EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week for the past four weeks, The Expositor has posed a question to five of the candidates running for election in Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing that is of concern to the people of Manitoulin Island. The candidates’ responses follow below.
For many parents, accessing affordable, high-quality childcare is too often determined by chance, market forces and challenging-to-navigate government policies. The cost to Canadian families can easily run into the thousands of dollars per year and trap most single parents (usually women) into dependence on government supports. Quebec’s experiment with low-cost childcare has proven to pay off economically through increased participation and productivity in the workforce.
With Canada experiencing increasing labour shortages predicted to hamper economic recovery and growth as we emerge from the pandemic, what will your party do to ensure access to low-cost and accessible childcare for those wishing to re-enter the workforce?
Clarence Baarda, Christian Heritage
Next to protecting all human life, Christian Heritage Party (CHP) Canada is committed to supporting and growing healthy families. Parents are the best and primary caregivers for their own children. Over many years of government’s mishandling of our economy, we’ve gotten to a point where both parents need to be income earners to keep the family unit functioning. For single parents, it’s even more difficult.
How things have changed. Over decades the parties in power have been focusing on winning elections for power, not with the best interests of Canadians in mind. Making misleading promises to entice people to vote for them is the main cause of how we got to this point in the first place. Government incursion into family life has robbed families of the structures needed to guide their own children. There is no short-term solution but with dedicated programs to restore, equip and support, we can turn this around.
Deficit spending is extremely important to my party. It’s not just today’s impact of inflation and higher interest rates. The real issue is that we have stolen from future generations. We have burdened future generations to protect our own lifestyles. This is unacceptable and amounts to nothing but theft. All this has been a waste of government spending. adding to our already out of control, growing debt. We are paying $67 million dollars in interest every single day on our debt. Canadians are forced to pay more taxes on goods and services. The carbon tax on gasoline is one example of increase in cost of living. This tax will not help to reduce consumption. No matter the price, we all need to drive to get to work, shopping, etc. As well, the cost of this unnecessary election of $625 million is another example of a total waste, all for the purpose of the Liberal government to gain more power. Frivolous spending by governments must stop. A CHP government would place Canadian families first, by reducing taxes and eliminating taxes such as carbon tax. Our focus will be on more affordable childcare and not through continual increasing of taxes but through responsible government.
Compared to other countries, Canada is the richest country in resources. We can totally care for ourselves. A country that cannot feed itself cannot survive. Besides caring for our own families, we have enough resources to assist other countries as well, creating more income to rebuild our own economy. The lockdowns and closing of businesses to combat this pandemic is now a major factor in the labour shortages we’re experiencing. Workers who lost their jobs, through no fault of their own. needed to be compensated. Many now receive more income from monthly government compensation than they did when they were working. There’s no incentive for them return to work, leaving businesses with a shortage of staff. Creating incentive and pleasant work conditions are key to getting people to want to go back to work. Canadians are happiest when they’re productively at work, without having to be concerned about how to pay their living expenses.
Improving infrastructure in our riding is a much-needed investment, providing work and improving our northern economy. A CHP government will bring back responsible government. Along with 37 other items in our policies, our focus is on life, family and freedom. This election you can make the right choice to create a better future for families in Manitoulin and our entire Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing riding. This is your opportunity to take control of your future and to show the rest of Canadians that life can be better through responsible government. Our CHP platform is life! Family! Freedom! We commit to the protection of these fundamentals of our Canadian heritage.
Carol Hughes, NDP incumbent
In two years, we will mark the 30th anniversary of the Liberal promise to deliver affordable childcare to Canadians. Since then, the reasons it was desirable persist and, in some ways, have become more urgent. That’s because childcare remains expensive and there are still fewer spots available than are needed. When it comes to affordable options, scarcity is even more of an issue. Combine those factors with the growth in low paying jobs or the limitations of the gig economy, and the need for affordable childcare is far greater than it was 30 years ago.
There’s no doubt that childcare contributes to economic growth in ways that few other variables could. When an affordable option is available, more women enter the workforce. That simple correlation leads to another; the more women enter the workforce, the more the economy grows. And finally, the more the economy grows, the easier it becomes to afford social programming and service public debt. The Quebec model proves this, and we have the benefit of long data sets to ensure the trends aren’t superficial and that the program more than pays for itself.
If there was an unmet need for affordable childcare before the pandemic, things have only become urgent since. We have heard the economic downturn from COVID-19 referred to as a ‘shecession’ instead of a recession because the job losses fell on women more than men. Some of that was due to lost childcare options that forced families to pick a parent to care for their children. Decades of gains for women in the workforce were wiped out by this event. It is imperative to ensure this is a temporary adjustment and, as we work toward the end of the pandemic, restoring lost capacity will be critical to the overall recovery. This is where federal leadership can make a big difference.
