Public Values

Five years without a national child care program

Nothing but high costs and few choices left for parents.

Delanoy: A huge burden has been placed on low-, modest-, and middle-income families.February 6 marked the fifth anniversary of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cancellation of a national childcare program. Childcare advocates and women's groups have a message for the government: Canada urgently needs a public system of early childhood education and care.

"Cancelling the national childcare program has put a huge burden on low-, modest-, and middle-income families," said Sue Delanoy of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada. "Mr. Harper claims he's delivered 'choice in child care' but the facts show that for most families, the options are severely limited. What families need is a quality system that's accessible and affordable for everyone."

In 2006, the Conservatives' first act in government was to terminate federal-provincial agreements that would have established a new $1 billion a year national program. Instead, the government is spending twice as much on its substitute Universal Child Care Benefit, which pays $100 a month to parents for each child under age six. However, fees for infant care in some Canadian cities can be higher than $1,200 a month.

  "International childcare studies rank Canada behind even the United States and Australia."

Laurel Rothman of Campaign 2000, a national group fighting child poverty, explained, "The Harper government has spent $11 billion in scarce public funds and has nothing to show. Most parents are still scrambling to find childcare. Instead, we could have been building a real childcare system that by now could have offered 500,000 more families a choice of quality services."

A decline in growth of regulated childcare spaces has made finding good childcare even harder. Many families are forced to rely on unregulated care and on the growing for-profit childcare sector. In 2008, there were regulated childcare spaces for just 20 percent of 0-5 year olds, with rural communities and children with special needs even more poorly served. International childcare studies rank Canada behind even the United States and Australia.

"Five years ago, Mr. Harper made a choice that has put many parents and especially women in a tough dilemma," said Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). "Parents who have to go to work don't have choices. They can't find a quality space and can't afford the high cost. It shouldn't be this way. A public option would give families the quality choices for their kids that all parents want."

Childcare advocates note that five years later, Harper's choice doesn't address the actual cost of childcare, doesn't build for the future, and makes finding quality affordable childcare a serious challenge for Canadian families.

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  Cancelling national child care program means high cost, little choice for parents

Posted: February 22, 2011

  Public services
  Front lines

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