Some Thoughts on Mulcair's Plan for Childcare

By Jess Grover (Peterborough-Kawartha Federal Women's Representative) 

Canada can’t work without childcare.

This fact was acknowledged in an act during the World War II when Canada’s federal government created a cost-sharing program with the provinces to create state-funded childcare. Why? Because without proper childcare, women couldn’t work, and their participation in the war effort was seen as essential.

Women’s participation in the workforce is still essential, and Canada is still without a proper childcare program. Canada’s NDP have a plan to change that, and not a moment too soon. Reliable, affordable, accessible, developmentally appropriate childcare is necessary to keep Canada working. Mulcair’s plan will see 370,000 new childcare spaces in four years, and parents won’t be paying more than $15 a day. This is the plan our country needs – it’s a path in the right direction for Canada’s children, women, and families.

The majority of childrearing duties still fall to women in Canada, but working for an income, whether at-home or away from home, is a necessity for millions of Canadian women. Without reliable, affordable childcare, women and families find themselves working just to cover the costs of care for their children, and women can be seen as unreliable employees because they are the ones who most often need to miss work when childcare arrangements fall through or are simply impossible to find. If we want a society where every person is able to work to their potential, creating a dependable workforce and a thriving economy, we need publicly-funded childcare. We know a similar program in Quebec pays for itself, through increased economic prosperity and a decrease in other costs.

So, we know publicly-funded childcare makes sense for the economy, but for me, it means so much more than that.

Women need childcare in order to be full social citizens. Citizenship in Canada means so much more than casting a ballot on Election Day, though that’s very important. It means more than being able to participate fully in the workforce and be fairly compensated for that, though that’s essential as well. Social citizenship for Canadian women means not having to do most of the childrearing. It means being able to engage in volunteer work, community events, and personal development as freely as men can, and without the guilt of feeling they are “leaving their children behind.” Reliable, available, affordable childcare allows all Canadians to enact full social citizenship, regardless of gender.

Publicly-funded childcare is important for children, too! It provides a chance for quality early childhood education, and early intervention for challenges ranging from learning differences to autism. For children with physical disabilities, it gives them a chance to play and interact with other kids somewhere other than their own accessible homes. For all children, it provides the opportunity for socialization, meeting new and different friends, and learning all those important lessons of early childhood. Early childhood educators cannot replace parents, and won’t, but it takes a village to raise a child, and they can be a vibrant, treasured part of every child’s village.

While some may criticize this plan because it provides equally for those at all income-levels, I believe that’s one of its strongest aspects. Canada has a long history of universal access to services, including medicare and public education. Universal access means we all pay our fair share, through a proportional tax system, and all get to benefit from the programs created. Under this plan, families of all income levels get access to affordable, high quality childcare, and all of our children can experience the same care, together. This is the Canada I believe in.

Mulcair’s plan is about creating a country with supported families, empowered women, enriched children, and a thriving economy. 

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