Ontario is one step closer to providing universal daycare at $10 a day.
On Wednesday the Senate’s education committee called for an end to $15-an-hour daycare fees in the province, and for the introduction of government-subsidized daycare for all, reports the Canadian Press.
The full Senate will be asked to support the recommendations when they are brought before the full chamber next week. The panel’s report has already become a political lightning rod. There’s a feeling in the province that its working class families deserve better daycare in exchange for the Ontario government’s commitment to some 5.4 million people to include them in income-tested social benefits. Premier Kathleen Wynne has been negotiating with labour leaders, teachers and other stakeholders over the past few months to work out a deal for the coverage of daycare. If she and the government can come to an agreement on the details in the next three weeks, all children under age six would be covered by the $10-a-day program. Those above six would not be affected by the proposed cut, because the government has not decided whether daycare would be a mandatory part of universal entitlement. The prime minister has already said he would pay for that $10-a-day plan.
“We have a long history of investing in early learning and child care in this province,” Jason Kenney, Ontario’s interim leader, said on the floor of the house Wednesday. “We know families cannot make ends meet on the wages they get right now. This is a far worse inequality tax for those who can least afford it. We believe that this package is not balanced, and by making it unaffordable for families, this government has thrown a wrench into the economy. We need to look at ways to increase wages in this province, but the plan that has been proposed by this government is not the way to do it.”
The Ontario Federation of Labour calls the program a “deal killer” and a “pitfall.” In its response to the report, the Ontario Federation of Labour called the $10-a-day program a “deal killer” and a “pitfall” that “would plunge millions of families into poverty.” Its open letter states:
Ontario voters are insisting on the full implementation of the $15 minimum wage in 2018. We have heard loud and clear: to create meaningful and lasting benefit for the working poor, allow $15 minimum wage fully to take effect in 2018. And we cannot enact a $10-a-day daycare system because that would put thousands of families in poverty and also harm small businesses – whose ability to hire and grow is directly linked to incomes. We have also heard loud and clear: our collective bargaining with our employers over the next four years must focus on ending child poverty and wages and conditions for workers at small businesses.
My hope is that this show of class consciousness will eventually rub off on other corners of Canadian democracy. Public support for a national public health care system is growing stronger, and when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met this week with his Conservative challenger, Maxime Bernier, the two agreed on creating public plans that cover every Canadian as soon as 2022.
Canada’s public health care system is a remarkable public program that is receiving praise from experts around the world. And like every system that comes with problems, its woes are real and some solution should be in order. But there is a sense in our country that the ballooning of public programs over the past several decades has been growing too fast. We need to make sure that Canada continues to be a great place to live for its own people, just as it is for visitors and immigrants. Otherwise the values that make it so attractive to millions of people worldwide will be an endangered species.