Tax credits for child care?

Response to Parisa Mahboubi’s proposal of tax credits for child care

Parisa Mahboubi complains (Globe and Mail, April 11th) about Ontario’s new plan to provide free preschool child care, but I think she should be cheering instead. I agree with her that the cost of child care is a major barrier to increased labour supply, to gender equality in employment, and to children gaining positive experiences in child care.

However, most of these positive effects of child care on children and families happen when there are good quality licensed services that are accessible and affordable. Surprising then, that Ms. Mahboubi recommends funding all types of child care, whether unlicensed or licensed, whether regulated for quality assurance or not.

My recent study was influenced strongly by what happened in the Quebec child care system. Quebec child care is affordable, but only a minority of services are of good quality. Quebec’s big mistake was making all child care services affordable long before new capacity was available. There were tremendous shortages – excess demand for child care. It couldn’t be met with carefully-planned good quality services, so a flood of lower quality services filled the gap.

We want to avoid this in Ontario. Right now, there are only enough licensed services for 7% of infants and about 32% of toddlers. However, existing services can cover about 67% of all children of preschool age in September each year. Ontario is much better placed to serve dramatically increased demand for preschoolers than it is for other ages. This is the right place to start improving the affordability of child care services that will serve parents and children well.