National Council of Welfare

Conseil national du bien-être social



             The federal government must make a major, sustainable, and
irreversible commitment to families with children in the next
budget speech, the National Council of Welfare said in a report
published today.
             "A true children's budget would leave families with enough money
in their pockets to meet their family needs," said the report,
Children First. "It would provide much more support for parents
trying to make ends meet at the low end of the paid labour force,
it would address chronic problems in our labour market, and it
would correct the most punitive features of welfare and other
income support programs."

             "Any budget that lacks the scope, the vision and the hard, cold
cash to tackle these issues will be a wasted opportunity -
certainly the last wasted opportunity of the millennium and perhaps
the last opportunity in many years to translate years of rhetoric
about children into reality."

             The report contains 29 recommendations for the federal budget
speech that is expected to come down at the end of February 2000.
Three recommendations are singled out because of their overriding
importance: getting rid of the clawback in the Canada Child Tax
Benefit, putting plans for a national child care program into
place, and getting governments to commit themselves to an
integrated family policy rather than piecemeal programs and
policies. - 2 -

             The clawback of federal child benefits by most provincial and
territorial governments discriminates against families on welfare,
who are among the poorest of the poor, the Council said.

             "Ottawa should come to its senses now rather than wait until the
clawbacks are struck down by the courts as unconstitutional or give
Canada another black eye before the United Nations. Any increase in
funding for the Canada Child Tax Benefit in the next budget that
did not get rid of the clawbacks would not get the support of the
National Council of Welfare."

             The second major recommendation is for governments to get
serious about a national child care program for young children.

             "There is overwhelming evidence that high-quality child care
benefits preschool children and therefore benefits Canada. There is
overwhelming support among parents of young children for a national
child care program. With the federal government looking at a
surplus of $5 billion or more in the 1999-2000 fiscal year, it
would be unconscionable not to devote a large chunk of that surplus
to child care, the one remaining gaping hole in social programs for

             Finally, the report urges an integrated approach to family
policy that ensures that all the things governments do on behalf of
families with children make sense and do not contradict each other.
Quebec adopted an integrated family policy several years ago, but
most other governments in Canada have piecemeal policies that are
often at odds with each other.

             The report is a compendium of the work that the National Council
of Welfare has done on families with children since 1989, the year
that the House of Commons resolved unanimously to end child poverty
by 2000. - 3 -

             The report is organized around the six major themes of the
National Children's Agenda, the working agreement between the
federal, provincial and territorial governments on issues relating
to children.

             Families with children have suffered greatly from the deficit-
cutting measures imposed by all levels of government during the
1990s. The National Council of Welfare believes the time has come
for governments to deliver on past promises and devote the lion's
share of the 2000 budget to families with children - tax relief in
the form of further increases in the Canada Child Tax Benefit and
new programs such as child care that would provide significant help
to families trying to juggle their parental and work

             "The big question is: will the 2000 budget really make a
difference in the lives of families with children or will it be
little more than window dressing? The political landscape is
already littered with political rhetoric about children, broken
promises and token efforts that provide very little real help to
families or help only a minuscule number of the families who are in
dire straits."

             The National Council of Welfare is a citizens' advisory group
to the Minister of Human Resources Development. __________________________ For more information, please contact: National Council of Welfare 1010 Somerset Street West, 2nd Floor Ottawa K1A 0J9 (613) 957-2961

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