By: Krista Robinson
The last time the federal party leaders debated on “women’s issues” it was 1984, when PC leader Brian Mulroney and NDP leader Ed Broadbent were vying for Prime Minister John Turner’s post. Mulroney fielded the final question of the debate, asked by the female moderator, “On behalf of millions of Canadian women, why should we trust you now?”
“We realize the collective failure of this country, vis-a-vis women, and all I can tell you is I’m earnestly and genuinely committed to its correction,” said Mulroney, who went on to win a majority government.
Four years later, Mulroney’s government passed the National Child Care Act. But, when an election was called later that year, and the Act was dismissed by the Senate. Even after Mulroney’s reelection, the legislation was never reintroduced.
In 2015, Canadians are still looking for affordable, high-quality child care. As it stands now, only 22.5 per cent of children under six have access to licensed child care. Mothers are choosing to leave the workforce to care for their children, subsidy waitlists continue to grow, and child care workers are making a median of $16.50 per hour.
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Torontonians are paying the most in Canada for child care at an average of $49 per day, eight dollars more than parents in Vancouver and essentially incomparable to those in Quebec, where the average parent spends $7 per day, province-wide, for subsidized child care. Outside of Quebec, parents are paying $2000 on-average per month for, that’s often non-licenced.
After Up For Debate, the modern-yet-unconventional women’s issues debate, where all but one of the party leaders discussed issues ranging from economic inequality to missing and murdered indigenous women over video feed, the issue of child care remained unaddressed. At WiTOpoli, we believe it should be a top election priority, so we’ve put together some key child care policies your federal party leaders have committed to over the election campaign.
CONSERVATIVE: Stephen Harper
This past July, the Harper Government sent out $3-billion worth of child benefit cheques to parents across the country, increasing their previous child care funding from $100 per month to $160. Some called the move the “unofficial start to the election campaign.” If re-elected this October, the Conservatives would continue to implement the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) which provides families with $1,920 per year for each child under six years old, and $720 for each child age 6-17.
LIBERAL: Justin Trudeau
If the Liberals are elected, Trudeau would scrap the Conservative’s UCCB and implement a Universal Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) program, which would base benefit funding on household income. For instance, greater, tax-free cheques would be sent to families with a household income of less than $150,000, and cheques would decrease slightly for families with greater income. Trudeau has stated that families, including his and Mr. Harper’s – who don’t need financial assistance – won’t receive ECEC benefit cheques. To calculate your allotted funding click here.
NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Tom Mulcair
The NDP has pledged to create one million new child care spaces across the country and legislate no more than $15 per day daycare. The NDP would keep the Conservative’s UCCB, and would provide funding to the provinces and territories for high-quality child care. Mulcair is attempting to model Quebec’s system, which invested $2.2-billion into child care, implemented subsidized $7-per-day daycare and saw 70,000 mothers return to the workforce.
GREEN: Elizabeth May
The Green Party would bring in a National Child Care Commissioner to better work with the provinces and territories on child care issues. May would “restore and revamp” the 2005 agreement to achieve universal access to child care, with an emphasis on creating workplace child care spaces. The Party is pledging to provide a tax credit per child, per year, of $1500 to incent employers to create these new spaces.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper implemented the Universal Child Care Benefit earlier this year, which sent all parents a cheque to help cover the cost of child care, regardless of household income. But the question remains: should government-issued cheques – intended for child care – be sent to parents to use as they see fit, or should public money fund the creation of child care spaces? Three out of four party leaders (the NDP, Liberals and Greens) agree that there needs to be a national child care program. Martha Friendly, Canada’s “child care champion,” who has dedicated her career to researching child care policy, echos this sentiment. Friendly has been blogging about the issues for for the upcoming election that you can read more about here.