Because the Quebec option has proven effective, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. Instead, it is time to ensure the affordable option is made available across the country. The NDP plan will preserve existing childcare spaces and create more. We will take immediate action to save not-for-profit childcare centres that are at risk of closure with a relief fund to re-open spaces that were lost during COVID-19. From there, we’ll immediately work with the provinces to build a universal, $10-a-day childcare system that’s there for all parents, no matter where you live. New Democrats will actually create enough spaces so families don’t spend months on wait lists, and ensure that child care workers are paid a fair, living wage.
An affordable public option is critical for our economy and beneficial for women who can place their children in care. This isn’t just a matter of being able to enter the workforce but also to advance within it. Time spent away from work can limit an individual’s opportunity and delay professional advancement. Women who have children after beginning their career can end up behind those who enter the workplace years after they did. If affordable options aren’t available, mothers can have even more ground to make up. Any commitment to equitable workplaces should take this discrimination into consideration while government policy and practice must acknowledge and mitigate against it.
While the unkept Liberal promises have created disillusion on the issue from families whose need was acknowledged and never met, the Conservative plan for a refundable tax credit is overly simple and will not create the childcare spaces needed by families today. Tax credits also won’t stimulate growth in not-for-profit childcare which has proven beneficial on a number of fronts, including the delivery of early childhood education.
A final consideration is the shortage of childcare workers. In parts of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing there are shortages for all manner of workers which means attempts to add affordable spaces may be limited by workforce capacity. Although there is a pilot program to help bring immigrants to areas requiring workers, it is limited to within 50 kilometres of larger cities. New Democrats are committed to expanding the project to allow more distant and sparsely populated areas to participate. This will be critical to building a strong, resilient economy buoyed by affordable childcare across the country.
Duke Peltier, Liberal
Providing enhancements and opportunities for our citizens of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing (AMK) that help achieve re-entry into the workforce is a priority for me and the Liberal Party of Canada.
Having said that, I am fully aware of the challenges that many face in accomplishing this. One of the major challenges is being able to afford the cost of child or daycare.
The Liberal party understands that ensuring families have access to early learning and child care is not just a social issue—it is an urgent economic issue. The pandemic exposed what parents have long known. Without access to affordable child care, parents, mostly mothers, can’t work. This is a universal issue that is resonating across sectors, regions and income brackets.
Our Liberal party introduced our plan for early learning and child care back in April. And since that time, the Liberals have worked tirelessly to make agreements with seven provinces and one territory. These agreements cover nearly half of the children in Canada. The goal is to deliver a 50 percent cut in child care fees next year, and deliver $10 a day care in five years or less.
Our plan is intended to offset the costs of early learning and child-care services and encourage mothers, who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, to return to the workforce.
Included in this, a Liberal government will work with Indigenous partners to ensure Indigenous children have access to culturally appropriate, affordable, high-quality early learning and child care and enact federal child care legislation to strengthen and protect a Canada-wide child care system.
All of these measures will not only support working parents and make life more affordable for families, but it will also create jobs and strengthen our economy.
Affordable, high-quality child care has the potential to add 240,000 workers to the Canadian workforce. Every dollar invested in early childhood education can generate up to $3 in economic return.
Keep in mind also, since the 2016 election, the Liberals have also created the Canada Child Benefit, a tax-free monthly payment to eligible families, which is tied to inflation. In 2021, the payments to each family for the year will max out at $6,833 for children five and under, and $5,765 for children six to 17.
While these strategies have and continue to be put in place across Canada, I know our realities here in AMK must also include other measures to further help.
For instance, here in Ontario’s north, our parents or caregivers are further challenged with longer distances to travel to get to child care services whereas the more southern communities in Ontario have more immediate access and proximity closer to their homes.
And in this, what about the parents who work hours ‘beyond’ the typical workday? Are there transportation services for those children who must be in ‘after school or after hours’ type programming? For the most part, no there aren’t. So here we are again, having our parents forced to leave work and travel distances to pick up their children to bring them home.
We need more and enhanced child care services and we need more options for access to and from these services. I want to hear more from our citizens of AMK – our parents of children in AMK who are directly impacted by these and all realities of being a working parent or a parent who wishes to re-enter the workforce.
Our Liberal platform commits to building and maintaining vibrant rural communities. Part of this is ensuring that our citizens can contribute to the economy by working. And at the same time, having peace of mind knowing that their children are being cared for through affordable and accessible services that reflect the realities of our AMK.
