Presentation by Andrea Mrozek, Senior Fellow, Cardus Family at the REAL Women of Canada Annual General Meeting 2022
The national day care program set up by the Liberal Government will cost 27 billion dollars paid out over the next five years.
The challenges each province faces in setting up this program can be summarized in a quote from a representative in Nova Scotia who is working on the program:
“We have a plan to do more planning.”
There are various reasons why Canada implemented this fantasy program.
Firstly, in 2020, when Covid hit, activists created a fear that childcare would go under. There would be no place to put children.
Secondly, this was combined with talk of a “she-cession,” the idea that women were more affected by the pandemic than men. We were told there would be no economic recovery after the pandemic without a national daycare program.
The data did not bear this out. In 2021, three quarters of families had their children back in the same child care arrangement they had pre-pandemic. As for those who didn’t – we don’t know why, and it would be reasonable to assume some were deliberately keeping their kids at home because of the virus.
Thirdly, the NDP had long advocated for daycare. The Liberals had not. Indeed, in 2015 they campaigned against it. However, now with the Liberals getting cozy with the NDP, they would provide it.
Three fantasies led to the promotion of a national daycare project. They were:
- There is never enough daycare and the market has failed to provide it
- Parents are unhappy with their child care choices as they exist
- Quebec is the shining example of a successful daycare program
The facts show differently.
Statscan has shown that only 3% of parents are at home because they cannot find daycare. Activists ignore these numbers. A good definition of child care is “the care of a child, no matter who does it.” This includes cases where children are cared for by family members, such as grandparents or aunts. However, daycare activists insist childcare is licensed care by a paid professional. They claim everyone outside of this limited form of care is in so-called “childcare deserts.”
Yet the numbers show that there are surplus spaces in many daycare centres. In Toronto between 2009 and 2014 there were surplus spaces. In BC many centres had less than 80% of spaces taken. On average, 1 in 3 spaces were vacant.
However, the media promoted the false agenda “I cannot find daycare”.
Moreover, the daycare industry is highly regulated. For example, in Ontario there are 47 jurisdictions, each with different regulations. Some regulations make little sense. For example, one jurisdiction updated regulations to ensure all ferrets are innoculated against rabies. One wonders what led to the inclusion of this strangely specific rule on the books.
Subsidies can be well or poorly delivered, which results in parents in need either finding the care they need or not. The subsidy system is often slow and inefficient.
Rather than citing market failure as the problem, we should put government intrusion in the docket. For example, in 2014, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne pushed regulations reducing the number of children who could be cared for in a home daycare setting. As a result, 86,000 day care spaces were lost in Ontario.
Finally, activists for national daycare do not want private daycare. As a result, some private centres are closing. Without subsidies, they find it hard to rent facilities and pay staff. Others are trying to continue.
New centres will not meet the demand. This has been happening in Quebec.
Among the problems faced by daycares is that they must operate in non-standard hours as many working mothers work from early morning to nightfall. Also, daycare workers are paid low salaries.
Regarding the second fantasy, that people were unhappy with daycare, the facts show differently. Many parents like home based daycare. Also, many welcomed options such as tax credits.
The third fantasy, that Quebec is a shining example of the success of the program, has not proven to be correct. Problems include:
- There is lack of access to daycare in Quebec. Some 50,000 children are on the waitlist today.
- Many daycares offer poor quality of care.
- The daycare system in Quebec is facing ever rising costs. It is estimated that Quebec spends $12,400. per child.
Quebec has the worst adult-child ratios in Canada, for example, having 8 toddlers for one staff member and 5 infants for one staff member. This undermines attachment bonds, which are key to children. When the government promises a universal system, it places pressure to deliver, which can result in these poor ratios on the books.
The quality of care in Quebec is low. This has led to negative outcomes, to poor health among children and to higher crime rates later in life. Other risks, as shown in studies, such as by the U.K. National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD), are that long hours in daycare were detrimental to children regardless of the quality of that care. The interaction between quality of care and the quantity of time in care has not been studied in Canada.
One final reason for the promotion of national daycare is that it is important to a misbegotten idea of feminism. In this worldview, women need to be working and paying taxes. They should not leave work for long periods to care for children. Motherhood is not worthwhile or promoted by these feminists.
In conclusion, what are the long term realities of the new funding for the daycare program? The majority of parents will not have access to the system.
At the heart of this issue, regardless of child care choices, is that families remain closely involved in the lives of their children. Parents, not paid professionals, can and do provide early, targeted intervention for their kids.