Written by By John Sonelevi, CNN Canada
In an article from 2017, Emily S. on GlobalPost detailed the agony of a Toronto parent trying to find affordable childcare for her three-year-old daughter. With wages growing stagnant, two full-time jobs can be financially devastating. In addition, intense government subsidies or grants put pressure on families to give up freedom and chose a one-time stipend to apply toward childcare.
This was true in 2016, but the Toronto suburb, North York, is now in turmoil. Thousands of residents signed a petition demanding their municipality stop building infill development projects. Instead, they want more homes that will generate revenue and better leverage local services. Concerned residents are asking city council to reallocate the funding to services, especially childcare. It does not help matters that Ms. S. lives in a community with the most expensive childcare in the country — the closest non-daycare child care closest to her home costs $7,000 per month.
Read more: Are cities spending too much on early childhood education?
Last week, a reporter from the CBC took an urgent look at the same issue, in Ontario. There, the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is looking to split the provinces. Although federal infrastructure money is up for grabs, all of the funding is going into the struggling provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Trudeau isn’t pitching an east-west divide, but an east-wide inequality, with some citizens using the funding to fill their own classrooms.
In the small Alberta town of Cardinal, Miss, 60-year-old Laura Archer and her husband, Hank, are faced with an impossible choice. They have two young children and realize they can’t pay the bills, which are pushed up by daycare fees that top $10,000. When the situation reaches crisis point, they are forced to look for a new place to live.
In another story, the Citizen of Kingston explained that the town offers daycare for $2 per month for the duration of the tax year. But as the town loses population, the actual cost goes up. Is the affordable childcare as advertised to be more a question of perception than reality? A Gallup Poll released in September revealed that, “More than half of parents of newborns — 54% — in the U.S. say they ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ lack sufficient access to affordable childcare. Sixty-four percent of those same parents find it difficult to afford quality child care.”
Without proper access to both quality and affordable childcare, Canada’s young families will continue to feel the squeeze. Studies show that half of young adults in Canada enter the labor market without having earned a post-secondary degree. This rate is much higher than the worldwide average of 19%, and it’s unlikely that the best students will continue to pursue higher education.
Read more: Five ways to rethink child care in the real world
Canada’s children are already limited by their efforts to learn. As in most developed countries, Canadians spend more money on their children than any other industrialized nation. This can benefit school districts by providing better educational opportunities, but is also harming child development.
The “Kinder Kids First” report by the Pembina Institute compared a traditional family versus a “cheaper” family versus an “alternative” family: their child-rearing methods. The first alternative family differed from the traditional family only with respect to education, with the remaining differences having little impact on child outcomes.
The study highlights that these findings are similar when examining the effects of more nannies, by calling a relationship between child development and income “incompatible.” It also states that “any empirical data…on child development supports the conclusion that some form of parental commitment to child care was generally necessary for optimal outcomes.”
Canada is in a desperate state. Its largest province, Ontario, is struggling to find $6.6 billion to meet the government’s budget over three years. Its capital city, Ottawa, currently has the highest child care costs in the country. At the same time, the Trudeau government is reportedly not pushing for good jobs with child care because they think it’s not politically viable. There is no political will to tackle an issue that impacts the lives of tens of thousands of families, but it can and should be addressed immediately.