John Sagman, Conservative
Women have been the hardest hit by the pandemic with COVID-19 reinforcing gender inequality. Now more than a year into the pandemic, women who left their jobs risk an erosion of skills which can widen the gender wage gap again.
We must enhance women’s participation with a childcare plan that provides direct benefits to parents so they can make the best choice for their families. This choice can’t be an “Ottawa knows best approach.” This is the reason the Conservatives will convert the Child Care Expense Deduction into a direct refundable tax credit covering up to 75 percent of the cost of child care. That is a direct cash transfer to parents.
The NDP/Liberal coalition are investing in a childcare system that is limited in the Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing riding. There are limits on who qualifies for a subsidy, the number of seats available, where the centers are located and minimum / maximum ages for care.
Manitoulin Island’s daycare system has grown, however as their centre-based care has expanded the home daycares program has decreased limiting parents access to the larger towns. Many parents are faced with the impracticality of driving their children in one direction for childcare only to turn around and drive a similar distance for work. An example of this could be a parent who lives and works in Nairn Centre, but must access childcare in Espanola.
It’s a great plan for a downtown metropolitan area, where Mom’s work 9 am to 5 pm and there is a lot of centres in proximity, that is not the reality in our riding.
The ages of children that qualify for a space are limited. Infant care, for example, is rare and the license to operate it is difficult and costly for a centre to obtain. Many Moms would rather leave their infant in a familiar home with a trusted family member or friend versus a school-like setting.
Moms on shift work also have difficulty finding a licensed daycare that is open to take children during variable hours. What does a Mom do with her child if she is required to be at work at 6 or 7 am and the daycare doesn’t open until 8 am? Or what does she do if she works night shifts?
In the same way, leaving your child at the centre for later than what is considered a “day” results in costly extra charges to the parent that negates a parent’s ability to earn extra income working overtime.
Further, children who are sick are denied access leaving Mom scrambling in the morning to find alternative arrangements.
Limiting the cost, a centre can charge to $10 may result in extra charges to the parent, or substandard care as the centre tries to remain viable on the government’s cookie-cutter funding.
So, in this riding this system does not work for everyone.
The Conservatives on the other hand, are putting tax dollars directly into the parents’ pockets. Parents can choose who they leave their children with. If they want their sister, friend or parent to care for their child this becomes a mutually beneficial and affordable option. They are not financially penalized for choosing this option either due to need or want.
This tax credit will increase the support that lower income families receive by thousands of dollars per year and provide more assistance to almost all families.
It is the most beneficial for families in our riding and would allow more women to participate in the work force and specifically in resource industries. My objective is to work with the Ontario government to explore alternative regulated child-care spaces and at the same time have this extra funding in the form of a direct refundable tax credit available to parents.
Stephen Zimmermann, Green Party
I think the question lays out the issue of childcare access exactly. For those parents who need childcare services, it is not easy to find, and often it is not affordable. My family experienced this. I’ve heard stories from people who had to reserve spots years before their children were born; others decided not to have children they wanted due to the stress it would place on their existing family. Lack of childcare services, or childcare that costs more than someone can earn from working, places a burden on Canadian families, deprives us of the talents of many, and is a drag on Canadian economic development.
Childcare access is a family issue.
In reality, it affects women more than men. It discourages mothers from participating in the workforce, depriving us all of their skills and perspectives. There is a skilled labour shortage in Canada—why are many who want to work and to contribute forced to ‘sit on the bench?’ A key word in the question is ‘quality.’ I recall the solution proposed by a former Conservative government—‘Just drop the kids off with a neighbour. It’s only babysitting.’ It’s not.
Quality childcare is proven to give children a better start in life. Caring parents nurture their children. Childcare complements this, building cognitive and social skills, and can provide basics like hygiene and nutrition. These are our children, the future of Canada.
Why does Canada, an ‘advanced’ nation, not implement an advanced system to provide quality, affordable childcare? The Green Party plan for childcare is based on principles which include affordability, universal access, equity and quality. While improvement can be made immediately, there will be no instant fix. We will need to construct physical structures and train staff, who should be paid appropriately for the important task they are doing—it’s not ‘babysitting,’ it’s building our future.
Stable, predictable, long-term funding is needed, and the Green plan covers that. Costs must be kept low for parents, who shouldn’t be forced to choose between having children or being able to support their family. In Canada, they should be able to do both. The detailed Green plan can be found at green party.ca. We’ve been talking about this for decades. The Green motto: Not left, not right, forward together. Let’s solve this, together.