/National child care

National child care

By Chad Ingram

During last week’s Throne Speech, the Trudeau government laid out its priorities for a new session of Parliament.

Obviously, addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic formed much of that speech, and continued aid, both for businesses and individuals, was likely welcome news to many.

Another Throne Speech promise was a national child care system, which would be great, were it actually to happen.

The concept of a national child child care system in Canada has been talked about by governments for decades, and been promised by previous governments in previous Throne Speeches, but has never come to fruition.

The concept of national child care is not new or radical. A number of European countries have longstanding national child care systems, those systems in some cases a melding of child care and early childhood education. There is a philosophical understanding that affordable, accessible and quality child care is important for society and the economy to thrive, an understanding we seem to struggle with in this country, or least seem incapable of overcoming perceived barriers to achieve.

As anyone with kids, and probably most people in general know, child care is expensive. It is generally less expensive in Haliburton County than it is in say Toronto, but it is still a huge expense, especially in a community where wages, for the most part, are often low. Depending on the number of children a two-income family in the county has in child care, it’s possible for a good chunk of one parent’s pay cheque to be gobbled up by child care costs.

Then, think about the single parent.

An oft-heard refrain in Haliburton County is, “There are plenty of jobs for anyone who’s willing to work,” or something thereabouts. And that’s true. However, those jobs are often low-paying or minimum wage service industry jobs. So, now take the example of a single mother with two preschool-aged kids who works a minimum wage or nearly minimum wage job. Take child care costs, rent, food and vehicle expenses, and it’s probably impossible for that mother to make a go of it. It probably makes more sense economically to accept some form of government aid.

High child care costs in a low-wage economy are a barrier to employment, and a national child care system would allow more people to enter the workforce.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of quality child care, especially in circumstances where grandparents or other family members who may have once babysat children are no longer able to do so.

It means that for more parents than usual, sending their children to a child care facility may be the only way they are able to work.

Obviously unfulfilled promises by politicians are not uncommon, including by our current prime minister. Remember when the 2015 election was going to be the last to use the first-past-the-post system?

Hopefully the promise of national child care achieves better results.