July 14, 2008 – Canadian Taxpayers Federation
Parents and governments across Canada have rejected institutionalized daycare programs. So what is the B.C. government offering now? All-day kindergarten. No matter how the government tries to spin it, all-day kindergarten is nothing more than institutionalized daycare. The B.C. government says quite rightly that parents want choice. But parents want to make choices, not take choices imposed by government.
Not only is institutionalized daycare expensive, it may not be the best option for children. If governments were truly interested in empowering parents with childcare choices, they would allow parents to keep more of their earnings to maximize their options.
Parent’s have firm ideas on childcare. In fact, research suggests that parents’ first choice is to stay home with their children. Their second choice would be to have a relative care for their children. Way down the line is government-provided daycare, even if it is heavily subsidized. In a study done in 2003 in Ontario for a number of media outlets, 62% of respondents said that if they were not able to stay home to take care of an infant or pre-school child, it would be best for the child to be taken care of by a relative. Only 23% responded it would be best in an institutionalized setting. In the same study, 54% of respondents said the government should give money directly to parents, while only 35% said the money should go to a daycare.
Institutionalized daycare is an expensive option for taxpayers. In a 1999 study done by the B.C. Ministry of Social Development and Economic Security, the average fee charged by child care providers for the age 3-5 group was $453 per month, when the “true” cost of care was $716. The “true” cost of care means childcare staff are paid wages that reflect their education and responsibility. Given rising wages due to labour shortages in the province, we could only expect that difference to be much higher now. In fact, a 2007 report from Sweden showed government-offered daycare costs $26,972 per child per year, with 75% of that spent on staffing.
Parents who choose to stay at home may end up paying twice—once in for their own childcare arrangements and again through higher taxes for the government-run program.
Common sense tells us that government cannot ensure that daycare workers—no matter how well paid—will give each child the affection and personal attention they would get from mom or dad or another family member.
In fact, research shows some children are made worse off from institutionalization. A 2005 study of Quebec’s universal child-care program (broken link) led by University of Toronto Professor Michael Baker found some children’s behaviour and health actually worsened after the introduction of universal child care in that province.
Leaving more of a family’s hard-earned income in their pockets would give parents the choice they’re looking for. Many families make the difficult financial choice of having one parent care for the children full-time at home. Sadly, B.C.’s childcare choice doesn’t empower parents to make that decision easily. Leaving tax dollars in the hands of families, spent by parents directly on their children, seems a better way to go than to set up yet another government bureaucracy.
The government wants to hear from citizens on its proposal for all-day kindergarten. To have your say, please go to the Early Childhood Learning Agency (broken link) and fill out the short form.
If you are supportive of this commentary, please consider becoming a supporter of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (broken link) and add your voice to the campaign for lower taxes, less waste and more accountable government.
Let’s Talk Taxes is a weekly commentary provided to media outlets by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. The CTF is a non-profit, non-partisan, educational and advocacy organization funded by free-will contributions. Permission is granted to reprint or broadcast this material with appropriate attribution. Canadian Taxpayers Federation: P.O. Box 20539 Howe Street RPO Vancouver, B.C. V6Z 2N8
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