By John Geddes - Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 0 Comments
In debates over how to provide care—whether in hospitals, seniors’ residences or daycare centres—clashes along the border between not-for-profit and for-profit services are particularly ferocious.
For free-market types, it’s axiomatic that injecting competition into the system should boost choice and, as a result, quality and efficiency. For social democrats, it’s equally self-evident that profit-seeking providers are more likely to sacrifice standards, especially by hiring fewer and less-qualified staff, than the not-for-profits.
From deep inside the latter camp comes the Toronto-based Childcare Resource and Research Unit’s new report flagging, with some alarm, the rise of for-profit daycare. For-profit spaces grew to 28 per cent of those available in Canada in 2010, up from 20 per cent in 2004. Martha Friendly, the unit’s driving force, warns that standards at for-profit centres tend on the whole to be lower. She worries that what will come next is a larger presence for the dreaded child-care chains that dominate in some other countries.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 5:29 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Canada’s federal court has ruled that employers must try to accommodate the…
TORONTO – Canada’s federal court has ruled that employers must try to accommodate the family obligations of their staff.
The ruling concerns the case of Fiona Johnston, who worked rotating shifts with the Canada Border Services Agency at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport before having her first child.
Johnston argued the agency refused to accommodate her request for more stable hours, which would have allowed her to arrange for child care.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 5:12 PM - 0 Comments
Taking a different approach to Jack Layton’s legacy, Stephen Marche argues the party lost its way when New Democrats decided to defeat Paul Martin’s government in 2005.
And yet despite the marked improvement in the numbers, the left has never been in a worse state by the simplest and most meaningful gauge there is: its effect on the lives of Canadians. In hindsight, the most consequential decision in Jack Layton’s career, perhaps the most important political decision of the past decade, was when he chose to support a Conservative non-confidence motion and end Paul Martin’s minority government in 2005. It was the moment when Layton and the NDP held the most influence over the national agenda, and the Liberals at that time were well on their way to instituting affordable national daycare. That piece of legislation would have done more to help lower- and middle-class families, more to help women and the poor, more to strengthen the social fabric of the country than any other policy. The business case was outstanding: research from a host of economists and community development experts has shown that public investment in early childhood affects subsequent lifetimes of earning ability. Universal daycare would have increased national prosperity in the broadest sense of the term.
Layton, simply by letting things happen, could have helped deliver the policy that offered the single best reason to vote for a socialist government. But instead of taking a solid gain for working families, Layton concentrated on developing the NDP around his own personality. The result? Rather than functional, technocratic socialism, today we have Raffi socialism.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 4:04 PM - 0 Comments
Peggy Nash promises early childhood education and child care. And she says the program will pay for itself.
Studies show that Quebec’s government subsidies to quality child care have paid for themselves by increasing the labour force participation rate of women and helping equalize the income gap between women and men. By 2008, 70,000 more women with young children had entered the Quebec workforce who would not otherwise have been working. The effect of their employment drove an additional $5.2 billion into the Quebec economy. This increased economic activity more than covered the province’s annual child care costs in that year and provided the federal government with $700 million in additional revenue. According to leading Quebec economist Pierre Fortin, for every dollar Quebec invests in its child care program, it recoups $1.05 and Ottawa receives 44 cents: “The argument can no longer be made that governments cannot afford this. The program is paying for itself.”
By the editors - Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 1 Comment
While many two-year-olds already spend their days in child care out of necessity, a new report recommends putting them in public school
One of the biggest obstacles to the child care debate is that it’s rarely about kids. More often than not, it’s about the politics and ideology of adults. So it is with a controversial new report arguing all Canadian children should be in school from age two.
While many two-year-olds already spend their days in child care out of necessity, “Early Years Study 3,” by former New Brunswick lieutenant governor Margaret Norrie McCain, the late Dr. Fraser Mustard and daycare advocate Kerry McCuaig, asserts a national imperative to expand existing kindergarten programs so every child has a place in a public school by age two. Quebec’s heavily subsidized $7-a-day child care system is presented as a template and aspiration for all provinces.
Universal child care is always a hot topic, with strongly held views on either side. It’s also been a key platform issue in recent federal elections. (Voters rejected it.) Any reasoned effort to open the school system to much younger children, and at much greater cost to taxpayers, thus has a responsibility to consider both the pros and cons of this idea. The Early Years report has no trouble finding support for its preferred outcome, citing “an avalanche of evidence showing how a public commitment to improving child development can have transformative effects,” particularly for disadvantaged children. But it betrays its biases by ignoring a long list of equally notable disadvantages.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 4:47 PM - 33 Comments
When I received a government news release today reminding me to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Universal Child Care Benefit, I thought, as I donned my colourful paper hat, “Has it really been a year? Time flies. Why, it feels like only last month we marked five years of those $100-a-month federal payments to parents for every kid under age six.”
