Child-care promises have been forgotten

(Jan 31, 2007)One year ago the Conservative Party of Canada won an election on a key platform issue, improving child care in the country through “choice” options and by promising to create 25,000 new child-care spaces per year.

No spaces have been created and the “plan” hasn’t materialized.

Canadians, who believe that the $100 a month was the “plan” — sold to the electorate and bought by 36.3 per cent of voters — are understandably frustrated.

For those of us who qualify for the $100 cheques each month (the Universal Child Care Benefit), a rude awakening will occur at year end when both the province and federal government tax this benefit.

In their wisdom, the government will tax the lower-income recipients higher than the wealthier, further marginalizing the very children and families that need financial support.

In fact, a single mother earning an annual income of $30,000 will keep only $301 after taxes, while a one earner family with a net income of $200,000 will retain $1,078. The rational for this formula remains unclear.

It is clear, however, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper disregarded the importance of this issue.

There is much to be said about understanding a political issue to implement progressive policy.

Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) is generally defined as a non-compulsory service that promotes the healthy development of children, at the same time as it provides parenting supports and resources and enables parents to work, study, care for other family members and/or participate in their community.

A sustained public investment in early learning and child care supports the potential and contributions of all families, regardless of their social or economic circumstances.

Research and experience from the past 30 years show that ELCC is good for children, their families and society.

High-quality early learning and child care is the foundation for lifelong learning for all children, a fundamental element in reducing poverty, ensuring women’s equality, providing equity for children with special needs and fostering social inclusion.

Evidence from research shows that ELCC programs — child-care centres, nursery schools and family day care — are more likely to be high quality if they are well regulated by government, operate on a not-for-profit basis, are supported by adequate public funding and provided by trained, skilled well-compensated professional educators with backgrounds in early childhood education and care.

The economic benefits to quality child-care programs should draw some legitimate attention from all political stripes.

Canadian economists have calculated that every $1 invested in high-quality child care brings $2 in future social and economic benefits. If Canada made quality child care available to all children, the immediate benefit to our economy would be greater employability for parents and savings to the social welfare system.

The evidence for public investment in quality early learning and child care is so clear and compelling. We just require the political will to ensure action.

Catherine Fife

WRDSB trustee and

co-ordinator for the Child Care Action Network of Waterloo Region


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