Front page news today. Canadian Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley trying to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Canada’s Universal Child Care Benefit.* A modest $100 per month payment from the federal government, for every child under the age of six, to be used as the parents see fit, including contributing to child care costs. The basic message being that there will be no broad-based federal funding of any particular child care model and, in particular, there will be no broad-based federal subsidization of daycare spaces.
Quite apart from the Constitutional correctness of this position–this being a matter of property and civil rights within a province, and therefore within provincial jurisdiction–it also sends a message that a decision to become a parent is a decision with personal economic consequences. In the front page news article today, one parent complains that she had to limit her university studies to part-time studies, due to a lack of third party care that was affordable to her. Since when does one have an inalienable right to study full-time, in the absence of having personal funds to do so? Another advocate, self-described as the “co-ordinator for Code Blue for Child Care“, chooses to ignore the constitutional arguments that this is a matter of provincial social policy: “The province can’t do it alone. The McGuinty government is moving on full-day learning–and they are really trying to address genuine need in the province of Ontario. But the reality is they can’t do it themselves.”
Social policy is going to differ, province by province, and will hopefully be influenced by what a province can reasonably afford. It is not the constitutional nature of Canada to formulate social policies on a national basis. What Quebec may wish to do in the area of child care may not be what another province chooses to do, based on cost or social policy considerations.
Consider the priorities in Ontario. The Ontario Liberal government has decided to fully fund full-day kindergarten, commencing as early as the age of four. Even less time, prior to the commencement of Grade 1, when a child will be with his or her parents. This after Grade 13 was completely abolished in Ontario** as of 2003. Which decision is better or worse?
People wonder why politicians are increasingly guarded in their public appearances, or why attendees at such appearances are screened. Why bother to show up, if the event will simply be hijacked by those with another agenda?
I made a decision to become the after-school parent for my younger daughter. I did this for seven years, until her mother was in a position to adopt a similar role. This decision had very real economic consequences that will likely affect me for most of the balance of my life. Why does the government owe me anything, in relation to a personal child care decision?
In times of increasing financial pressures at all government levels, nationally and internationally, now is not the time for an exaggerated sense of entitlement to government benefits. Being a parent doesn’t make such claim any less exaggerated.
May 4, 2017: