Beer, Popcorn and… Poppycock: NDP Talks with Kids First

September 19, 2008

Remember the “beer and popcorn” comment that insulted Canadian parents in the last election?

During that campaign, Liberal spokesman Scott Reid claimed that parents would buy beer and popcorn (cars and videos were also mentioned) with the $100/month benefit promised by the Conservatives, and that therefore money is better spent on a daycare system.

The parent-bashers haven’t learned much it seems. This time an NDP spokesperson told me, the head of a national parents’ group, the idea that every mother is a working mother is “poppycock and you know it.” That’s not much of an improvement over beer and popcorn.

He also twice claimed that defining child care to include parental child care is “just semantics.”

Press secretary, Ian Capstick, took the call for the NDP when I, the volunteer President of Kids First Parent Association of Canada, called each of the parties on Friday, September 12th asking about child policy in preparation for the nationally broadcast Roy Green radio show on Sunday the 14th.

My mum was visiting and tended the baby in the same room as I talked on the phone.

I told Mr. Capstick who I was and why I was calling. He said he had “heard of Kids First.”

During the conversation I also told him I am a low-income mother of two including a baby, do child care “24/7/365” and am also self employed. I mentioned my family’s background in the NDP. I urged him to think broadly and list any policies the NDP has that would help children and families, like environment and health.

Mr. Capstick said he could not understand why anyone would oppose their plan for a national daycare system. A discussion ensued.

At one point I stated that, “every mother is a working mother,”—a well known feminist slogan—and Capstick retorted: “That’s poppycock, and you know it!

I recommended that the NDP include parental child care in the definition of “child care.” Twice Capstick insisted, “That’s just semantics!

Capstick rejected Kids First recommendation that all families be funded equitably for their child care. He explained that funding all parents equitably would not provide the money to build daycare infrastructure. He asked rhetorically why should mothers using daycare “go into poverty” to pay for it.

So I pointed out that I and thousands of others are now living “in poverty” as the NDP defines it because daycare is paid for by “exploiting mothers who do unpaid child care” for their own children.

Sara Landriault, a child care blogger, also participated in the Roy Green Show Sunday radio interview. Hearing about Capstick’s poppycock from me, she blogged it on Monday.

Reacting to the blog posting, Tuesday evening September 16th, on the eve of Jack Layton’s roll-out of NDP child care policy, Mr. Capstick called me to apologize for his inappropriate language.

He assured me that he recognized that all mothers are working, that it’s “not just semantics,” and praised his own mother’s work for his family.

While we spoke on the phone I was feeding my baby and preparing to go by bus with baby to a parents’ meeting for my older son’s bagpipe band.

Mr. Capstick hoped that the blog would be taken down and felt it did not accurately characterize the conversation, that he thought he was speaking to an NDP supporter and had not realized he was speaking to a “lobbyist.” However, I had made it clear who I was from the beginning and throughout the conversation.

He said NDP policy head, Dr. Bob….would call me on Wednesday to discuss child policy.

Dr. Bob has not yet called. (It’s Friday, Sept 19.)

Ms. Landriault declined to take down the blog when I passed on the apology and the request.

Though it would be unfortunate if one individual’s careless remarks under stress hurt a party’s campaign, or even hurt the individual’s career, it is very apparent to me personally and socially that the attitude Mr. Capstick expressed and the policy of preferential treatment of child care in daycare centres has done serious economic, emotional, and social harm to millions of parents—especially mothers—and children.

Highlights from the conversation

Ward: Funding daycare centres preferentially discriminates against everyone who prefers to use any other form of care. It even discriminates against those who want to use daycare centres but can’t use it because of their schedule or because their child has some health concerns.

Capstick: “Your situation is unique.”

Ward: “Everyone’s situation is unique.” Most parents don’t do paid work 9-5, Monday to Friday, the hours that daycare suits.

Capstick: We want to build a national programme like Tommy Douglas did for health care. We want a permanent system.

Ward: Comparing medical services that require very specialized personnel and physical plant to looking after children is a false analogy.

Capstick: It’s not a false analogy!
That’s exactly what those opposed to creating medicare said: the private sector can provide it.

Ward: I’m talking about parents providing child care. Most parents feel competent to care for their own children but not to do surgery. Medicare is an insurance plan to pay for medical expenses. Children are wanted usually, not like a health problem needing medical treatment

Ward: “Every mother is a working mother”

Capstick: “That’s poppycock and you know it!”

Ward: The definition of “child care” must include parental child care.

Capstick: (Twice) “That’s just semantics!”

Ward: “It discriminates against parental care.”

Capstick: How could it discriminate?

Ward: “If my baby were in a daycare centre full time he’d be getting at least $15,000 to $30,000 worth of public financing.”

Capstick: “I don’t know about those figures.”

Ward: Our position is that all parents should be funded equitably regardless of the type of care they prefer.

Capstick: If we funded all parents equitably, we could not fund the infrastructure. Why should those mothers go into poverty to pay for it?

Ward: I am in what you call poverty. Funding daycare is done by exploiting those who do all the unpaid care work.

Capstick: “You just don’t believe in professional child care!”

Ward: “That’s not true.”

Capstick: Many families are looking after senior members as well as children, and our home-care policy will help them.

[Note: This also puts the funds in the hands of agencies other than the family, so those who do or prefer care by family members are excluded.]

Capstick: “We have a fundamental disconnect on this issue.”

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