Wait a minute. Now that I check, it was only last month. I have removed the hat.
By John Geddes - Monday, July 11, 2011 at 10:05 AM - 6 Comments
A surprising new study says Quebec’s $7-a-day daycare is leaving children worse off
In public policy, few subjects are as sure to spark fierce debate as child care. Prime Minister Stephen Harper portrays a stark divide when he talks about his Conservative policy of giving parents $100 a month for every child under six, and how he scrapped the previous Liberal government’s plan to pour billions into deals with the provinces to expand subsidized daycare. “We took money from bureaucrats and lobbyists,” he says, “and gave it to the real experts on child care, and their names are Mom and Dad!”
If daycare advocates have lost the battle in Ottawa, at least for as long as Harper is in power, they’ll always have Quebec as a beacon of hope. Starting in 1997, the province implemented a low-cost universal child care policy along the lines of the European model. The number of subsidized daycare spaces in the province soared to 210,000 last year, from just 77,000 in 1997. Nothing like it has been tried anywhere else in North America.
But now three Montreal researchers have studied the Quebec experiment, focusing on how the rapid expansion of $7-a-day daycare seems to be reflected in Quebec kids’ scores on a school-readiness test. Their findings are potentially explosive. “In summary,” they write, “the effects of the program are found to be negative for five-year-olds and less convincingly negative for four-year-olds.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 2:35 PM - 20 Comments
Michael Ignatieff promises funding for child care and early learning.
The Liberal leader announced a plan to give the provinces $500 million a year for early childhood learning, ramping up to $1 billion a year by its fourth year … He says there wouldn’t be any delay in starting the money because the party worked with the provinces to develop it.
“These programs very consciously and deliberately have been constructed with pre-consultation with provincial authorities and provincial experts because the key thing here is to act. To get it done for Canadian families,” Ignatieff said. We’ll have a flexible fund and we can get this thing moving. We don’t need to have another three or four years of argument and negotiation.” Provincial governments could apply to the fund to pay for extra spaces in daycare and early childhood learning programs or train daycare workers.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 4, 2011 at 12:49 PM - 238 Comments
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, rebutting a Liberal attack yesterday.
Mr. Speaker, it is the Liberals who wanted to ensure that parents were forced to have other people raise their children. We do not believe in that.
The Liberals once pursued—and still seek—a national daycare and early learning program
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 71 Comments
In the process of reviewing Harperland, Allan Gregg considers Mr. Harper’s larger goal.
Upon assuming power—and without a moment’s hesitation—Harper abolished an already-negotiated national daycare program and the landmark First Nations Kelowna Accord. Since then, not only has he refused to resurrect or replace these initiatives, but he has also made it clear that he has absolutely no plans for any significant reforms in health care or the environment. In his tenure, he has roundly turned his back on the tradition of federal-provincial decision making and has never bothered to call a single First Ministers’ Conference. In all these cases, Harper did not do anything. But in not doing, he has revealed a vision that is no less clear—and arguably more radical—than Diefenbaker’s un-hyphenated Canadianism, or Trudeau’s Just Society. Harper’s refusal to use his spending power to enter provincial jurisdiction suggests he is a BNA purist who sees little, if any, role for the federal government in social policy.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 6:35 PM - 15 Comments
The Scene. If there was a particular low in the last week for Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, it was not Tuesday evening, when its mess of a motion culminated in a mess of a vote. That was, no doubt, quite ridiculous. But for profound pointlessness, the scene last Tuesday afternoon, when Ujjal Dosanjh was sent up with the opposition’s fourth and fifth questions, to suggest that the Finance Minister had somehow, if in code, expressed something less than full support for the Canadian health care system, was uniquely breathtaking.
“Is this all you’ve got?” begged Heritage Minister James Moore at the time. And though he makes a habit of yelping this particular complaint, this time the answer was apparently yes. The Liberals did not pick up the matter the next day and have since seemed, quite wisely, to forget about it entirely.
It is far too easy, and not generally productive, to dwell upon day-to-day scorekeeping, but even by the dizzying and easily distracted standards of events in this hyper-sensitized place, the official opposition has seemed particularly tawdry of late: groping about for something on which to focus a sense of outrage. Continue…
By Andrew Potter - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 10:49 AM - 83 Comments
With no one to yell at, the party has done some useful policy work
Looking for a Liberal in Ottawa last fall was like a trip into the heart of darkness. You would eventually find a crew of them, hunched over the latest polling data in some dark corner of the Centre Block, where they’d give you the 1,000-yard stare and mutter quietly about the party lacking leadership and direction. The whole miserable session culminated in the legendary Night of the Long Faces, when a group of Liberals repaired to a bar at the Chateau Laurier for a bitch session that the Toronto Star breathlessly reported as a nascent coup being mounted by Bob Rae to topple Michael Ignatieff.
