The Minister of Health, Jake Epp, has announced the establishment of a parliamentary task force on child-care.  The enquiry will focus o the care of children in a broad context and will include consideration of the child-care needs of all children, not just whose with working parents.

Announcing the task force in the House of Commons on November 26, Mr. Epp said that the parliamentary enquiry “will offer an important opportunity to examine the issue of child-care with a view to pursuing a national consensus.”  He noted that although it is recognized that family circumstances are changing, including the growing numbers of two-earner couples and single mothers, there is no general agreement on how family needs can best be met.

Task force members will be encouraged to go beyond the narrow issues surrounding day care services.  “Rather than focusing the enquiry on an analysis of existing child care or related programmes, the terms of reference invite participants to undertake a fresh review of the questions associated with child care and to put forward innovative alternatives for reform,” said Mr. Epp.

Three themes have formed the basis of the terms of reference for the enquiry: quality, affordability and availability.  Concerns over quality in child care center on the well-being and protection of children in non-parental arrangements, Mr. Epp said,

“In particular, there is the difficult issue of what constitutes quality care in general and in the case of a particular child.  Also, there is the question of whether or not it is appropriate or desirable for government initiatives to encourage the use of one type of care over other types of arrangements.”

On the financial theme, Mr. Epp said that he hopes the enquiry can highlight and resolve some basic questions about the costs of child-care and how such costs should be apportioned between parents, employers and government.  He noted that there is the additional question of whether the “future direction of child care is to be developed as an issue concerning the children of working women only or whether it should relate to the children of mothers who forego employment earnings to provide full-time parental care for their young children.”

Thirdly, concerns over availability cover questions of supply ad demand “To some,” said Mr. Epp, “this theme highlights concerns about the situation of latchkey children and the special problems of families in rural locations.  It also raises questions about the government’s role in expanding the supply of child-care services directly, relative to other sources of supply, including employers and community groups.”

The task force, said Mr. Epp, has been instructed to address the relationship between child-care needs and the special needs and requirements of different family structures.  Such factors as marital status, disability and the economic position of the family are to included in discussion.  He noted that the terms of reference are flexible enough to allow other criteria to be added if members agree that they are “relevant to the issues of child care.”

Mr. Epp expressed his hope that many Canadians will participate “by considering this very important social issue and informing the task force of their views.”  He hopes that the task force recommendations will ensure that “the future of Canada’s families is guaranteed.”

Members of the task force are Robert Nicholson (PC Niagara Falls), Roger Clinch (PC Gloucester), Shirley Martin (PC Lincoln), Suzanne Duplessis (PC Louis-Hebert), Leo Duguay (PC St. Boniface), Lucie Pepin (Lib. Outremont) and Margaret Mitchell (NDP Vancouver East).

Anyone wishing to appear before the committee or wanting more information should contact Micheline Roneau-Parent, Clerk to the Committee, Room 524, 180 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A5 (613) 996-1531.