On March 21st, the federal government released yet another budget that offers no solutions to the child care crisis in Canada. Rather, it perpetuates the current fragmented patchwork with its critical shortage of spaces, unaffordable fees and inconsistent quality.
In neglecting the child care sector, this budget effectively denies Canadian women, children and families the opportunities to participate fully in society. It moves our country further back in meeting our commitment to ending child poverty and it reinforces our last place position among developed countries in achieving the minimum standards for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC).
The government is playing a shell game in this budget with its emphasis on workforce skills development. At the same time as the Harper government states the importance of skills training, it cancels, effective March 31st, all funding to the Child Care Human Resources Sector Council. This Council has been the main vehicle to support human resource and skills development in the child care sector. The loss will be felt across the whole early childhood workforce and impact the care of children and families.
In its short-sighted focus on deficit reduction, this budget ignores the strong national and international evidence that an ECEC system will yield both substantial social and economic benefits. From this perspective, building a national child care system is both the right thing to do as well as the economically – indeed fiscally – smart thing to do.
Contrast this bleak picture with the leadership and funding support for a national child care plan proposed in the recently released Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ 2013 Alternative Federal Budget (AFB). The AFB’s commitments to a national child care plan flow directly from the evidence that “well-designed public spending on ECEC promotes health, advances women’s equality, addresses child and family poverty, deepens social inclusion, and grows the economy.”
The goals the AFB articulates are consistent with those of the CCAAC. It commits to building public ECEC systems in all provinces and territories. It proposes spending 1% of GDP on its Plan in the next 10 years, which is the international minimum benchmark, starting with an immediate $2.4 billion investment. To this end the AFB recommends the reallocation of $2.8 billion currently spent annually through the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) on both an ECEC program and on improvements to the Canada Child Tax Benefit.