The new Angus Reid poll on child care

Great News for Supporters of a National Child Care System

Cardus must really be kicking themselves.  Cardus is a Christian research and advocacy organization that spent a lot of money on that recent Angus Reid poll on attitudes to a national child care program.  I’m sure they expected to hear a lot of support for their view that governments should just give money to parents with children.  Cardus opposes building a child care system that is universally available to families.  And they believe that Canadian families support their point of view.

Imagine their surprise then when Angus Reid found that support for major new investments in child care and for a national child care system is overwhelming amongst families with young children.  The survey found that 84% of families with a child under 6 agreed with the statement that “we need a much bigger public investment in affordable quality child care options.”   That included over 80% of families with a parent at home, as well as those currently using child care.

Of families with a child under 6, a total of 83% of families with a child under 6 supported “the idea of moving towards a national child care system in Canada”.  Only 16% of these families moderately or strongly opposed this statement.

  • 88% of all these families agreed that “finding quality child care is a way bigger hassle than in should be for parents today”
  • 82% agreed that “child care workers are underpaid for the important work they do”
  • 96% agreed that “mothers have every right to work hard and pursue a fulfilling career”.

Of course, families with a child under 6 are split on the best financing and delivery mechanisms for a new national child care system.  In this survey, 85% supported “publicly subsidiz[ing] eligible child care centres and regulated home day cares as in Quebec where parents pay roughly $10 per child per day and the government funds the rest of the costs.”

But 85% also supported the “creat[ion] of a refundable federal tax credit that allows lower income families to claim as much as 75% of their child care expenses.”

And 84% supported “increase[ing] the Canada Child Benefit payment up to an additional $125 a month per child.  And 84% supported “creat[ing] a guaranteed paid family leave program that provides income during the first year of a child’s life for those who don’t qualify for parental leave under Employment Insurance.”

But only 64% supported “creat[ing] a $300 a month per child subsidy for non-parental, in-home care (such as a nanny or paid relative).

These families with a child younger than six years were also asked “of the various proposed child care policies we just looked at…which…would you choose as the top priorities to proceed with?”   The largest proportion by far (52%) answered “subsidized child care facilities where parents pay $10 a day.”   A tax credit for child care expenses was chosen by 23%.  An increase in the Canada Child Benefit was chosen by 39%.  Paid family leave outside EI was chosen by 22%.  (Obviously families were allowed to choose more than one top priority, because these numbers add up to more than 100%).

It is probably worth noting that the Canada Child Benefit has already recently been increased.  This means that for the 2020–21 benefit year, the maximum benefit will be $6,765 per child under age 6 and $5,708 per child age 6 through 17.  The Canada Child Benefit is of particular benefit to families in which a parent is at home and to lone parent families, because incomes in these families tend to be lower.

The Liberal party promised at the last election to look closely at maternity/parental benefits for families not currently eligible for benefits through EI.  This remains to be done.

The overall conclusion from the Angus Reid/Cardus poll seems to be that there is very substantial public support by parents for major investments in child care, and particularly for    direct subsidization of child care facilities to make child care widely accessible and affordable.

Cardus must have gotten some joy out of the answer to one of their more speculative questions – if you could afford to, would you rather stay home full-time with your children until they go to grade school?  Two-thirds of respondents said yes to this highly hypothetical question. 

Of course, nearly all families COULD NOT actually afford to have a parent stay at home full-time.  And society couldn’t afford it either.  When society makes low-fee child care available for families, this supports activities that increase employment, production, incomes, tax revenues and well-being of many people in society.  That’s not what would happen if society gave parents with children enough money to allow them to stay at home for years while their children grow up. 

However, nearly all the reponses to this very extensive survey should make Cardus change its tune on child care.  Consider these results from the part of the survey that went to a general sample of the Canadian population (not exclusively to families with young children).

