Who’s looking after the kids? Child care policy in Canada
Last night, I attended my first meeting as a Board member of the child care facility that my son attends. I have always been impressed by the level of commitment displayed by those involved in this field – either as professionals or as volunteers. It has been a long time since I sat around a table with like-minded persons to discuss specific child care related issues. When my teen was a pre-schooler, I sat on the Board of her child care Co-op in Guelph, Ontario. It was a learning experience to be sure. Difficult to access funding programs, uncertainties about the funding and always discussions about subsidized spaces were the common topics of each Board meeting.
In the intervening 13 years or so, it might be expected that the issues had changed. After all, we are purported to be a caring society. One that veers a little to the left in the sense that, in general, we believe the state has a role to play in the care of our kids.
Imagine my surprise when 75% of the conversation around the table last night was geared to accessing funding programs, uncertainties about the funding and discussions about subsidized spaces.
OK. I wasn’t really that surprised that nothing has changed – at least not for the better.
Canada’s child care system was and continues to be a patch work quilt of jurisdictions and agencies. Cities and town, provinces and territories. Not-for-profits, for-profits and Co-ops. Public agencies and private. It’s all over the map. As much as we like to brag about our system of health care, we should be equally ashamed of how we have allowed government after government to trivialize or downright ignore the need for a consistent and well-considered national child care policy and the programs to implement such a policy.
The Conservatives have seen it fit to bail out automakers but scoff at the idea of a national system. Here’s your C-note a month, parents. Now shut up. GM? You need cash? Well c’mon into my office. Minister Flaherty will fix ya up!
The Grits and Dippers have acknowledged the need for a consistent policy in the past. They recognize the basic fact that a child care system that is comprehensive and professional benefits all. It is not only the parents who benefit – especially lower income folks who, in the absence of subsidies, would be forced to stay at home with their kids instead of working to supplement already meager incomes – but all of society does so. Whether you are a parent or not, giving kids a head start will help them become intelligent and productive contributors to society. The kids of today will be our doctors, engineers, and teachers of tomorrow. They will also be paying taxes to support the social systems (e.g., health care) THAT WE WILL ALL DRAW UPON AS WE GET OLDER.
So I don’t want to hear any crap from those who have chosen NOT to have kids about the whole inequity of it all.
The Liberals were in the midst of delivering on a $5-billion national child-care program before they were thrown out of power in the 2006 election. When Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives came to office, that program was abandoned, in favour of the $100-a-month cheques to Canadian parents known as the Universal Child Care Benefit.
Ignatieff said that if the Liberals are returned to government, that money will keep flowing to parents, but a national child-care program will also be phased in, as soon as the budget can handle it.
“They give the money to families, fine. Anything that helps families is a good idea. But there aren’t the spaces. If you don’t create the spaces, families don’t have a choice. That’s what we’re saying.”
While I realise that the economic shitstorm and the CPC’s fiscal ineptitude has created a scenario where it will be difficult for the Grits to deliver immediately on this pledge, I do hope that they have in place a detailed plan to implement as soon as budgetary conditions permit. (3015)
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