The program will take too long to implement and fail to meet the needs of Canada’s diverse workforce, write Janice MacKinnon and Jack Mintz. Below is an excerpt from the article, which can be read in full here.
By Janice MacKinnon and Jack Mintz, May 3, 2021
The federal government’s 2021 budget introduces a daycare program, fashioned after Quebec’s, as a $10-a-day, 50/50 shared-cost conditional grant program with the provinces. By adopting a conditional grant program that requires a one-size-fits-all approach without recognizing provincial differences in fiscal capacity, the program will take too long to implement and fail to meet the needs of Canada’s diverse workforce.
Daycare regulation is a provincial responsibility and the needed policies to achieve the goal of making daycare more affordable and accessible vary across Canada. What works in Quebec might not work in Nova Scotia or Saskatchewan. The success of the federal daycare initiative will depend significantly on how much flexibility the provinces have to design daycare programs that suit their unique needs.
The federal budget goes over the top, claiming the program “is one of the most significant actions taken since the North American free trade agreements to create economic opportunities for Canadians.” While it is true that daycare spending brings economic benefits by encouraging both parents in a family to work, it will not pay for itself. And the price tag is high: its annual cost is expected to be $18 billion in five years, including the provincial share and indigenous support and excluding any cost related to Quebec’s to-be-negotiated package.
The program’s benefits are being exaggerated in three ways. First, the federal government is relying on the Quebec experience, but there is no reason to believe that the increase in employment seen in that province will hold true for the others. The Quebec daycare plan did produce economic benefits, but a number of studies — such as one conducted by Pierre Fortin, which estimated that for every dollar spent on daycare the economy grows by $5 — have significantly overestimated the benefit.
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