Now that the Cons have wasted 13 months without creating a single child care space in Canada, I see they have come up with a new lame-o plan just in time for budget day. The Canadian Child Care Community is furious because they told the Cons a year ago the “tax cuts to create child care” idea was not going to work. A great deal of time has been lost while the Cons flapped around pretending like they had a clue.
The Cons say they will provide 250 million in child care funding for all of Canada. No matter the breakdown, there can be no mistake, it’s a far cry from the 1.2 billion promised under the old Liberal child care plan. BC’s share would have been 455 million over the next 3 years. I still have not found a province by province break down for the 250 million.
I guess I should be happy the Cons don’t have a majority because even with all three of the opposition parties demanding child care funding; this pathetic amount is the best the Cons can come up with. I can only imagine the funding that would have been offered for child care in the budget this year if the opposition had not constantly hammered at the Cons to reinstate it.
In addition, the new Con plan has no requirement that this money be spent on child care. It can be spent on anything, it is up to the provinces to decide. If we continue to be governed by the Cons I wouldn’t look for this to change in the near future because it appears the plan is to cut taxes so much the surplus will be eliminated so there will be little future funding for child care. How convenient for the Cons to make they make these important decisions for us by ensuring there is no money to help Canadian families manage the increasing cost of child care in the future.
CanWest recently reported on the severe labour shortages that are affecting the West Coast. Dr. Paul Kershaw (UBC) just completed a study for the Institute for Research on Public Policy that proposes substantial new public investments in child care services. After Quebec introduced its universal child care plan, maternal labour force participation increased 21%. Given the tight labour markets in the West increasing child care spaces and lowering costs for parents could really help BC and Alberta right now.
Kershaw’s analysis demonstrates that most of the inequity in family benefits is due to the fact that child care expenses are only subsidized for families with very low incomes, leaving middle-income families with less disposable income than couples without children. High-quality child care also accomplishes important human capital objectives and improves generational equity. Despite proven positive effect of high-quality child care on human capital development over the life cycle, government expenditures remain disproportionately aimed at senior citizens. Per capita spending on cash benefits and services (excluding health care) for families with children is less than one tenth of spending directed at senior citizens.
This social objective relates to a post I wrote earlier this month on the importance of prevention to our society. We know that prevention is key to social, economic and environmental prosperity, but governments refuse to adequately fund it and continue to focus our resources and attention on managing crisis.
Kershaw suggests that the flat-fee payment structure used in the Quebec system could be improved upon by using a sliding-scale approach, by which lower-income families would pay virtually nothing (as is currently the case in both Alberta and British Columbia), and out-of-pocket costs would increase with family income up to a ceiling. He estimates that the costs of a universal child care system would amount to $1.2 billion annually in British Columbia, and slightly less in Alberta. These figures are well below projected provincial surpluses, illustrating that the policy challenge is one of political will rather than dollars and cents.