Let’s make childcare affordable

By Paul Dewar

 

As the lucky father of two boys, I know the importance of high-quality childcare. For the past decade, Conservative and Liberal federal governments have talked about childcare, and then failed to deliver. Canadian families know the best investment we can make is in a comfortable and safe childhood for our children. It’s time for the federal government to get behind them.

That’s why I am so proud NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has proposed a straightforward and sensible idea: every Canadian family should have access to good, affordable childcare.

The plan is simple. The NDP will invest $1.9 billion per year over the next four years to create 370,000 new early childhood education and childcare spaces across the country. We will work with provinces and territories to make sure childcare programs respond to local needs. Parents won’t pay more than $15 per day, per child. We will enshrine this program in law so that parents and guardians can depend on it being there, if and when they need it.

Under Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, childcare is far too expensive. A single infant childcare space in Ontario can cost up to $2000 per month. That’s more than four times the cap under the NDP plan. On average, childcare costs are nearly one-fifth of the average family income in Canada. Even those parents who can afford childcare often struggle to find a space.

In First Nation communities, a shocking 78 percent of children under five do not have access to licensed child care services.  According to the OECD, Canada now ranks dead last among 14 comparable countries on public investment in early childhood education as a percentage of GDP.

Canadian families deserve better. They deserve access to the option of affordable childcare.

Moreover, affordable childcare makes sense for the economy. Work-life conflict experienced by employees with preschool children costs Canadian business $4 billion per year. A research survey by TD Bank showed that every dollar invested in early childhood education returns between $1.49 and $2.78 through increased tax revenues when parents return to the workplace, and decreased social spending later on – up to 178 percent.

The question is not whether governments can afford early childhood education and childcare programs – it’s whether they can afford not to.

Meanwhile, Conservatives offer little and Liberals offer nothing. Instead of dealing with the real need for childcare in Canada, the Conservatives are offering to send families an extra $60 per month – a mere five percent of the average cost of childcare for an infant in Ontario.

Stephen Harper’s plan would also give families a discount at tax time through deductions and income splitting – but the savings would mainly benefit the wealthiest families, not those who need help. It does nothing to support the childcare system or create more funded childcare spaces. The Liberals, for their part, have no plan to speak of.

Canadian families deserve access to high-quality, affordable childcare. The NDP has a plan to give families that option.

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