  • 72% of all Canadians, and a majority in EVERY PROVINCE (including 59% in Alberta) favour moving towards a national child care system
  • 89% of women 18-34 years of age support moving towards a national child care system (and over 60% of women and men in every age category also support this).
  • 90% of Canadians who voted NDP in the last election support moving towards a national child care system
  • 85% of Canadians who voted for the Liberals in the last election support moving towards a national child care system
  • Amazingly, even 49% of Canadians who voted for the Conservative Party in the last election support moving towards a national child care system

Not good news for Cardus, but good news for the rest of us.  The large majority of Canadians, and overwhelming numbers of families with young children are on board with moving towards a national child care system with a very substantial federal investment of dollars.  And there is very strong support for direct funding of child care services to provide affordable and accessible child care for $10 a day.

What Lessons can the Rest of Canada Learn from Quebec Child Care?

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What is “the Quebec model” of early learning and child care?

There are several different lessons to learn about the Quebec model.  Generally, the decisions to rely on direct funding, on building good quality not for profit child care, on building a system that includes enhanced maternity parental benefits/leaves as well as schoolaged child care have been very positive.  But, we also need to learn from the problems Quebec has had.  They only had sufficient supply for 15% of the child population (0-4) at the time that they announced low-cost universal child care, and they’ve been behind the curve ever since.  That really is what has forced them into too much expansion of family child care and of for-profit child care.  And, it is now clear that both of those are of substantially lower quality than non-profit centre care.  And, so also they have ended up with many lower-income families in lower-quality care, and they have ended up with very long waiting lists for the good quality services (although there is now enough total supply of all kinds to meet total demand).

In short, there are a lot of useful lessons to be drawn by us in the rest of Canada.  We need to figure out how to expand affordability quickly enough to make a big difference for families and yet slowly enough that we don’t suffer all of these problems.  It won’t be easy, particularly since the federal government is more a funder than a manager of child care’s development.

Ontario’s Full-Day Kindergarten – a report for ETFO

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Executive Summary

Download the Executive Summary

Main Report

Download the Main Report

The Background Story

In early February this year, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario released my report on Ontario’s Full-Day Kindergarten. It was written as a reponse to Conservative Government plans to reform kindergarten in negative ways. My review of the literature found that these plans were badly off base – full-day kindergarten in Ontario is very good and worth preserving (and improving).

There’s a hidden story about that study on full-day kindergarten in Ontario.  I actually wrote it towards the end of 2019, in response to the statements by Doug Ford and his ministers about what they might do to change full-day kindergarten.  All of the reforms would have been highly negative. But the Government kept playing with the ideas, partly because they never supported the move back in 2010 to full-day kindergarten, and partly to have the union over a barrel during negotiations.  So, I wrote this study and finished it at the end of 2019, and ETFO got it ready for publication.  At the end of 2019 and early 2020, the Elementary Teachers Federation (ETFO) was in acrimonious bargaining with the government, and the government would not commit to keeping full-day kindergarten (this was one of ETFO’s bargaining demands).

So, in January 2020, ETFO decided to give the Toronto Star exclusive rights to cover the initial release of the study.  The Star wrote up an article on the study, and then, as good journalists do, sent the Executive Summary to the government to get a comment.  Well, the government, which wasn’t polling that well at that time, freaked out big time.  They didn’t respond to the Star, but they came into the bargaining session the next day and announced that they were going to guarantee that full-day kindergarten would be kept in its current form at least till the end of the contract in 2022!

So, it turns out that the study has already had a big and useful impact which almost nobody knows about.  But, I’m happy.

How much will Doug Ford’s tax credit for child care cost?

Doug Ford’s promised in the last election to deliver child care affordability for a small amount of money ($389 million per year) for all children in Ontario 0-14 years of age. That’s a total of 2.2 million children. In other words, Doug Ford thinks he can make child care affordable for a price of less than $180.00 per child per year. On the face of it, this cannot possibly be true.

Continue reading “How much will Doug Ford’s tax credit for child care cost?”