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Daycare debate: Broken promises

The Story

It's March 1992 and advocates for universal daycare are still shaking their heads after Brian Mulroney's government suddenly shelves its latest daycare proposal. Ottawa blames the about face on public opinion, but many aren't buying it. This CBC Radio clip from The House looks back at the unexpected decision and wonders if the dream of a national system is dead. 

Medium: Radio
Program: The House
Broadcast Date: March 7, 1992
Guest(s): Barbara Green, Barbara Killbride, Allan Pence, Susan Phillips
Host: Bill Gillespie
Reporter: David Mackay
Duration: 6:21

Did You know?

• On March 4, 1992, Health Minister Benôit Bouchard announced in the House of Commons that he was redirecting $500 million that had been allocated for a promised national child care system towards eliminating child poverty. He based his decision on a public opinion poll which he said showed Canadians were more concerned with child poverty than universal child care.

• The news is devastating to daycare advocates and women's rights groups who have been pushing for such a system for decades.
• Bouchard intended to replace the universal Family Allowance and two child tax credits with a single "Child Benefit" which would see poorer families receive up to $500 more a year. While some poverty advocates praised the move, others criticized it for ignoring the equally important issue of child care.

• Mulroney promised a new daycare policy after his previous $5.7-billion initiative, Bill C-144, was killed by the Senate in 1988.
• The notion of a national program would not rear its head again until Quebec unveiled its own universal system in 1997.
• The Tory government's move came on the heels of the largest national study ever done on child care. The Canadian National Child Care Study took four years to complete and revealed that parents were craving regulated daycare.

• The study, mounted by Health and Welfare Canada, reported that families were desperate for more regulated daycare spaces for their children - whether they were subsidized or not.
• It revealed an unreliable patchwork of private and public centres, all operating under a mix of varying provincial regulations.

• In 1993 the Conservatives, under leader Kim Campbell, were swept from power by Jean Chrétien's Liberals. Faced with a massive debt, the new government shoved any hope of a national daycare strategy aside.
• But the dream of universal daycare would get a new life in 1997, when the Quebec government introduced its groundbreaking - and controversial - $5 a day policy.


Who Cares For Our Kids? The Changing Face of Daycare in Canada more