Robyn Benson, PSAC

Think about the children



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It's good to see the idea of a national childcare program back on the public agenda, where it's come and gone since 1970. To say "it's about time" would be silly. It was "about time" more than forty years ago when the Royal Commission on the Status of Women first proposed it. It's well past due now.

Quebec led the way on this, introducing its own affordable childcare program in 1997. The boost to the Quebec economy was significant: by 2008, 70,000 more mothers were employed outside the home than would have been the case without the program, and Quebec's domestic income rose by about $5 billion. Given the tax revenue generated, that benefits everyone, including the federal government. An accessible childcare program, in other words, makes good economic sense. But perhaps most importantly, quality child care is good for kids and for all families of all income-levels.

On the federal scene, the Liberal government of Paul Martin had achieved all-province support for a national childcare program, but when Stephen Harper was elected in 2006 he promptly trashed the deal. Instead he brought in a "Universal Child Care Benefit," (UCCB) which was a pittance then and will remain a pittance under the recently announced new increase--to $160/month, when parents outside Quebec are paying as much as $2000/month for a childcare space. A slight rise in the Child Care Expense Deduction won't give much respite to parents either. The biggest problem, though, is that neither the UCCB nor the child care expense deduction has created new affordable child care spaces. For the $17.5 billion that the Harper government has spent on the UCCB so far, 700,000 new childcare spaces could have been created if the money had been directed to building a child care system instead.

Stephen Harper also announced income-splitting to help families. What he didn't say is that it's a measure that will benefit very few. You don't get that benefit if you're a single parent, or you and your spouse are in the same tax bracket. In fact, 86 per cent of Canadian families will get nothing from this measure. And not surprisingly it's . the wealthy who will end up with most of the benefit. Whereas a universal childcare program helps everyone and more than pays for itself in economic benefits, the considerable loss of tax revenue resulting from income splitting will mean more cuts to federal programs and more "austerity" for Canadians.

In a few federal workplaces the PSAC managed to win workplace childcare several years ago. But the employer is now taking the same negative attitude to those modest advances--for example, forcing the popular Tupper Tots Daycare Centre to relocate by abolishing its rental subsidy last year.

Luckily, however, the broad-based movement to fight for a national child care program is being revived and getting ready for action. On November 13-15, in my old stomping ground of Winnipeg, the Childcare2020 National Conference will bring together experts and activists from across the country to share information and strategize about moving forward. I will be there, representing our union, and I'm proud that the PSAC, long a campaigner for a national childcare program, is helping to sponsor this event.

Neither individual parents nor the country as a whole can afford to wait much longer. Let's all help to keep this vital issue on the national agenda until next year's federal election.


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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on November 10, 2014 8:31 AM.

N'oublions pas les enfants was the previous entry in this blog.

Mr. Harper, let's stop dissing our vets is the next entry in this blog.

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