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Two visions for day care

Stephen Harper at an Ottawa day-care centre, Monday morning. (CP Photo/Jonathan Hayward)
The Liberals renewed their commitment to a national child-care system on Tuesday as leader Paul Martin vowed to increase Ottawa's spending to $11 billion.

It is the first major policy announcement by the Liberals, who have been mostly reacting to Tory proposals since the campaign started a week ago.

In their 2004 election platform, the Liberals promised to spend $5 billion over five years. On Tuesday, Martin said his government would kick in another $6 billion starting in 2009, when the first commitment runs out.

Martin's announcement comes a day after Conservative Leader Stephen Harper set out his party's child-care plan, the key component of which would be a $1,200 annual child-care allowance for parents of young children.

Your letters:

Mr.Harper's $1200 per child for child care is just $1200 for what ever you want, it does not address child care or child care availability.

Call a spade a spade Mr. Harper you are dangling a carrot under the nose of a few in the guise of addressing a problem. The carrot is punky and the problem of child care is still there.

—Frank Lahti | London,Ontario

The Tories child care plan is not about child care at all, it is simply paying people to stay at home. It sounds more like a welfare system for parents. The $100 per month subsidy does nothing to further the education or socialization of children, it is simply a sop to some parents. We should remember that child care is about more than just babysitting.

As for the Liberal plan it is about time they proposed something, after all they have been promising a child care plan for 12 years. The Liberals only acted once they were in a minority situation. Maybe with another minority we will get action on health care and other issues that have been ignored for 12 years.

—John Logan | New Brunswick

It astounds me that people are still missing the point! Proponents of regulated child care programs have never suggested that children are "better off" or "better raised" in out-of-home child care arrangements.

There is no competition being waged with parents; as early childhood educators we "support" families in their critical roles. In addition, the reality is that many families choose licensed centres, not because they have no other choice but because they have seen for themselves the benefits reaped by their children and their families.

We, the early childhood educators, are dedicated to caring for and "developing" young children in group settings have a lot of support to offer families - no one ever suggested we were trying to "raise" other people's children.

Does anyone really believe that a little more than $ 20.00 per week in a family's pocket will increase the choices made available to them - I'm certain that my twelve year old neighbour wouldn't care for my children for a few hours on a Friday evening for a measly $ 20.00 (nor would I expect him/her to).

As for the potential argument against government supported child care that sounds like this: "why should I pay for other people's children to go to day care?" I reply that it's the same reason our tax dollars pay for other people's children to attend school, for other people to draw employment insurance, for other people to go to the hospital emergency room or receive treatment in hospital.

—Danica Carson | New Brunswick

Everyone seems to know best. In reading the commentaries regarding the two child care approaches, I was shocked by the huge amount of dis information and "this is what I think and no one's going to change it" attitudes.

I was also amazed at the number of individuals who advocate that having a parent staying home with their children is the best solution for the child and our society and that day cares are akin to evil places, hel-lloooo?

If this were true, then what are those early childhood educators being taught at colleges and universities? Just because I gave birth to a child doesn't mean that I know how to stimulate and encourage her in her life journey! How can isolating a child with an adult parent be the most practical solution?

Have those people opposed to day cares ever even been in one? The centres my children have been in have been staffed by loving, hard-working individuals who have to truly enjoy the children because it ain't the pay that's keeping them there!

I also read a great deal about Harper's plan providing choices to parents. I think I am missing something here though because I don't see how 25 pre-tax dollars is going to affect my choices.

For a parent currently working outside the home, that's not going to allow me a choice of leaving my paid employment! And if I would prefer my child in a home care situation, that's not going to magically mean that I can find one. Or if I support the mandate of child care centres, a new spot is not going to be created for my children because I have another $25 per week to contribute. If day care is so evil, why are there long waiting lists at so many of them?

Come on people, wake up and smell the formula (and I don't mean the mathematical algorithm) and recognize that Harper's plan is scary. It takes courage and strength to recognize that great things are not created overnight - or even in one term of office.

Perhaps Harper's next announcement will be that he is giving every person over driving age a $1,200 transportation credit to use as they see fit, whether or not they have a vehicle! Does no one see that collectively we are all that much stronger and have that much more opportunity to create something lasting?

—Angela Hilland | Winnipeg

The Liberals and NDP, as usual, want to create an expensive, highly bureaucratic, one-size-fits-all monster program that in this case benefits only a minority (25%) of parents.

