When the Liberals made the election promise of funding $30 billion to allow for $10 a day child care, parents of any age and of any political persuasion would have found it difficult not to applaud the Liberals for making it. No doubt the announcement would have also been met with a great deal of skepticism and eye-rolling, knowing that an election promise usually lasts as long as the day after the votes are counted.
Well, perhaps the effects of the coronavirus may have an upside. How else do you explain the decision of the newly elected Liberal government’s decision to actually fulfill a promise?
Up to last week the Alberta and Ontario governments were not numbered among the provincial signatories of the child care deal the Federal government offered. However, a few days ago Alberta Premier Jason Kenny signed on, leaving Ontario as the last big province that has not signed. It’s a five-year plan intended to cut the cost of child care gradually over five years to eventually reach $10 a day by 2026.
The child care project has been kicked around in Parliament since the days of Pierre Trudeau, Paul Martin, Brian Mulroney, Stephen Harper, all the way down to today. Task forces were appointed; reports issued and ignored while the original idea was dumped and replace by tax credits, etc.
It was understood then as it is now that a National Child Care strategy would provide the resources that would allow families to get the support they need to allow families to take better care of their children, while at the same time freeing parents, especially women, to fully engage in the work force.
According to a 2019 national survey of child care fees, Ontario families pay the highest price in the country – a median cost of $1,774 a month or $21,288 annually. Clearly only well-off families, usually with both parents working, could afford it without being evicted from their homes; either that or stop eating. So, it is clear that the lack of affordable child care has become a crisis made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the pandemic has forced many primary caregivers of children to choose between being in the workforce or stay home to take care of their children.
Unfortunately, we are stuck with Premier Doug Ford, a man like his Conservative fellow traveller, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose instincts are to cut any program that wasn’t his idea. So in 2006 Harper killed a national child care plan that was proposed by former Prime Minister Paul Martin, while one of Ford’s first acts when he come to power 2018 was to kill Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government’s plan to provide free licensed care for preschool children in Ontario.
Now Ford won’t sign the child care agreement because he says that the Feds are not offering enough money. The Federal government says that Ontario’s share of the $30 billion pie is $10.2 billion. Opinions are divided on this sticking point, which no doubt will be resolved one way or another because Ford cannot risk the opprobrium of the people, especially the women in Ontario, with an election just seven months away.
Ford can ill-afford not to sign the child care deal over what he says is a lack of money when he is prepared to spend over $6 billion to build a highway that a majority of the province doesn’t want.
Ford should make the deal now and not delay further a program from which the entire society will benefit.