Labour Views for November 12, 2014

Submitted by Mary Lou Cherwaty, President

As far back as 1970, the Royal Commission on the Status of Women called for a national day care program. Its main goal was to realize equality for women. The debate and discussion on the need for a national program have produced additional goals; thereby shifting the language. By the 1980’s and 90’s, day care became child care; then early learning and care, and now, early childhood education and care.

No matter what name we give it, a national program centered on caring for children will not only help towards women’s equality, but will also support women’s employment, poverty reduction, work-life balance, social integration, equal opportunity, improved child well-being, and economic prosperity.

It needs to be clearly stated that childcare is NOT just a ‘woman’s issue’. It is an issue for each and every Canadian that values a fair and democratic, prosperous society.

Our Legislative Assembly has adopted a motion calling for the GNWT to conduct a feasibility study on whether the territories can put in place an NWT “universal, affordable, child day care run by people trained in early childhood development and education, similar to the systems in Quebec and Scandinavia.”

While on the surface this sounds like a positive move forward, another ‘study’ will do nothing to provide the much needed child care spaces and qualified staff to run them. These piece-meal strategies leave parents unable to find or afford quality programs for their children.

Canadian families, and indeed, society as a whole, deserves federal leadership and investment in a national system that works closely with provincial/territorial and aboriginal governments to create distinct, culturally appropriate services that integrate the care and education needs unique to each province and territory.

As you are reading this article, I am joining hundreds of advocates at Canada’s 4th National Childcare Policy Conference, Childcare 2020, to continue the discussion about the issues and challenges facing early childhood education and childcare (ECEC). The stated objective is to “ensure that – this time – the outcome will be the national ECEC system that Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast want, and that we, our children and our children’s children deserve.”

Last month, Tom Mulcair promised that “If an NDP government is elected, the working mothers and fathers across the country will finally have access to affordable daycare.” He proposes that the cost will be no more than $15 per child, per day.  Now this is something that can actually make a difference in the lives of all Canadian families – unlike the Conservative’s inadequate Child Care Benefit that provides no extra childcare spaces, and costs considerably less than their income-splitting policy that only helps the rich get richer!

In 2015, we will all have a choice. We can choose to continue accepting public policy that benefits the wealthiest in our society; or we can choose to elect a government that actually cares about Canadian values.

My choice is clear, I hope yours is too!