Their proposals mirrors the flawed Quebec day care system which is used largely by middle and upper income two-career parents who least need subsidies. Fact - most parents (about 75%) prefer to (and do) care for their own children or have a close relative or friend care for them at home. These parents gain NOTHING from the Liberal or NDP plans - and worse they will be forced to pay taxes to support the 25% who do benefit. This is not only unreasonable, it is unconscionable.

The Harper proposal, which pledges about the same amount of money as the Liberal plan, will benefit the 75% left out by Liberals and NDP. In fact it will directly benefit ALL families (including, Mr. Haddad, gay parents).

The Harper proposal also dedicates money explicitly to encourage the creation of new day-care spaces in the workplace to help those that prefer to or must farm out their kids' care.

—J Riley | Colwood, B.C.

The Liberals want us to believe that we are entitled to a national day care program along the lines of medicare. If this program is to be administered like health care currently is, we are going to be in deep trouble.

With an accelerating population age and more people requiring future health care, the likes of which our society has never seen, now is not the time to throw caution to the wind.

I can hug, play catch, read a book or go hiking with my own children. If my aging parents get sick they will rely only on our health care system, there is not a single thing I can do to help them. This is where we should be focusing this money on and not trying to raise someone else's children.

—E. G. Allen | Grande Prairie, Alberta

On the Issue On Child Care, I agree with the Liberal's in adding money to the system but if this does not bring the daily child care rate down then you are not fixing the problem.

With the Conservatives giving the money to the parent to be able to afford todays rates would help greatly. If a parent is found abusing the system then they should be cut-off.

—Dylan Legault

Paul Martin's child care plan is fundamentally flawed. While I agree that making quality education and childcare acchild careand affordable for Canadian parents is a valuable investment in our future, I also believe that nobody is more qualified than parents to provide excellent care for their children.

This child care plan should be expanded to include those of us who choose to stay at home with our children, a choice which almost inevitably entails great expense and financial sacrifice.

—Kirsten Benot | Winnipeg

If I hadn't heard that two families interviewed on TV were going to put their monies from the Conservative government into RRSPs then I might actually believe that the money would go directly towards enhancing a child's experience with a stay at home parent.

If it is not going directly to the day to day care of the child then it is NOT child care and needs to be called what it is an enhancement to the Child Tax Benefit that we all can use.

In my opinion neither one is "perfect" - but I believe that the Liberal's plan will have greater benefits in the long run! It creates living wages for the care givers, challenges provinces to create higher standards and encourages programs to think outside the box when developing spaces and programs.

Bottom line for the Conservatives - how can you even think of creating more spaces without properly funding the current system that is in place! Nothing in their plan suggests that they will support / enhance the current system.

—Susan Emerson

The Liberal child care plan is fatally flawed and insulting to parents in general.

When the Prime Minister accuses the Harper plan of not providing early learning, is without regulation, and does not insist on high quality, he is in fact saying to Canadian parents that they are irresponsible and are incapable of teaching and caring for their own children.

He believes only a Liberal government is capable of raising children properly. Also, can the Prime Minister guarantee that the billions of dollars that he wants to invest in child care spaces will create those spaces in rural Canada?

The large "vote-rich" cities will get spaces, but what about small-town Canada where populations run in the 100's, not the thousands and millions. Harper's plan does not discriminate in this way. It is inclusive to all. All parents will see a benefit, including those in rural Canada.

—Steve Carson | Pembroke, Ontario

I was disappointed that the Conservative Party is seeking to make their child care policy about the financial benefits that parents reap from the system and not the social, economic and intellectual benefits that children receive from a well funded and regulated child care system.

A strong national day care program that provides curriculum designed for early childhood education will provide the next generation of Canadians with a tremendous advantage in an increasingly complicated and competitive world.

—Alison M. Redford

Today�s Liberal child care funding promise relates to 2009 when my parent-raised children will be at an age where child care is no longer as important for them. It also relates to a time when another election campaign will be in progress and new promises will supersede old promises.

The Government�s tendency to make promises that do not take affect for several years is becoming somewhat annoying to say the least. The Progressive Conservative funding announcement made yesterday is a much stronger promise in terms of assisting parents in both the short and long terms.

And I agree with Mr. Harper that parents deserve more choice in how child care support dollars are spent. Publicly funded child care providers fill a necessary place in our society but mostly because we have failed to motivate parents to take responsibility for raising their own children.

In fact, our tax system penalizes a single-income family that has chosen to have one parent stay at home for the benefit of a child.

