FILE – Children play at a daycare in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday March 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

When the Liberals unveiled a plan for child care in Wednesday’s (Sept. 23) Throne Speech, University of B.C. associate professor Paul Kershaw said he was feeling hopeful hearing the issue take centre stage as Canada plans for its COVID-19 recovery.

“It is significant to see child care featured so prominently in a throne speech,” said University of B.C. associate professor at the School of Population and Public Health and Generation Squeeze founder Paul Kershaw.

“But throne speeches are ultimately not really the place where you know really how serious people are.”

READ MORE: Liberals vow wage-subsidy extension to 2021, revamp of EI system in throne speech

This year’s Throne Speech, given on Sept. 23 by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, mentioned child care as a factor in helping women be a part of Canada’s economic recovery from the pandemic. While job losses have hit many sectors and demographics since COVID-19 first led to a shutdown of much of society in March, women have been particularly affected. As the pandemic began, Statistics Canada data showed that women became unemployed at twice the rate of men.

The problem is compounded when it comes to parents. A UBC study released in July found that the gap between employment of dads and moms of school-aged children had grown from 0.8 to 7.3 per cent, with women trailing.

Kershaw said that if the federal government acts quickly, a child care investment could head off the worst gender employment gap if a second wave of COVID-19 leads to renewed job losses.

“If the government were to invest really quickly an extra $2 billion right now… could go a significant way to keep child care spaces open during a pandemic and bring their costs down to they’re actually affordable.”

Along with helping women stay in the work force, Kershaw said that investing in quality, affordable child care could stop inequality – which grows during an economic crisis but does not always shrink after – from deepening.

“When we widen inequality in the earliest years, you then really risk locking in that this inequality will persist over time as people age,” he said. “When we optimize the start that young people get… they’re less likely to fail in school, less likely to wind up in jail, less likely to fall ill as adults in ways that we could have prevented.”

RAED MORE: Feds probing ways to address COVID-19 impact on women

Eventually, that $2 billion would have to be raised to a $10 billion investment, Kershaw noted, to build up to a national child care program. However, with a deficit north of $330 billion, Kershaw said that extra child care funding is “a rounding error” in comparison

“Now is the time is to not confuse child care with the fiscal problem,” he added.”

The national system could become similar to the Quebec model, which started at $5 a day in the late 1990s, and for 2020 sits at $8.35 per day and is paid directly to the child care facility.

However, Kershaw thinks that a national program should avoid the sliding scale that Quebec has now gone to, with the highest earners paying up to $20 a day.

“I think that is not a good recipe. We don’t have [sliding scale] approach when we go to a doctor, we don’t have that approach when we go to grade school… I think we need to have a consistent fee.”

That daily fee, he added, should top out at $10 per day, with discounts for lower income families that can’t afford it. A means-tested system that raises costs for more well off families will just be more expected and complicated to implement, he noted, and that money can be recouped in other ways from higher income households.

“Those with more means will contribute more to child care… as is appropriate,” Kershaw said, but said the most efficient way to do that is a flat fee at the door and income taxes staggered by income level, which Canada already does for other free or flat fee services like health care and education.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

ChildcareCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kwick’kanum (Eric Pelkey), a hereditary chief of the Tsawout Nation, addressed the crowd that gathered at Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17 on Oct. 23. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
UPDATED: Pat Bay Highway reopens after rally supporting Mi’kmaq fishing rights

Supporters call on government to recognize Indigenous treaty rights

Const. Graham Walker of the Saanich Traffic Safety Unit recreates an incident involving a driver who police say attempted to film the scene of a crash while driving up Highway 17. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Police track down driver caught filming accident scene on Pat Bay Highway

Driver issued $368 ticket, points on their licence

The 21st annual Japanese Cultural Fair streams online Oct. 24 from noon to 3 p.m. (Facebook/Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society)
Esquimalt’s Japanese Cultural Fair takes tastes, experiences and cultures online

21st annual free event streams Saturday, Oct. 24 starting at noon

Sooke man Rik Downer spent two weeks in the Royal Jubilee Hospital after contracting flesh-eating bacteria. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Sooke man’s bumped knee leads to fight for life

Man unknowingly contracts case of rare flesh-eating disease

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson,  BC NDP leader John Horgan and BC Green leader Sonia Furstenau. (File)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Climate change and sustainability promises from the parties

Snap election has led to a short campaign; here’s the lowdown on the platforms

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

Most Read