The federal budget proposes national childcare. However it is just for children in state -run daycare. No offense to daycare, but no kid at the park should get all the marbles.
When I left school teaching to have a baby, I knew I was giving up income. I was surprised though to find the state also thought I was ending usefulness.
When government funded care of children but only at state- run daycare, this seemed incongruent with equality. It did not just exclude me. It ignored parents taking turns tending the child and earning, parents who get care by a sitter, grandma or nanny, work-at-home parents. This ‘inclusive ‘ budget sure excludes a lot of people.
I hear the rationale, that the plan empowers women. But if women can be anything, why not caregivers?
Stage 1 of feminism was to get the vote. Stage 2 was to get pay equity. Stage 3 is to also value roles in the home . We’re not at stage 3 yet and we have to get there. During the pandemic, we are told women ‘dropped out’ of the labour force.
Wrong. They made sure their families were fed, protected, safe. They became front -line workers for the recovery.
When the budget says that women at home aren’t meeting their potential, who’s against women now?
I have a copy of the 1970 Royal Commission on the Status of Women. This budget quotes it as making a promise of universal daycare. Wrong. It proposed a small emergency daycare, but recommended a broader and substantial cash allowance paid directly to mothers so that ‘”fewer mothers would be forced to work outside for financial reasons”. This budget ignores that. If you want to quote history, quote it right. And if you want to quote promises, notice the many promises of equal benefit under the law.
We could have a birth bonus like Australia or a family allowance like in Europe. We could permit income splitting like in the US or for single mothers like in France. We could have maternity benefits based on maternity not on paid work. We do none of those in Canada.
This budget is like a universal nutrition program, promising pepperoni pizza for every child. Could I get chicken? No, sorry, just pizza. Catch 2, the money goes directly to the pizza restaurant, not to parents. Catch 3, you have to pay for the pizza even if you don’t eat it.
That makes me think of a board game. Do not pass Go to collect any money. Go directly to the assigned daycare..
But there is also a Catch 4. The federal government will give money to the provinces to share in this vast plan but only for daycare. If they object, they get nothing. Why does that make me think of The Godfather movie?
An economy is like a bridge with a key pillar being the care role in the home. This pillar is the first tier of health care, education, mental health. We depend on it. We take it for granted and we need it.
However GDP does not count it. Feminist economist Marilyn Warning noticed this oddity. Year ago John Kenneth Galbraith said economists would get a sudden increase in GNP if they included unpaid labour of women. But we still don’t count. In fact we are chipping away at the pillar to erode it.
If we force all women out of the home, the pillar cracks. The sick will stay longer in hospital and health care costs will go up.. Care of the frail elderly, handicapped, young will have to be funded at professional rates, by nonfamily members who may know their language or culture or little idiosyncrasies.
The costs will skyrocket. Birthrates in Quebec were low when universal daycare was set up and they did not improve until maternity got funded directly. Daycare does not entice people to have babies yet somebody has to have babies for society to go on.
We should fund care wherever it happens and help those who do want to have babies, to raise them the way they deem best.
The federal plan promises flexibility. Right. You can have part time or full time daycare. That is like Henry Ford saying you can have the Model T in any color as long as it is black.
There are those who like this plan. The childcare workers at those centres and the operators of those centers and the parents who use those centers. But the thing is, if we funded kids directly they would not lose. Parents would come, money in hand to pay for the childcare there. The only difference is that parents would have money if they were using other care styles too. There is a poem that applies and it seeks not the “I win, you lose’ but the win-win.
You drew a line that shut me out
Ignored, you left me mid the din..
But love and I had the sense to say
We’d draw a circle to bring you in.
Years ago I saw a young mother crossing a street with a baby in a backpack and a toddler in a stroller. She had her purse and packages wrapped around the stroller handles and was watching for traffic as she crossed. If someone called out to her, I am sure she could have raised a hand to wave.
The government of Canada says this woman is not working. They are the only ones that think that