I see a strong self-serving bias on the part of child care facility operators (and their advocates) to have taxpayers� dollars flow directly into their pockets rather than a desire to reduce the demand for child care by putting children back in their own homes under the care of a loving parent.

—Jason Owen | Kelowna, B.C.

People seemed to have missed that along with the $1200 for children under six the Conservatives have offered Tax incentives tobusinessess to create day care spaces for their employees.

This plan is by far the best. It allows people to choose what is best for their situation. I thought the Liberals and NDP were all about PRO-CHOICE. I don't think we need the government to tell us how and where we should put our kids so they can be raised as good little Liberals.

—Troy Peterson | Fort McMurray, Alberta

Here is the problem with what the Liberals are suggesting. This program is basically paying people not to take care of their children. Isn't that the whole problem with where society is going right now.

No one will take care of children like their own parents. All of these billions going towards a national day care program simply means the government is encouraging mothers to go out and work and leaves the stay at home mothers with nothing. It penalizes those of us who want to take care of our own kids and teach them the values that makes Canada great.

It sound like another large program that will have many of the billions going towards people running the bureaucratic side just like gun registry etc. We don't need more make work programs. Give us the money and let us decide what to do with it.

—Jeff Nielson | Kelowna, B.C.

National day care? I hope the Liberals are planning to give families with modest income some equivalent. It seems very strange that you would be better off sending your children to day care while you punch a clock. I think young children need to be at home with a loving parent rather than farmed out to a day care.

It would be nice to believe a family that chooses to have a stay at home parent could receive similar financial assistance. Perhaps more families would go that route.

What has happened here? When is it more beneficial to send small children to day care while parents work? What kind of children are we raising?

—Thea | North Saanich , B.C.

I have six children (ages from 6 to 14).

I am disabled earning all my income from Disability Ontario (my wife is my care giver) and the government of Ontario disability program takes over $500.00 a month of my disability cheque because the province of Ontario claims that the child tax benefit is income.

So what the federal government hands out to help give my children a bit of quality in there lives the provincial government takes away and I have to rely on Food banks and Salvation Army type of stores for food and clothing.

It is unfair, I do not have the ability to work and because of that my children suffer. I do not smoke, drink, do drugs, go to restaurants, go to movies, rent movies, take vacations ECT.

So while it sounds great that both federal parties want to help children I will bet you that it will be classified as income and therefore deducted from the people who really need it the most.

—Len Karp | Almonte, Ontario

It is unfortunate that so much emphasis is placed on increasing child care funding, which I believe only encourages those who would otherwise stay home with their children to leave and find work outside of the home.

The best Child Care is provided by the parents of the children. No one loves a child like his/her parents.

Some argue that the more people we have out working the better our economy will be, the better able parents will be to provide for their children, but I think it is done at the detriment of the next generation. The best long-term use of our nation's funds would be to assist and encourage parents to stay home and care for their own children.

—Jonathan Taylor | Calgary

As much as I am skeptical of the Conservatives $1200/year promise, at least it appears to help out families directly.

I see flaws in it however, how does the $1200 a year get handled when it comes to subsidized families who do not pay for care themselves? How is it handled for families who choose to stay home with their children? As a parent of two young children I know there are better solutions.

$1200 a year is great, but why not up it in order to better able middle class families to stay home with their children? I would love to have my husband or myself stay home, but it's just not realistic with housing costs and cost of living the way it is. When I return to work next September from maternity leave I will be spending half of my teaching salary on child care. There needs to be a better solution.

—Erin Harris

I am a mother who will have two children in day care when my maternity leave ends in February and I am not very happy with Paul Martin's day care plan.

I fully support providing subsidized day care spaces for families who really need them. But I object to the Liberal day care strategy for two reasons.

1) Yes day care is expensive, but it is a cost of having children that parents who can afford it accept. I don't think taxpayers should be asked to pay for day care for our kids if we can afford it.

2) I prefer to send my children to a home-based day care. Some parents prefer to get a nanny. Some parents prefer to send their children to a trusted friend or relative. Some parents prefer to stay home. Paul Martin's plan tells all of us that our children are better off in government-controlled programs rather than cared for by an individual that they love and trust.

The people pushing for a national day care program believe that children will be better off in large day care centres. I don't believe that's true.

—Andrea Kelso | Ottawa

I am not sure that extending day care is the correct thing to do. In recent studies, children that stay at home with their mothers/fathers do much better in school. If this is so, why are we having day care at all.

