Who cares about child care?
By John Gray, CBC.ca Reality Check Team | Jan. 12, 2006 | More Reality Check
As Stephen Harper explains it, the Conservative Party's policy on child care is basic common sense: "We certainly don't want the federal government to tell us how to raise our children."
Who could quarrel with that? Think about it. Would you want some pointy-headed bureaucrat in Ottawa telling you what to feed your child, what clothes he or she should wear, what toys to play with or books to read?
But of course that was not what Harper was saying. His real message was that under a Conservative government in Ottawa, there will be no national child-care program. None.
The Conservatives have promised a taxable grant of $1,200 for each child under six. That allowance "will let parents choose the child-care option that best suits the family's needs."
Parents might choose to spend that $1,200 on child care, but there would be no obligation. They could spend the money on books or clothing or, as a Liberal political strategist might say, on beer and popcorn.
What is clear is that the $1,200 would not cover the cost of child care, which the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child describes as one of the fundamental rights all children should enjoy.
The Conservatives have also allotted $250-million in tax credits over five years for employers or non-profit organizations who want to create child-care centres for the children of employees or local children.
The party's election platform also carries a single line in which it promises to "honour the government's existing bilateral child-care commitments for one year."
What that means is that a Conservative government would scrap the agreement that the Liberal government signed with the provinces, promising to finance a national
child-care program to the level of $5-billion for five years, and $6-billion for the five years after that.
The Liberal calculation is that its funding promise would create 625,000 new child-care spaces.
Monica Lysack, executive director of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada, says guardedly that the Liberal plan is "a good start." But it is not a national plan and depends on the provinces signing on individually.
As for the Conservative plan, Lysack says, "Stephen Harper doesn't understand."
The only part of the Conservative platform that actually relates to child care is the proposed subsidy for businesses or non-profit organizations to create child-care centres. But that has been tried and did not work, Lysack says.
She pointed particularly to Mike Harris' Conservative government in Ontario, when child-care supplements were offered to employers but no a space was ever built.
Of the three major parties, the most generous child-care program is offered by the NDP, which would begin
at $1.8-billion for the first year and would grow to $2.5 billion after four years.
The NDP would also increase the federal child tax credit by $1,000 over four years for lower income families.