REALity – Volume XXXIV Issue No.11 November 2015

NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair, with his feet firmly encased in cement from the past, proposed a national childcare program as a part of his political platform. The program promised to create one million new childcare spaces over two mandates to result in a comprehensive $15 a day program along the lines of Quebec’s daycare system.  There were a few little twists in Mr. Mulcair’s policy, however.  In the first place, it wouldn’t get off the ground unless the provinces agreed to pay 40% of the tab.  Good luck on that.  Ontario and British Columbia are currently spending billions on all day kindergarten, and do not want to put money that they have already spent to support Mr. Mulcair’s plan.  (All day kindergarten realistically is just a childcare plan).  Quebec, which has been carrying a heavy weight on its back since 1997 with its universal $7 a day childcare-plan, is trying to rein in this policy which only accommodates half of the children in Quebec under three years old.  The cost of this Quebec program has skyrocketed.  Annual expenditures rose from $300 million in 1997/98 to $2.6 billion in 2014/15, an increase of over 700%.  Much of this increase was due to the escalating wages of the unionized childcare workers.  The unions had no qualms about taking parents hostage to obtain wage increases.  Little of this vastly increased expenditure actually went to the children, but only towards the wages of the childcare workers. The childcare spaces were also mainly going to affluent families, rather than to poor families.

Unfortunately, Mr. Mulcair’s policy was announced at a terrible time. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a 60 year old American private non-profit economic research organization using data from Statistics Canada and researched by three respected award winning economists, released a report in September, 2015, on Quebec’s daycare system. This report didn’t have much good to say about the program. 

The report confirmed the findings of a previous study in 2012 by researchers at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), on Quebec’s childcare program, which concluded that “the evidence presented shows that the policy has not enhanced school readiness or child early literacy skills in general,” and that “parent-reported behavioural measures on aggressiveness and anxiety show significant worsening.”

NBER’s unhappy findings were as follows:

  1. Children in Quebec’s daycare program had “worse health, lower life satisfaction and higher crime rates later in life” than other children;
  2. Aggression, hyperactivity and anxiety increase as a result of Quebec’s childcare program; 
  3. There is no evidence that the Quebec program has a lasting positive impact on children’s behaviour or that it has boosted academic performance. Any modest boost in academic development quickly fades (which is true of early kindergarten programs as well).

If this evidence were not disturbing enough, a book published in 2005, co-authored by developmental psychologist, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, and Dr. Gabor Mate entitled, Hold On To Your Kids, published by Vintage Canada, a division of Random House Canada, indicates that children socialized in daycare bond with their peers, not their parents.  Obviously, peers cannot possibly replace the nurturing, maturity, comfort, security and guidance that parents provide.  Even the best trained daycare worker is no substitute.  According to Dr. Neufeld, early childhood programs have nothing to offer but “parental emancipation”. 

While Quebec’s female labour participation has increased between 1996 and 2014 since the Quebec childcare system commenced, it is significant that the female labour force also increased across the country, with some Maritime provinces growing more than Quebec on this score. Therefore, the increase of women in Quebec’s workforce may not be entirely attributable to the childcare system. 

One can rationally conclude that the “one size fits all” childcare option proposed by Mr. Mulcair was not a great idea. It seems to have been based on the NDP’s mindless support of feminist ideology, instead of facts and common sense.