I realize that there are people in low income brackets that need help, but not everyone is in that position in Canada. It may be that needs testing is required. Child rearing is a stressful job and it will be far to easy for lazy parents to fob the job off on others, especially if the public is paying for the service.

—Jack Steele | Ontario

Mr Harper's view of child care in this country is very narrow, focusing on the plight of stay at home mothers who cannot capture current child care subsidies. Mr Harper fails to recognize the fundamental problems that are causing a shortage of child care spaces at the ground level.

Currently there are insufficient wages paid to the professional people that are required to run day care facilities. Hence, there are not enough young people interested in pursuing careers in this field. Secondly, those that do pursue this field often find that once they have families of their own it makes more economic sense to stay at home than go back to a poorly paid position.

Providing $1200 per year per child directly to the family will only allow the family more spending money, and unfortunately too many mothers and fathers will choose to spend that money on themselves, rather than their children's needs.

—Tim Rinas | Fort McMurray, AB

So is Paul Martin leading or following? Would he have made these promises about Child Care if Stephen Harper hadn't?

I have been patiently waiting for the Liberals to live up to their promises about publicly funded child care since my oldest child was a baby, and now that he is 10 years old, it will not benefit him. C'est la vie!

Would it be better to trust the Liberals to FINALLY act on this promise or would you rather have a couple extra bucks in your pocket to help off set the costs?

I've seen enough now to know that the Liberals don't care about Canada or Canadians, they care about their own personal political careers. Whatever it takes to stay in power. Period.

—Kathy Wallocha

Of the two proposals for child care which have been released, I think that the Liberals are closest to what's needed, but neither really nails it.

To me, Harper's $1200/child payment smacks of an American-style Republican/neo-Con voucher system designed to favour private service delivery and rewarding the stay-at-home parents.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with single-income families, but it seems to be too close to the CPC's traditional ultra-right wing Christian fundamental power base for my comfort level.

Martin's plan, although short on specifics is closer to what I want to see - funding for non-profit day care via the provinces. I'd like to see national standards of care (and education/training of workers) implemented, along with funding to be able to pay staff a fair wage for the skills that are required.

—Doug Finch | Edmonton

It's a fact, Liberals like to spend money. I don't want more day care coverage!

I think that's part of the problem why kids grow up so disjointed from their parents, but I stress it's only part of the problem. Some parents especially single parents have no choice. I certainly don't want my kids going to day care. A lot of bad habits can be picked up there. Especially at a young age when children are little sponges and absorb everything around them.

Of course children all have their own personalities, in day care it's wide open. Kids learn to hit other kids while they're there and the passive ones pick up on that and bring it home.

Throughout voting I've supported every party at one time or another, I won't support the Liberals in this election. I like Harpers Child care program but his GST reduction by 1% is ridiculous that's nothing. Try again Harper, tackle the Income tax first.

—Christopher Roung | Hamilton, Ontario

Steven Harper announced a day care payment of 100.00 per month per child under 6 years old. I am quite happy to hear that as I want the choice where to take my kids forchild caree.

I do not want to take them to an overcrowded out of the wayday caree center where there are 15-30 kids. Half of the kids are always sick and in turn my kids are always sick which results in either myself or my wife have to take time off from work to care for them.

Private child care is more convenient and close to home. I believe they get better care and attention privately than publicly.

Way to go Steven! This is what working families need more money in their pocket atheirier own choices where to tatheirier children.

—Darcy Smith | Prince Albert, Sask

The Conservative's plan of 1200.00 per child is more logical especially for shift workers and the fact that us tax payers will not be taxed anywhere near where the Liberal plan will.

Quebec is 1500 percent above their estimate of cost and if ours is the same we will be paying 120 billion for the same thing. The liberals will run our lives from cradle, through the school system and beyond if we let them.

—William Smith | Brantford, Ontario

Why would Stephen Harper only offer the $100.00 dollars a month to children under the age of 6 years when there are plenty of children that are between ages 7 - 12 yrs that also need child care services.

These type of deals that the government seems to make only works for a lot of single parents that are on assistants,or work part time.

—Debbie | Saint John

I would like to ask Stephen Harper if his proposed new child-care allowance will also be given to same-sex couples who are raising young children.

—Jim Haddad | Ottawa

Where Paul Martin offered us a stuffy and expensive bureaucratic child care monolith, Stephen Harper has given Canadians the freedom to choose what's best for them. I'm glad to see that the Conservatives aren't going to claim to know what's best for Canadian families and Canadian children. This is an excellent policy.

—Liam O'Brien | St. John's

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