children playing

Kids first is proper strategy

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Stephenson, Marilla
Publication Date: 
14 Apr 2010

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On Monday, Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse
announced a $5-million investment in the child-care system. The money
will include subsidies for 400 low-income child-care spaces and
elimination of a family fee that will put about $1 per day back into
the pockets of low-income families with children in care.

A portion of the money will also be used for grants to help pay
and provide benefits for workers. The grants will be available
provincewide and will target both the non-profit and for-profit
child-care sectors.

The investment will boost the number of available subsidized
spaces to 1,100 in the provincial system. It's not nearly enough, but
still an improvement.

"It makes a huge difference because the subsidy will allow
(families) to put their child or children into a daycare facility, and
sometimes that subsidy is a difference between them being able to do
that or not and it also is the difference between a mother or father
going to work or not," Peterson-Rafuse told reporters during the
announcement in Dartmouth.

This gets to the heart of the matter. The subsidy is obviously
means-tested. It is not intended to help middle-class families for whom
child care is an unavoidable expense. But it will help low-income
families by encouraging employment and job training over welfare. This
is the most certain way to move families from the cycle of poverty
toward independence and more successful options for their children.

It was meaningful that Peterson-Rafuse chose the Mawio'mi Child
Care Centre at Nova Scotia Community College's campus in Dartmouth.
Its' a place where people go who are looking to improve their chances
of success in the workforce, a place where people who have bright plans
for a better future pursue their dreams.


On an international scale, Canada has not done well on child
care. The Harper Conservatives killed a plan for a national child-care
program for low-income families by the Martin Liberals, replacing it
with a universal $100-per-child monthly subsidy for families with
preschoolers. Meanwhile, as The Canadian Press reported last September,
federal child-care funding dropped from $950 million in 2006-07 to $600
million two years ago.

And a Senate report last spring cited two international surveys
comparing spending on child-care services and availability of those
services among developed countries. A 2006 report by the Organization
for Economic Co-operation and Development put Canada last among 14
countries, while in a 2008 report from UNICEF, Canada tied for last
among 25 countries.

The Senate report also cited a national survey from 2006 that
showed while over 70 per cent of mothers of children between the ages
of three and five were in the workplace, there were regulated daycare
spots available for only 20 per cent of Canadian children age five and

When there is growing concern about labour force shortages and
the need for skilled employees, daycare subsidies make both social and
economic sense. The NDP is correct to step in to help fill the gap
caused by dropping federal funding levels. It won't be enough to help
every family in need, but it's a move in the right direction.

-reprinted from the Chronicle Herald