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Challenging national regimes from below: Toronto child care politics

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Politics & Gender, vol. 3 (2007), 55&em;78
Mahon, Rianne
Publication Date: 
1 Mar 2007


In Canada, as in the United States, the postwar welfare regime recognized the citizenship of the male breadwinner while women, for the most part, remained second-class citizens. This was reflected, inter alia, in Canada's child-care policy, a federal-provincial cost-sharing arrangement that provided subsidies to low-income families able to demonstrate their need, rather than as a public service available to all those who want and need it. While this meant that the Canadian state did not guarantee the right to affordable child care, these intergovernmental arrangements also offered feminists opportunities to challenge federal policy at the provincial and local level. This article examines child-care politics in Toronto, Canada's largest city and the first one in Canada to have a municipal child-care program. It shows how, in the 1970s, Toronto began to break with the liberal assumptions that characterized its past policies. Toronto's child-care program also posed a potential challenge to the national and provincial regimes. This, however, required the movement to secure changes at the provincial and/or federal level, which it thus far has failed to do.