Canada’s childcare choices

Canada's politicians disagree on one of the nation's major issues: how best to support families with children, says the Fraser Institute. The liberals favour a universal day care programme, while the conservatives favour a programme that supports parents.

The liberals' programme would cost $5 billion for a national system of early learning and childcare, and an additional $6 billion for new child care spaces. However, this approach would not satisfy the needs of Canadian families. For example:

  • When asked to rank their preferred child care arrangement on a scale of one to five, on average, Canadians picked formal day care centres last, and said they would rather have their children cared for by a partner, a parent or other relative.

  • A similar child care programme introduced by Quebec crowded out private and informal childcare alternatives, because the programme only cost five dollars per day.

  • The neediest children make up less than 20 per cent of total enrolment, and furthermore, they tend to go to lower quality day cares than children from upper income families.

  • By contrast, the conservatives' $10 billion programme would give an annual $1,200 cash allowance to parents, regardless of which means they choose to care for their children.

    However, taxpayers must ultimately finance this multi-billion dollar entitlement programme. A more sensible and less bureaucratic solution would be to simply cut marginal tax rates, leaving working Canadians better off.

    Source: Sylvia LeRoy, Child Care Choices, Fraser Institute, February 2006.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 18 April 2006
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