Tory says child-care policy set by 'old white guys'

A female Conservative MP clashed with a male cabinet minister over how to spend money for child care.

A female Conservative member of Parliament clashed with a male cabinet minister in the House of Commons on Tuesday over how to spend money for child care, saying "old white guys" should not be "telling us what to do."

Rona Ambrose, the MP for Edmonton-Spruce Grove, said a poll for the Vanier Institute of the Family had shown "almost 100 per cent of young working moms and dads in Canada" would care for their own children at home if they could afford to do so.

Social Development Minister Ken Dryden is trying to reach an agreement with provinces and territories over a five-year, $5-billion program to subsidize day care for young children.

Ambrose, who has argued that child care falls under provincial jurisdiction, accused Dryden of ignoring women's desire for choice by not offering to pay parents directly to stay at home.

Dryden said polls can be contradictory. "As parents we all want to spend more time with our kids. For lots of reasons – economic, social, for reasons of independence – we don't. ... The fact is, the great majority of parents with kids are both in the workplace."

That brought this retort from Ambrose:

"We fought long and hard for the right to vote, for the right to participate in universities and the work force, and the right to make our own choices. We don't need old white guys telling us what to do."

After the jeers and applause died down, Dryden ignored the MP's barb.

"The real choice is the opportunities for men and women across the country to have the choice of high quality early learning and child care," Dryden responded.

For the record, Dryden is 57. Ambrose, who is also white, is 35.