A national child care system has the potential to benefit women at all income levels, but will also help women who are in a high-risk situation. A one-child family, especially after birth, frequently faces multiple challenges, such as raising a family on a single income. That is why few families look to Ontario for stability. It might be easier to serve as a “temporary” host when a family changes residency (for one reason or another) rather than having to break with family and subject the children to possible stigma.
Ontario and Ottawa have long claimed that they are unfairly taking advantage of a family tax plan that helped Quebec, and refuse to offer that plan as a model. However, unlike Ontario, the federal government has been providing child care subsidies for at least three decades (and has, in fact, been one of the few jurisdictions that has been able to find the funds to do so) and these funds are being used as intended, with the aim of fostering and supporting low-income families.
As provinces go, Ontario is the one on track to provide universal access to child care. Because the government is really not taking advantage of its own massive expenditures on childcare; not even enough to make those expenditures a one-off and therefore unattainable. Some of this spending could be shuffled to the research, and some could be redirected to other provinces, such as Quebec. Either way, it would help the government realize cost savings, which it can use to fund other programs, such as infrastructure.
For example, the money now being spent on child care is necessary to cover the costs of the daycare system as a whole — including care for older children, infants and toddlers. One of the most popular preventive measures during infancy is early nutrition. Early nutrition also helps prepare children for school, which is directly related to academic achievement.
Children are most at risk of ill health during their early years, and Canada is a leader in reducing infant mortality, especially among Indigenous communities. Early childhood education can be used to preserve these gains, and in particular early maternal education and primary care. More than 350,000 new Canadian mothers moved to the provinces by themselves in the period between 2014 and 2016, and by 2025 it is expected that more than 200,000 women will give birth and move elsewhere.
Providing child care is a policy where we all win — well, we can still win, in fact, if we make the effort to get this done.
Ms. Hay and Ms. Davidson are members of the Canadian Working Families Alliance.