Harper government is short-changing families

Posted on April 2, 2015 in Child & Family Policy Context

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials – A new report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer concludes that the bulk of benefits from the Harper government’s child care programs don’t go to child care.
Apr 01 2015.   Editorial

Since 2006, when the Harper government scrapped a $5-billion, five-year federal-provincial national child care program, it has studiously ignored study after study touting the economic benefits to families — and the national treasury — of that plan.

Instead, it introduced the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) and the Child Care Expense Deduction (CCED), which together will cost Ottawa $7.9 billion by 2017, up from $3.3 billion in 2013.

Sound generous? Not so much.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has now confirmed what so many analyses suggested earlier: the bulk of benefits from the government’s so-called child-care spending doesn’t actually go to child care. “In 2015, 49 per cent of these benefits would go to families with child-care expenses and young children, and the remaining 51 per cent to families with no child-care expenses and families with older children,” concluded Jean-Denis Frechette.

The PBO’s findings are one more reason for the government to reconsider its backward position on child care. Even for families with children enrolled in early childhood education, the UCCB ($160 per month) and CCED are too meager to really help out. (The average annual cost of child care in Ontario is $4,638 per year.) At the same time, programs are very expensive when put together and are draining money that could better be spent on building a national program.

Universal child care doesn’t only help families. A TD study found that for every $1 invested in child care in Canada, provincial and federal governments receive $1.50 in increased tax revenues, alone.

The financial and educational benefits of early child-care programs are recognized in industrialized countries around the world. But in Canada’s it’s been a different story. Under the Harper government, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranked Canada in last place out of 25 states for the quality and accessibility of its child-care programs.

Current policies may help the Harper government court votes with key constituencies, but they don’t do much to meet the needs of children and families. The Parliamentary Budget Officer’s findings make it clearer than ever that the government is on the wrong path.

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