The Resource and Research Unit has been an independent policy research institute studying early learning and childcare and family policy since the early 1980s. The August pre-budget brief argued that universal childcare is essential to Canada's competitiveness, outlining in some detail why gender equality isn't possible without quality childcare that is accessible to all women across the economic spectrum. And-- not only is childcare fundamental to women's economic security but Canada overall would derive substantial benefits by strengthening it.
Thus, we propose to this committee three recommendations aimed at moving early learning and childcare forward to Phase 2 with the second round of three year bilateral agreements:
1. The current annual commitments do not "ramp up" adequately to account for the need for substantial service expansion. A gradual year-by-year increase in earmarked childcare transfers to provinces/territories/Indigenous groups-- is required to support sufficient service expansion to meet accessibility goals. We recommend a childcare allocation of $1 billion in 2019, adding an additional $1 billion each following year, until accessibility and affordability targets are reached and annual spending on a mature early learning and childcare program reaches the international minimum benchmark of 1% of GDP about a decade from now.
2. To ensure these substantial public funds are used effectively to serve families and children, we recommend crafting plans for operationalizing the Multilateral Framework based on the best available evidence. To be effective, this should be developed collaboratively by governments at all levels and making full use of the expertise of the childcare sector, researchers and others.
3. To support development of provincial/territorial childcare systems across Canada, a collaborative system-building strategy is critically required. This should include provinces/territories/ Indigenous organizations, the federal government, the childcare community and other experts. We call for:
a) A comprehensive childcare workforce strategy;
b) Creation of the needed infrastructure to support development of a quality childcare system. This should include, first, a federal learning and childcare secretariat to facilitate intergovernmental and community collaboration and communication on policy development, research and data, best practices and innovation. Second, resources are needed to support growth of public and not-for-profit childcare services across Canada;
c) Reinstatement of federal funding is needed to rebuild the childcare community's capacity including the childcare organizations that provide much of the infrastructure for early learning and childcare across Canada;
d) Funds for developing a fourth system-building element-- an early learning and childcare data strategy-- have already been committed in the 2017 federal budget. These are most welcome.