Celebrating the $100-a-month child benefit. Again.

Diane Finley really wants us to mark the date.

When I received a government news release today reminding me to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Universal Child Care Benefit, I thought, as I donned my colourful paper hat, “Has it really been a year? Time flies. Why, it feels like only last month we marked five years of those $100-a-month federal payments to parents for every kid under age six.”

Wait a minute. Now that I check, it was only last month. I have removed the hat.

On July 1, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley issued a release stating that “today marked the fifth anniversary of the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB). The UCCB provides financial support to Canadian parents and demonstrates the Government of Canada’s commitment to helping parents balance work and family life.”

And today, Finley sent out another release, telling us that “today, the Government of Canada celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB). The UCCB provides financial support to Canadian parents and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to helping parents balance work and family life.”

By now, close readers of federal documents will have noted the key difference between the two statements. The first had to do with marking the fifth anniversary, while the second referred to celebrating said milestone. Significant difference there: the first was about the actual anniversary of the program, the second flagged a photo-op with Finley at an Ottawa park.

Not at all confused by the frequency with which the UCCB’s fifth birthday is announced, New Democrats took the opportunity to slag the $100-a-month allowance as no substitute for proper daycare funding. ”In Ontario, the daily cost of infant child care is now a whopping $57 (Today’s Parent, April 2010),” said the NDP in response. “That means that with the help of the UCCB, parents can afford to work outside of the home only 1.75 days a month.”

It’s undeniable that $100 doesn’t buy much child care. But the NDP’s use of costly infant care as an example struck me. Researchers raise serious questions (some of which are touched on in my recent story about research into Quebec’s daycare system) about the wisdom of putting very young children in centre-based child care.

For kids under, say, two years old, a good case can be made that enhanced parental leave benefits—not government daycare subsidies—would be the better policy. That’s the norm in some European countries: support to help a parent stay home from work with very young children, good daycare for a year or two before kindergarten, then the school system kicks in.

This approach straddles the ideological divide by assigning a bigger role to parents without dismissing the need for high-quality daycare, too. Here’s how UBC’s Paul Kershaw described the striking of that balance: “When we talk about families with young kids, we pit some against the others in very ideological ways. It’s about conservatives saying we need kids spending more time at home with parents, especially the mom. The liberals say we need more child care services. The reality is they’re both right. Both ideas are absolutely critical right now.”




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Celebrating the $100-a-month child benefit. Again.

  1. Why should advocates of daycare use reason or research when it’s clear the government remains uninterested in using facts to determine policy?

  2. That’s nothing.

    Just last week Minister Flaherty and Minister Lebel visited us here in Toronto to join Mayor Ford to announce the introduction of our new subway trains.

    For the FOURTH TIME.

  3. Cons always want Canadians to have more babies, but refuse to consider the only real way that’ll happen.

    Certainly 100 bucks a month won’t do it.

    • As the father of an 18 month toddler I can state from experience that on top of existing provincial and federal government childcare subsidies the UCCB is more than adequate.

      • Not for most people it isn’t.

        So, we’ll just have to depend on immigration.

        • Nova Scotia, a have-not province, has established a system of child-care subsidies which has adequately met the financial requirements of its citizens.If Ontario has failed to establish an adequate childcare system, its citizens have only Premier Dad’s years of impotent Liberal leadership to blame.

          Perhaps a Progressive Conservative government in Ontario could establish a childcare system which functions as adequately as that created by the former Progressive Conservative government of Nova Scotia.

          • I suggest you stop giving me standard Con hooey.

          • being a mother of two children in Nova Scotia, I can say no, the programs are NOT even close to adequate. For two children in childcare with a subsidy I still pay 35% of my income on daycare. This is the sad truth for most Canadians.

  4. More spending is the Liberals answer to everything. Imagine the cost of providing $57/day daycare to every child under 6. Wow.

    • Imagine the beneits of receiving tax money from parents who can afford to work, rather than having to pay them welfare so they can watch their kid.

      • Imagine the likelihood that anyone who can earn a high enough income to pay childcare isn’t already working, and the consequent likelihood of there being much tax money to be received.

        • Three words, you may want to look them up:

          Economy of scale

  5. I live in Halifax where my 18 month old son attends daycare five days a week. My household income is under $30, 000 which qualifies the cost of my son’s childcare to be partially subsidized by government. Without subsidy one month’s childcare would cost $800 but with government subsidy the cost of one month’s childcare is $188. With the $100 Universal Child Care Benefit I end up paying $88 per/month for my son’s childcare.

    My experience with the current system demonstrates that it fully meets the needs of low-income Canadians, who incidentally, are those who are most in need of the financial resources afforded by two incomes.

    The cherry-picked numbers touted by the NDP and Liberals as the ‘whopping cost of childcare’, conveniently omit the impact of existing provincial and federal government subsidies on childcare costs. At its best this amounts to grand-standing on part of the Opposition parties. At its worst it is a deliberate attempt to hoodwink Canadians into an unnecessary and costly federal daycare system, the merits of which have been questioned by current academic research.

