTHER PROVINCES
Everywhere I go in Canada, I hear about Quebec being an example of leadership for the rest of the country.
232,000 young Quebeckers attend a regulated daycare. We have regulated child care services for 60 percent of our children. This proportion is twice as much as the rest of Canada.
And the average cost for Quebec families is the lowest in Canada.
The rate of participation in the labour market for Quebec women is now higher than anywhere else in Canada, whereas it used to be one of the lowest.
THE FEDERAL ROLE
You may be wondering what a federal minister is doing at an AQCPE conference.
The Government of Canada’s top priority is to strengthen the middle class and to help more Canadians join it.
To build economic prosperity for everyone, our government has made a commitment to support families. I am also the very first Minister of Families and Children.
The mandate that Prime Minister Trudeau has given me means I am committed to supporting the development of educational child care service that are affordable, high-quality, flexible and inclusive for all Canadian families.
Budgets 2016 and 2017 invested an additional $7.5 billion for this purpose over the next 11 years. This is a historic long-term financial commitment. For each of the next three years, Quebec will receive an additional $88 million in support.
But the Government’s contribution goes further than just financial support.
We will invest $95 million to support data collection, research and liaison and transfer activities. We will also invest $100 million in innovation, because we know we must always seek to do better.
The Government of Canada will take advantage of this collaboration and innovation to facilitate exchanges between the provinces and territories, as well as with all stakeholders, including those of you here in this room.
We recognize from the outset the leadership position that Quebec has asserted in early childhood for many years. As a federal minister, I know that the lessons and best practices of the Quebec model can benefit from being better known across the country.
And I’m looking forward to being able to sit down with my counterpart and friend, Minister Proulx, and my partners in the Quebec government, as well as the other provinces, territories and Indigenous partners. We will work to find the best way to take advantage of the Government’s recommitment to bringing concrete benefits to the everyday lives of our families and young children.
Before I finish, I would like to note that the Government’s commitment to educational early child care services are just one part of our plan to strengthen the middle class and help those working hard to join it.
We have also chosen to provide more direct help to middle-class and low-income families.
Last July, we created the Canada Child Benefit, which goes directly to parents to help them cover the costs of raising their children. In Canada, it’s the largest innovative social policy in a generation.
This benefit is more simple, generous and fair than the mix of tax credits and benefits it replaced.
Nine out of 10 Canadian families now receive on average $550 more in non-taxable benefits, but millionaire parents no longer receive cheques from the Government.
The families of nearly 300,000 children will get out of poverty in the short term. We expect the rate of child poverty to drop from 11.1 percent to 6.7 percent.
This represents the lowest child poverty rate in the history of Canada.
I believe the Government of Canada is on the right track, and we have taken significant action for families over the last 18 months. On the other hand, it is clear that we still have a lot of work to do, together, to ensure that everyone has a real and fair chance to succeed.
In closing, I would like to commend all the work you have been doing for Quebec families and children for the past 20 years. Over the last few months, during meetings with leaders and partners from Quebec, including the Fondation Chagnon, the Dr. Julien Foundation and others, I have seen the ambition from the academic community and the social and community sector to do even better here in Quebec and across the country.
We have a universal healthcare system thanks to Saskatchewan. One day, all Canadian children will have access to quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive educational child care services thanks to the leadership and example of Quebec.