Ottawa urged to earmark billions for child care as provinces reopen

Posted on June 22, 2020 in Child & Family Debates

Source: — Authors: – GTA

Ottawa should earmark at least $2.5 billion for child care out of $14 billion in federal funds announced this month to help provinces reopen safely in the wake of COVID-19, says a new report by a national advocacy organization.

The money, on top of about $550 million already allocated to the provinces for child care this year, would begin to set the stage for Canada to build a long-awaited national system of high quality, affordable child care for all parents who need it, says the report by Child Care Now, being released Monday.

“It has taken a public health crisis for the essential role of child care to be widely recognized, and for the fragility of child care services in Canada to be laid bare,” said the group’s executive director Morna Ballantyne.

“Women have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Their decisions about whether it makes economic sense to return to low wage jobs will likely rest on the cost and availability of child care,” she in an interview.

“There can be no recovery without a she-covery; and there can be no she-covery without child care,” Ballantyne said, quoting economist Armine Yalnizyan.

Federal support is needed to help child-care programs reopen without losing capacity under new safety rules that require smaller group sizes, she said.

As restrictions on group size eventually ease, the extra space should be used to expand licensed child care, which before the pandemic only served one-quarter of Canadian children under age five, she added.

“We need to recover. But we need to move really quickly to expand the number of spaces,” Ballantyne said.

The advocacy group’s report is similar to recommendations from a team of academics and political insiders who are calling on Ottawa to spend $2 billion to rescue a largely parent-funded child-care system teetering on collapse, and kick-start the creation of a robust, publicly funded system, they say is essential to economic recovery and future growth.

“The priority is to make sure (federal) money for child care is used to ensure capacity returns to pre-COVID levels,” said Andrew Bevan, a former Ontario and federal Liberal adviser.

“If you do it right, you are going to build more spaces that become a platform to begin building out a public system,” added Bevan, who co-authored the recommendations with Brock University’s Kate Bezanson and Sheridan College’s Monica Lysack. Their analysis was published June 18 by First Policy Response, a network of public policy experts aiming to guide government action on the pandemic.

Ballantyne, who became a grandmother of twin girls last week, said her son and his wife have just learned their three-year-old daughter Spencer will be able to return their local Ottawa child care centre when it reopens June 29.

“But of her (preschool) group of 16 children, only eight will be allowed,” Ballantyne said. “And this is a scenario playing out across the country. We don’t know how long child-care programs will be forced to ration spots due to new safety measures. So funding is needed immediately to expand the spaces to meet demand.”

Child Care Now’s report says provinces should be required to use the federal cash to stabilize programs at risk of shuttering permanently due to lack of parent fees during the pandemic and to boost wages for staff who may be reluctant to return to the chronically low-wage work.

By funding programs directly, parent fees would not have to rise and should ultimately become more affordable, Ballantyne said.

The Liberals’ proposed child-care secretariat should be established as soon as possible to advise Ottawa on child care funding policy, and to monitor and evaluate how well provinces use the new federal money, she added.

In the 2021 federal budget, Ottawa should commit to boosting federal child-care funding by $2 billion a year for the next seven years to begin transforming the current market-based service into a publicly managed system, she added.

And new federal child-care legislation — similar to the Canada Health Act — should be introduced to set out funding parameters for provinces.

By 2027, Ottawa should be spending about $12 billion annually on a high quality system that is accessible and affordable for all Canadian families, Ballantyne said. Currently, Ottawa is on track to spend just $870 million a year by that date.

“What they are allocating on an annual basis now, is not enough … to be able to sit down with the provinces and territories and really argue for system change, which is essential because it falls under provincial jurisdiction,” Ballantyne said. “What they are spending now is just not a big enough carrot.”

Tags: , , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Monday, June 22nd, 2020 at 12:44 pm and is filed under Child & Family Debates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply