FUND THE CHILD vs FUND THE SPACES: Kids First Responds to Caledon Institute Report that $1,200 could be $388 for Low Income Families

The Caledon Institute recently alarmingly reported that low income families could get only $388/year of the $1,200 promised by the Conservatives. The Institute is just one of many organizations receiving funding from the federal government that lobby for preferential funding for daycare over other child care forms. Social Development Canada—the same ministry that formulated the daycare deals—funds some of their projects. Groups advocating that government fund children’s care equitably by directly funding families, such as Kids First Parent Association of Canada, receive no funding from government.

USE THE CHILD TAX BENEFIT

The report suggests piggy-backing the $1,200 onto the Child Tax Benefit to solve some of the important concerns raised regarding tax “bracket creep” and reductions to the CTB that could result from the increased income. This makes sense. But I question their math and their commitment to fairness.

FUDGING THE TAX MATH

First, individual, not “family income”, is taxed. This well known fact upsets their entire calculation in their carefully selected example. A two-income family with $36,000 means that each income is less than that. The lower income would be less than half of that: under $18,000: a lower tax bracket. And the plan is to tax the $1,200 benefit at the lower income recipient’s tax rate, which could very well be nil.

DAYCARE FEES FAR LESS THAN COST OF PARENTAL CARE

As for the “lack or affordable, quality” daycare: quitting a job and/or doing part time jobs in order to have the time to do our own child care work can cost hundreds of thousands in foregone income – far more than daycare fees. The idea that most parents who do not use daycare have higher incomes is just plain false. Daycare is used three times more often by families over $80,000 vs under $40,000. One-income families have incomes about $20,000 lower than two-income families on average.

SELECTIVE APPROACH TO FAIRNESS: EQUALITY

The authors rightly are concerned that the $1,200/year child benefit may be “clawed back” from welfare recipients by provinces. Certainly, the Federal government must enforce Charter rights and ensure that welfare recipients are not singled out for “claw back.” Currently the Federal government encourages this practice when National Child Benefit money intended to raise family incomes is “clawed back” and spent on daycare.

However, the Caledon Institute and all others in the daycare lobby refuse to discuss the issue of fairness and equality, specifically: full equity in funding for all forms of child care. They support policy that grossly discriminates in favour of daycare over every other form of care.

No carrots, no sticks: the government must cease paternalistically rewarding full-time daycare centre care from birth and financially punishing parents who do anything else.

LIBERAL PLAN = $500 PER CHILD

The math: the $11 billion over 10 years the Liberals proposed means a whopping $500 per year for each of the over 2 million children 0-5. The entire amount could go to bureaucratic “infrastructure” or wages and not result in a single “space,” far less a “universal high quality system.” The majority of daycares report VACANCIES averaging over 8%, according to the “You Bet I Care!” study and others. This calls into question the whole “shortage” claim.

MOST DAYCARE NOT “HIGH QUALITY”

Also, the “quality” of the majority of regulated daycare is “minimal to mediocre” according to the “You Bet I Care!” study, the OECD, and others. Improving it would require improving allowable staff:child ratios that are worsening since the study was done with up to eight one-year-olds per staff in Quebec. But the daycare lobby refuses to discuss this—their own research. Instead they falsely claim that government regulation assures high quality care and developmental improvements for children.

Link to CRRU site and Caledon Institute Report by Ken Battle:
http://action.web.ca/home/crru/rsrcs_crru_full.shtml?x=84050

Link to “Finding a better way on child care,” by Ken Battle, Michael Mendelson, and Sherri Torjman:
http://action.web.ca/home/crru/rsrcs_crru_full.shtml?x=85041