Election 2021: Childcare an key election issue for families
The weight of Michelle Bingham’s kids' wagon has doubled recently. It now carries her three-year-old son and another young child.
Bingham says the few extra pounds is nothing compared to the heavy burden of childcare costs.
“I just started doing home daycare so I could stay home with my son and afford the bills and everything,” Bingham said as she walked into the play structure at Kitchener’s Victoria Park.
Peter Woostencroft, a retired political scientist at the University of Waterloo, said childcare is an enormous expense for families and is a decades-old issue.
“One of the great things that has happened is that work has allowed women to provide for themselves and provide for their retirement days as opposed to being dependent on a single wage earner,” Woolstencroft said. “But it created a great challenge in our society to provide adequate quality childcare. And that’s right across the land to any province you point to.”
According to a 2019 Government of Ontario Licensed Child Care survey, the average monthly fee for an infant was $1,320, $1,080 for a toddler and $940 for a preschooler. The cost is usually higher in larger cities.
It’s an issue that is ultimately the responsibility of the provinces but has come to the forefront in this federal election campaign.
“Ottawa is like an ATM machine,” Woolstencroft said. “We go there, take out some money and give to the provinces to spend as they will.”
READ MORE: Federal election 2021 platform guide: Where do the parties stand?
In this election, the Liberals promise to cut childcare costs by 50 per cent and introduce a $10 a day childcare system. They also plan to set aside $2.5 billion for Indigenous early learning and childcare. The party has already implemented a monthly tax-free payment known as the Canada Child Benefit for eligible families.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives are promising a refundable tax credit of between $4,500 and $6,000 per child, with an aim to cover up to 75 per cent of the cost of child care for low-income families. In the past, they’ve promised to give parents money to choose their own childcare option.
Like the Liberals, the NDP plans to implement a $10 per day childcare system. The NDP also promises to eliminate waitlists, create more spaces, provide fair living wages for childcare workers and make parental leave more flexible.
Finally, the Green Party is also promising universal childcare, to make parental leave more flexible and inclusive to care for senior family members and equitable access and culturally appropriate childcare for Indigenous children.
Meanwhile, Wingham just hopes whoever wins will stick to their parental support platform.
“It would be nice for more money to pay for childcare or for more subsidized childcare centers to open so that more parents can afford it," she said.