The Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada Reacts to Federal Budget: Baby Steps Won't Take Us Far

Monday, July 26 2010

OTTAWA (March 25, 2004) -- “The words were there, but once again the dollars were missing to translate rhetoric on child care into action.” That’s the verdict on the federal budget by Jamie Kass, Co-Chair of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada.

Kass said the CCAAC was disappointed that the federal budget commitment to early learning and child care was so small and short-term, even though the budget speech said that “ensuring all children get the best start in life and equal opportunities throughout their early years is a fundamental legacy Canadians leave to future generations.”

“Mr. Martin wasn’t afraid to set objectives and timelines when it came to eliminating the deficit, paying down the debt or cutting taxes for wealthy Canadians and corporations,” she said. “Why does early learning and child care deserve less, especially as it is now recognized as so important?”

In a submission to the federal pre-budget hearings last year, the CCAAC had called for federal spending for child care to ramp up to $4.5 billion in Mr. Martin’s first mandate. Following the Throne Speech’s commitment to “accelerate” the funds committed in last year’s budget by John Manley, the group wrote to the Prime Minister asking that the dollars at least triple.

However, yesterday’s budget accelerated the funds only for the next two years, and modestly at that. After increases to previously committed funds (increased from $75 million to $150 million in 2004-2005, and from $150 million to $225 in 2005-2006), the federal allocation reverts to Mr. Manley’ s budget from last year ($300 million in 2006-2007, and $350 million in 2007-2008).

“At the end of the five-year ‘ramp up’, the federal government will be spending about as much for child care as it did in 1996 when Finance Minister Martin eliminated the Canada Assistance Plan (the national social welfare program) and brought in the block-funded CHST,” said Kass. “This means that if you look at federal spending on child care over the past decade, the figures in this budget represent a net drop.”

The CCAAC has pushed for a system of publicly-funded, high quality, inclusive, not-for-profit child care for all children and families since the 1980s.

Representatives of the group from across Canada questioned the budget’s assertion that the new funds will mean “up to 48,000 new child care spaces” or “up to 70,000 fully subsidized spaces.”

“Based on a fairly modest $8,000 a year for a fully subsidized space, $150 million would instead provide less than 19,000 fully subsidized spaces (without taking start-up and capital costs into account),” said Kass.

Based on the number of children aged 0 to 5 and provincial/territorial allocations established in 2003 by the federal government, the $150 million would provide approximately (per child):

Advocates also questioned the mechanisms in place to ensure that the funds are spent for their intended purpose, and spent well to improve child care quality and accessibility. CCAAC board member Lynell Anderson of British Columbia asked, “What are the accountability mechanisms?”

In a pre-budget letter to Mr. Martin, the CCAAC asked the Prime Minister to ensure that the Liberal Party platform for the upcoming election commit to “long-term planning that sets out goals and objectives, targets and timetables, assessment and monitoring for early learning and child care (ELCC). Commitment of long-term stable well-directed public funding must be part of this policy process.” Specifically, the group is calling for:

The association’s Executive Director, Maryann Bird said that, “We intend to make universal child care a key issue in the upcoming federal election. We urge Mr. Martin to do the same.”

For more information contact: Jamie Kass (613) 236-7238, ext. 7913.

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