Financial Post: March 7th, 2005

EPLY TO BUZZ HARGROVE ON CHILD CARE POLICY

[Mr. Hargrove, President of the Canadian AutoWorkers Union, had an article in the Financial Post Feb 28, 2005 calling for more daycare funding. This response was published March 7. Sections here in [ ] were left out of the published version.]

By Helen Ward,
President
Kids First Parent Association of Canada
604-291-0088

I agree with CAW President Buzz Hargrove that the proposed budget fails children and parents. But not because it has not created a national daycare program. They government has again failed to prohibit discrimination against parental care of children. It has not upheld the constitutional protection of equality before the law for the over 90% of children who are not in daycare, or for those who care for them, primarily mothers. And by the way Buzz, mothers are women, and every mother is a working mother. We are not an economic drain, we are the essential sector the GDP sector depends on but refuses to acknowledge

[Like Mr. Dryden and many others,] Mr. Hargrove hauls out the carefully spun phrases of the tax-funded daycare spin doctorates. “70% of mothers are working.” No: every mother is a working mother. Most mothers do work in the GDP sector, but 30% don’t, and the majority of kids have at least one parent who does not have a full-time GDP sector job. We structure our lives and finances to put our kids first.

“They need child care.” No, all children need care. We define “child care” as “the care of a child”, and most families don’t want daycare. Only 13% of children age 6 months to 5 years are in daycare centres while parent(s) “works or studies.” The problem for daycare advocates is not a shortage of daycare spaces but the shortage of children in them: 53.7% of daycares have vacancies and the average vacancy rate is 16.3% (source: You Bet I Care!). And most children in daycare are not in full-time. These facts are not publicized by industry advocates.

“They need quality care.” Yes: parents want quality care for their children, that’s probably the reason most avoid daycare. The politicians favoured photo-op daycares at Simon Fraser University and UBC have better quality because they are extra-super-subsided by the university (the tax-payers that is), and have many practicum student volunteers to ameliorate the staff:child ratios.

Those concerned with low-income rates should understand that parents, like myself, who are “low income” are so mainly because we fore go income in order to look after our children. It’s called ‘opportunity cost.’ [And if you think daycare is expensive and that’s why people don’t use it, you have to explain why families are willing to fore go $25,000 in opportunity cost. Two parent single income families have incomes $25,000 less than two income families; that’s a lot more than the fees of any daycare. And the recalcitrant belief that our kids need us is also the reason why us single mothers forego income.]

The Vanier Institute poll shows that 90% of parents prefer parental care for their child and rank parental care first and daycare fifth in quality. We mothers, fathers , grandparents and babysitters believe we provide quality care that is developmentally appropriate and “educational.” [ The OECD report and numerous other reports (e.g. the $900,000 “You Bet I Care! Study) tell us that the majority of licensed daycare is of “poor to mediocre quality.” The child: staff ratios are the reason for this: in Quebec 1 staff is allowed to care for 5 infants. No amount of training, compensation, or even love will enable one adult to provide 5 babies with “quality” care. Other ratios (for BC ) are 1: 8 for ages 2-5, 1: 10 age 6-7, 1:15 for grade 2-7, and also 1:15 for preschool situations.]

[Daycare advocate insult millions of Canadians who do what they label “patchwork,” “informal,” “unregulated,” low quality care. Let them stand up in public and tell us to our faces that we are bad for the kids. There is nothing “informal” about deciding to forego hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, or about building and maintaining the relationships with those who also look after our kids – like in-laws and ‘ex.’s, or about living where you have the “village” that it takes to raise a child.]

[And the care is regulated – we regulate it ourselves by actually knowing and trusting the “patchwork” people in the quilt of relationships our children are part of – often life-long relationships. Even parents who choose daycare are also told in government pamphlets that they have the primary responsibility for monitoring the daycare: it is not possible for inspectors to ensure that staff are providing “developmental benefits” let alone that they are “sensitive and responsive.” Daycare advocates are making promises that they do not and cannot deliver.]

I agree with Mr. Hargrove that we should spend child care dollars where there is more “bang for the buck.” That why Kids First Parent Association is calling for a Refundable Tax Credit based on income and family size. And an end to the discrimination against parental care. [ Mr. Martin and Mr. Dryden: let’s uphold the constitution, eh.]