Is It Time For Canadians to Demand Action on Child Care?

After years of inaction from Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, it is time for Canadian families to join together to demand high quality, affordable child care. As it stands right now, millions of parents lack access to affordable, quality day care in Canada, with one care space available for every five children who need one. Without action, the crisis in day care will continue. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

During its first term in office, the Harper government abandoned Canadian families by tearing up agreements with provincial governments to create a national child care system. The Conservatives opted instead to give families a $100 monthly Universal Child Care Be, in many communities throughout Canada, annual day care fees are higher than the cost of university tuition.

The UCCB’s $2.8 billion annual cost would be much better spent as an investment in a nationally-integrated and affordable child care system. Such a system would not only make sense for parents, but also for the economy. Studies show that publicly-funded day care systems, such as the one that exists in Quebec, pay for themselves through job creation, increased tax revenue, and better health and education outcomes for children.

For example, a study undertaken by Pierre Fortin and two colleagues from L’Université de Sherbrooke determined that for every dollar Quebec invests in child care, $1.05 is returned to the government in the form of higher tax revenues and lower overall program spending, with an additional 44 cents returned to the federal government.

Another recent study, conducted by TD Economics, recommended that public-funded day care become a top priority for governments due to the long-term economic, social, and health benefits that child care provides to children and society as a whole. It also noted that Canada is last among its peer countries in public spending on day care.

We know that universal, low-cost child care spaces are essential to helping more parents enter and remain in the workforce, and that Canadians want their government to make it easier for parents to raise families while working. For instance, a 2012 poll by McAllister Opinion Research found that 66 per cent of Canadians support the creation of a publicly-subsidized, $10-per-day day care program.

And so, as the leading voice for working families across the country, UFCW Canada and our allies have developed a national campaign to make day care services a priority for government. Dubbed Take Action on Child Care, the campaign seeks to make access to high quality, affordable day care a reality for families and children across Canada. You can add your voice to this important campaign by visiting and sending a letter to Prime Minister Harper urging his government to make day care a national priority, and to work with the provinces to establish a high quality, affordable child care system.

Heading into the 2015 federal election, UFCW Canada and the Canadian labour movement will also be working with citizens and community partners to elect a family- friendly federal government that is committed to creating a publicly-funded, national day care program. With Canadian families desperately in need of affordable, high quality day care spaces, we can no longer wait to take action.

By Paul R. Meinema

Paul-Meinema_UFCW-Canada-2014Paul R. Meinema is the National President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada), which represents more than 250,000 workers in various industries across the country.