Everything is relative, more so in politics, but in the early months of 2010 it is suddenly a good time to be a Liberal. It’s easy to find Liberals on the Hill these days; with the government off “recalibrating” its agenda, they are striding around like they own the place. And why not? Ever since Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament over the Christmas holidays, the polling gap between the Conservatives and the Liberals has vanished, and for the past three weeks, Ekos tracking polls have had the two parties in a dead heat.
The received wisdom is that the Tory lead (which before Christmas one pollster called “entrenched”) vanished because of public anger over the prorogation, and many pundits have suggested that Harper’s inability to pass up an opportunity to show how clever he is has backfired once again. And there certainly appears to be something to that. Most people are genuinely annoyed that Parliament is not sitting, probably for the simple reason that most people don’t get to simply decide not to go to work for two months, least of all in the dead of winter.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 8, 2010 at 5:01 PM - 24 Comments
It was perhaps a bit odd that Jack Layton’s disclosure last week that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer would be cause for consideration of his political career and public life to date. He is by no means doomed and is entirely likely to make a full recovery. But perhaps we in this culture crave any opportunity to pause for reflection.
As it is, Mr. Layton seems more inclined to carry on, showing up this afternoon to explain how and why the next session of Parliament should be dedicated, sort of like the Titanic, to putting “women and children first.” Here was Jack Layton as he is, and seemingly as he always has been: insistent and demanding and righteous and demanding, for the most part, to be greeted without irony. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 80 Comments
Suggesting new constraints on a Prime Minister’s power to request prorogation? Pitching specific measures to deal with unemployment? Promising to restore funding to Status of Women Canada? Talking of a national strategy on brain disease? Proposing Senate reform? Committing himself to child care? Speaking sharply about the Karzai administration? And now preemptively opening discussion on potentially contentious questions of foreign policy?
What, precisely, has gotten into the leader of the Her Majesty’s loyal opposition?
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 1:23 PM - 198 Comments
Michael Ignatieff promises a national child care program.
The Liberals were in the midst of delivering on a $5-billion national child-care program before they were thrown out of power in the 2006 election. When Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives came to office, that program was abandoned, in favour of the $100-a-month cheques to Canadian parents known as the Universal Child Care Benefit.
Ignatieff said that if the Liberals are returned to government, that money will keep flowing to parents, but a national child-care program will also be phased in, as soon as the budget can handle it. ”They give the money to families, fine. Anything that helps families is a good idea. But there aren’t the spaces. If you don’t create the spaces, families don’t have a choice. That’s what we’re saying.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 8:24 AM - 110 Comments
The Star sorts out how the federal books got the way they are.
Taking over the reins of government in early 2006, the Conservatives were bequeathed a $13.7 billion budget surplus by the Liberals. But by last January, the fiscal cupboard was nearly bare. Even before this year’s economic rescue package, Ottawa was poised to overspend its budget by $15.7 billion, according to Finance Canada documents … This situation results from the Tories’ decisions to sharply reduce sales taxes and lower personal and corporate income taxes while simultaneously allowing a relentless upsurge in Ottawa’s spending. The Conservative budgets in 2006 and 2007 were notable for their largesse. The government committed to such large spending plans as $5.3 billion for defence, $39 billion for cash transfers to the provinces and $3.7 billion for a new baby bonus.
Beginning in 2006, the Conservatives cut the Goods and Services Tax, in two steps, to 5 per cent from 7 per cent, a move that now costs $11 billion annually in lost revenue … Besides lost GST revenue, the government as of this year is also foregoing $15.3 billion as a result of personal income tax cuts and $7.1 billion from corporate income tax reductions. In all, Conservative tax measures have trimmed Ottawa’s revenues this year by $33.9 billion…
By John Geddes - Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 8:37 PM - 14 Comments
Usually at a modern political convention the big-screen video presentations are pure fluff and it’s the speeches that provide the odd bit of policy content. This afternoon in Vancouver, though, I heard at least as much to think about in the party infomercial that was shown before Michael Ignatieff’s triumphant march to the podium as I did in the speech he unspooled when he got there.
The video was pretty compelling, especially the part when the faces of Liberals, some easily identifiable, some anonymous (at least to me), appeared in a tightly edited sequence, each declaring a dream for the country. Here are a few that I scribbled down: “affordable child care,” “protected pensions,” “the dignity of First Nations,” “college and university available to all,” “justice applied fairly and equally.”
And here are the policy questions that occur to me as I ponder that partial list.