    • That’s one hell of a provincial plan then, because where I live (Ottawa) my two kids are costing me $1500 a month in daycare of which I may get back a few hundred dollars at tax time.

      Not to mention that when my son was 18 months it cost me over $1100 a month just for him alone.

      • In Nova Scotia child-care subsidy is on a sliding scale. My household is low-income (under $30, 000) so our son receives the highest subsidy possible (approx. $22 per/day).

        Here’s a link to the NS Department Community Services website:
        http://www.gov.ns.ca/coms/families/childcare/ChildCareSubsidy.html
        http://www.gov.ns.ca/coms/families/childcare/IncomeEligibility.html

        And here’s a link to more info on childcare subisidies across Canada:http://www.childcarequality.ca/wdocs/QbD_FeeSubsidies_Canada.pdf

        • Isn’t that hypocritical?  You are touting a the justness of a universal federal program while you are benefitting directly from a sliding scale program in Halifax.  The original daycare program was targeted to help the people who most needed it just as your provincial program does.The Harper program has a cost.  So for opponents to go around complaining about the cost of the original daycare plan while ignoring the cost of the current Harper plan is again hypocritical.  You describe one as an unnecessary costly daycare program.  While the current version would be what?  A free needed necessary daycare program?  The cherry-picked facts that you state sound righteous until you present ALL the facts.  The huge taxpayer advertising budget to promote the anniversay of the program not once but twice seems to have taken in another gullible voter who is paying for his own brainwashing.

          • If you read my previous comment you will see that nothing is said about the “justness of a universal federal program”. That is a straw-man that you yourself have built.
             
            I stated that Nova Scotia’s sliding scale of child-care subsidy adequately meets the needs of its residents, especially those residents deemed low-income. As an additional supplement, the UCCB further reduces the cost of child-care in NS to an almost negligible amount.
             
            By omitting the impact of provincial subsidies on the cost of childcare, the NDP have inflated the costs incurred by parents. This has been done in an attempt to manufacture need for an unnecessary and costly federal childcare system.
             
            A federally run childcare system would require thousands of early childhood educators to become employees of the government of Canada. It is a requirement that government employees belong to CUPE. The cost of a unionized ECE would exponentially increase the cost of childcare resulting in the very problem a federal childcare system would be supposedly fixing.
             
            Also, e-mailing a press release to a mailing list does not require a “huge taxpayer advertising budget”.
             

          • Atch…Where did you find the costed version that says it will be a huge excess over the existing Harper version?  I would guess that the NDP version would not be universal and would not make the daycare personnel employees of the federal government as you describe.  Just a guess.  But I welcome that you show me where it is not a straw man that you have created. I know it wasn’t the case in the original Paul Martin version. Maybe the NDP want to create a version that will be hugely wastful.  Maybe not.  Did this information come from listening to the CPC otr to the NDP.
            If it was the CPC, well I guess you can take that to the bank, because they would NEVER lie when stating opposition policy.  No that would be dishonest.

            Face it.  The only reason that the existing version exists is that they had to counter the Paul Martin version with words like fairness, universal, freedom etc.  If they had their preference, they would do away with it altogether and let the user pay.  But who am I to talk of this.  My kids are grown and my taxes go to pay for your kids.  My considerably higher than yours taxes.  No I never had those worries as I raised my kids.  Thankfully so.  But not all areas fortunate as I was. 
            PS:  I apologize.  The huge taxpayer paid advertising budget is the government budget.  I should have been clearer about the largest advertising budget of any federal government in Canadian history.  It’s so huge that they can’t even track when they are advertising the 5-year anniversary of a government program 2 months in a row. One marking, one celebrating, next month ther’ll be another one recognizing the anniversary. 
            Why aren’t we focusing on the taxpayer money that IS being wasted by are government instead of focussing on the As you put it “stawman” money of an opposition party.  We have a deficit through incompetence at the federal level but everyone seems to blame the opposition.  The opposition never got us where we are.

    • I just love arguments based on personal anecdote. “I don’t have a problem with this issue, therefore it’s not a problem for anyone else.”

  6. Although I like the idea of extended parental leave, I suggest it not be funded through EI – as it is currently. EI disbursements will favour higher-income recipients and penalize those with lower incomes. 

    I want to live in a healthy, well-educated society and as a childless middle-class earner, I am willing to pay higher taxes to achieve that. 

    On the other hand, I object very strongly to my taxes going to prison construction.

    • So where do you suggest we put the prisoners?  In day care?

      • If we had good day care that low-paid workers could afford, we would not have so many criminals. Not so many lost children, not so many desperate parents.

  7. I also live in Halifax and my family doesn’t qualify for any of the provincial daycare subsidies – so had we put both of our children in full time daycare simultaneously it would have cost $1600/month. Since my after-tax income at the time was $2000/month, guess who ended up staying home? I now operate a small dayhome and charge well below what larger, licensed facilities charge – at $600/month for full time care I’m not as expensive as some of the alternatives, but still far more than the (taxable!) $100/month from the feds.

