Dear Stephen Harper. Thanks for the $100 $73. Now where do I spend it?

We attended our first family protest yesterday for an issue that directly affects our children – the lack of quality childcare in Canada.

In a nutshell, the federal government has decided that their childcare strategy consists of giving parents $100 a month (taxable, which is why it really works out to around $73 per month) to spend with as they wish on childcare under the guise that this will offer families “more freedom of childcare choice”.

It’s a crock, and here’s why. Give us all the money you want. That still doesn’t fix the underlying problem that there are not enough quality childcare spaces available, and the competition for those that are available is intense. Parents are getting children on wait lists before they are born and are still unable to find space.

I was interviewed by a radio reporter covering the protest and he asked me if I thought that it was appropriate for the state to be involved in daycare. I was taken aback. There have been many studies that show the benefits of high quality early childhood education programs. According to the American Federation of Teachers, high-quality early childhood development programs have substantial benefits for society.

These studies have established that participating children are more successful in school and in life than children who were not enrolled in high-quality programs.

In particular, children who have participated in high-quality ECD programs tend to have higher scores on math and reading achievement tests, have greater language abilities, are better prepared to enter elementary school, are more likely to pursue secondary education, have less grade retention, have less need for special education and other remedial coursework, have lower dropout rates, have higher high school graduation rates, higher levels of schooling attainment, improved nutrition, better access to healthcare services, higher rates of immunization, better health, and experience less child abuse and neglect.

These children are also less likely to be teenage parents and more likely to have higher employment rates as adults, lower welfare dependency, lower rates of drug use, show less-frequent and less-severe delinquent behavior, engage in fewer criminal acts both as juveniles and as adults, have fewer interactions with the criminal justice system, and lower incarceration rates.

The benefits of ECD programs to participating children enable them to enter school “ready to learn,” helping them achieve better outcomes in school and throughout their lives.

Add in the fact that “investments in high-quality ECD programs consistently generate benefit-cost ratios exceeding 3-to-1—or more than a $3 return for every $1 invested”, and you have some pretty compelling reasons for the state to be involved in developing and delivering high quality childcare.

Ideally, I am sure that every family wishes they would be able to stay at home with their kids. But the economic reality for most families is that they cannot. And, with benefits as compelling as those listed above, it’s hard not to support those calling for more government funding for high quality early education programs for our kids. We all benefit in the end.

7 responses to “Dear Stephen Harper. Thanks for the $100 $73. Now where do I spend it?

  1. Seems Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty can’t keeps his greedy hans off anyones income, especially those with children.

    Whats with that my learned friend, to the tune of a whopping $27.00 dollars of your Universal childcare Allowance?

    At least we can get rid of him in October.

  2. I don’t live in Ontario, so hard for me to comment specifically on the government’s greedy hands. What I do know is that in Ontario they have made some moves to make child care subsidies more universal by eliminating means testing. Great, but the problem remains – more competition for fewer spaces. Bottom line is the same everywhere in Canada. We need more spaces!

  3. What exacerbates the situation in my particular neighborhood is that our local school board, in it’s infinite wisdom, is proposing to close our local school because of “declining enrollments.” Only problem – because the before and after school care programs are run by an independent society, the School board decided it should NOT factor these into its equation, and so now it is closing the only care program in the district with space to expand, and leaving 70 families without ANY childcare options as the other schools where our kids are going to get shipped are already maxed out. Brilliant. But don’t worry, the “market” will sort it out.

  4. I hear you, Scott. I also think it’s ridiculous that no consideration is given to the fact that schools are the heart and soul of neighborhoods. Not only do they educate our kids, but you would be hard pressed to find a school that doesn’t serve double duty as a community meeting place, election polling station, community center, drop in recreation facility, etc, etc. Yet this is not factored in when school boards make the decision to close a school. It’s like part of your neighborhood dies.

  5. Hey Clint,
    Keep voting liberal, and find a nice seat- it’s going to be a long time (even with Libs/NDP in power before you get the daycare you desire. Plus, when they do get “proper” daycare in place, spaces will go initially to the lowest income families. Then the skyrocketing costs will come in, followed by strikes by the workersThen that $100^^^oops “$73”, will turn into a $273 tax increase for everyone, and we’ll all be complaining about another bloated, slow, public system that doesn’t match each persons exact needs.

  6. The Liberals are no better when it comes to child care. Child care was the cornerstone of their “Red Book” for at least 4 elections during the Chretien days. It was broken each time.

    I’m not advocating a complete state run system, although I do believe that there is a place for the state in the welfare of our children – it benefits us all, as the quote from the AFT in the post suggests. Just some understanding that the “choice” being presented to a lot of families by this government isn’t really a choice. If there is no space available then you don’t really have a choice, do you? The decision is pretty well made for you.

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