    What is also not mentioned by the previous commenter is that the subsidized spaces are limited; only some daycares have them, and the subsidy follows the centre, not the child. So, for example, none of the children in my dayhome can collect the low-income subsidy, even if their family income would be low enough to meet the criteria. However, people often must choose a dayhome because the waiting lists for children aged 12 – 18 months are between one and two years long. Those parents are well and truly caught – they can’t afford to stop working, they can’t find a subsidized space because there aren’t enough to meet the demand, and if they go with dayhome care they are not permitted to claim the subsidy.

    The commenter also doesn’t mention how much harder it is to find licensed child care outside of the Halifax area. For example, the only licensed daycare in the Chester, NS area will almost certainly close by the end of this month, saddled with a huge debt it has no hope of paying: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2011/08/03/ns-chester-daycare.html As a “not-for-profit” centre, many of those spaces are currently subsidized; those subsidies will not follow the children to whatever alternative solutions their parents are able to find.

    I’d love to live in the idealized “I only pay $88 a month for childcare” world that the previous commenter keeps talking about, but the reality is for the majority of working parents in Nova Scotia quality child care is their single biggest expense (more than their mortgage, in many cases). Tossing $100/month our way, and taking nearly half of it back at tax time, really does nothing to alleviate the very real problems with a) finding quality child care in the first place and b) being able to pay for it.

  8. There is an economic cost to failing to provide affordable childcare for families. This includes skilled labour shortages, especially the ability to attract women or families to your province or region.

    And it’s not a position from the looney left. Look at the following arguments in favour of more childcare assistance for families from the BC Chamber of Commerce and the Vancouver Board of Trade.

    http://www.bcchamber.org/advocacy/policy/priority/skills/role_of_childcare_in_enabling.html

    http://www.boardoftrade.com/publicationsresources/sounding-board/sounding-boar-newspaper/1999/September1999/EarlyChildhoodDevelopment.aspx

    Also, I take great exception to the author using a single study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, to argue that daycare is harmful to children under 2.

  9. A National day care program is a lot of hooey. Having once been responsibly involved for provincial licensing and inspection of day care programs, an add-on duty to a similar involvement with adult programs, I listened to the mantras of early childhood education  from the so-called experts who were touting their own careers – for care of  both those below the age of two and older kids to nursery schools age. In my opinion the kids are definitely better off with their mothers, with the possible exception where the mother is a drunk, on drugs or just stupid, and out of responsibility shouldn’t have had a child.  If the left had its way all children would be raises in creches like little Chinese or Soviet communists. 

      In my not-so-humble opinion if we were to turn the clock back so that young marrieds did not have to have thing all the toys and conveniences all at once and on a scale that would make their parents turn over in their grave, more mothers would be doing what they should- looking after and teaching their offspring at home. Anecdotal, I know but my own father built his own home in two stages, one in 1920, the other in 1928. There was never a mortgage. We did not have a car, our house was very modest but we all grew up to be professionals. In the second  generation the wives only worked when the kids were grown, and most had a university education. We had a little mantel; radio and always got the daily paper as one of us was always a paper carrier.  We also had the public library. But we had a father and mother who taught us to read and do simple arithmetic before we were of school age.

    The arguments in the ’50s for women to join the workforce were at first specious -  and for many had more to do with female actualization. So how does it feel to be actualized to, first, a typewriter and then a  a computer terminal.  Only a few grew wings and flew, and many of those have done well.

    But no crap that day care is good for kids.  It’s good for working moms and debatable at that. It is also horribly expensive for the woman at the computer terminal as opposed to the woman who probably graduated from university to a high paying job;  and why should the general taxpayer bear the load  for a life-style decision?      

    • Allow me to condense the previous post for those who don’t have time to read the whole thing:

      “Daycare is for communists. Wimmenfolk should stay home and raise children. What else are they going to do? Join a typing pool? What a laugh! Nobody needs two incomes. Back in my day we built our own house out of old shoe boxes and resin, and ate what we could catch in the yard using only our bare hands. Why can’t young people today do that? There’s no difference atall between the economy in 1920, 1950, or 2011, and anyone who says any different is a lazy, spoiled whippersnapper who spends all his money on those fancy electronic whatchamacallit thingeys. Nurse! Nurse! Isn’t it time I was rolled over? I’m gonna get bed sores the size of nickels at this rate! Rotten no-goodnik young people…” And so on. And so forth.

      • Yeah, you just about got it right. I forgot the part about sorting  the wheat out of chicken scratch to make our morning gruel.  Young people aren’t rotten, they have allowed themselves to be entrapped by junk. And the Great Depression really was tough, as was the war.

        And yes we were raised from the vegetable garden in the empty lot next door. But there is little real difference in economic  principle at any time  As someone once said (paraphrasing) a dollar more than you need is happiness; a dollar less is misery. 

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