A Review of the Program by Isaac Jonas
A Review of the Childcare Infrastructure in the Federal Budget of 2021
According to the Statistics Canada report of 2011, the need for childcare support has been increasing across Canada, with almost half (46%) of parents reportedly needing some kind of support for children under the age of 14 years. Additionally, the need for childcare support increases even more for childcare under the age of 4 years resulting in more than half needing some form of childcare support (Bulshnik, 2006). In terms of rates for childcare support, the highest in Quebec (58%) and lowest in Manitoba (34%) with Alberta (40%) and Ontario (43%) in between. The Statistics Canada report, 2011 notes that the majority of parents (86%) needed childcare arrangements on a regular basis, especially for young children mostly using three types of childcare arrangements for their children under the age of 4 years. These arrangements include daycare centers (33%), home daycares (31%), and private arrangements (28%). The use of these arrangements varied widely by province. The median cost of full-time childcare differed by province, ranging from a low of $152 per month in Quebec to a high of $677 in Ontario.
It is against this background that the 2021 Federal budget allocated $30 billion over the next 5 years with $8,3 billion towards improving the quality of Early Learning experiences of children and substantially reducing the cost of daycare across Canada. These goals, among other things, seek to build upon the past momentum and collaboration with stakeholders such as provincial government, non-profits, and municipalities in providing high-quality, affordable, and accessible early learning systems across the country. Importantly, this funding will build upon the goals of increasing the participation of women and racialized communities in the mainstream labor market, thus enabling greater financial independence (Statistics Canada, 2017). The Federal funding will be availed through the provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to support family’s access to quality and affordable child care regardless of the location of residence.
The major highlights of the Budget 2021 include significant funding commitments for children and youth in several areas as follows:
- A commitment of $30 billion over the next five years, and $8.3 billion ongoing for Early Learning and Child Care and Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care;
- An investment of $118.4 million towards a two-year pilot project on the Supports for Student Learning Program. The pilot project will focus on the national and local after-school organizations working on ensuring the education needs for vulnerable children and youth in high school. This is key particularly to ensure that the kids from racialized communities are included in the mainstream education systems because of the pandemic.
- An investment of $100 million was proposed over three years, effective 2021-22 fiscal year, towards supporting projects for innovative mental health interventions for populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. These include health care workers, front-line workers, youth, seniors, Indigenous peoples, and racialized and Black Canadians who were at the forefront since the pandemic hit in 2020.
- The budget committed $140 million for the 2021-22 fiscal period as a top up of the Emergency Food Security Fund and Local Food Infrastructure Fund. This further supports the reported one-third of the children who have been relying on foodbanks in the school system. Hence these funds will go a step further towards addressing hunger issues and boosting the food security needs in the marginalised communities, and also provide nutritious food to more Canadians.
Another sector that was highlighted in the budget included investments to support the charitable sector. Keeping parents who in turn support children is another indirect way of supporting childcare needs. When parents are left with more income in their bank accounts after meeting living expenses, it is a good thing for the children as they become less stressed. In that regard, organizations that play a central role in supporting children’s health and well-being would benefit from the extended wage subsidy and the temporary Community Services Recovery programs:
- The extension of the wage subsidy until September 25, 2021. It also proposes to gradually decrease the subsidy rate, beginning July 4, 2021, in order to ensure an orderly phase-out of the program as vaccinations are completed and the economy reopens.
- $400 million in 2021-22 to create a temporary Community Services Recovery Fund to help charities and nonprofits adapt and modernize so they can better support the economic recovery in our communities.
In addition, research by TD economics has shown that investing in children broadly results in greater benefits to the economy in the long run. For example, a study by TD in 2012 showed that investing $1 in childcare has a multiplier effect of between $1.50 and $2.80 in the economy. Thus, as noted earlier, the $30 billion investment towards childcare infrastructure will ultimately allow for an immediate 50% reduction of costs of daycare by 2022 across Canada and excluding Quebec which has a robust model that has already lowered the fees significantly. The funding will also support the building of more childcare spaces across Canada and will be disbursed through provinces and territories. All these investments are forecast to ensure access to high-quality early learning and childcare across the country for an average of $10/day. In other words, ultimately, the Federal funding will subsidize the daycare to an average of $10/day across the country, lower than the current rates. The Childcare Infrastructure goals will be achieved through the following means;
1. Supporting Accessible Childcare Spaces
The 2021 federal budget proposed to allocate $29,2 million over 2 years from 2021-22 through the Employment and Social Development Canada to support childcare centers through the Enabling Accessibility Fund. The financial resources aim to improve physical accessibility. Over the same period, the funding will directly support the construction of over 400 childcare centers including washrooms and accessible doors and play structures that cater to children with disabilities. The key in this program is to ensure equity and accessibility especially those from racialized communities. Too often, children from racialized communities get left out through structural obstacles such as access from their neighborhood and lack of representation in boards and managerial roles where the decisions to choose where these structures are located will be made.
2. Addressing the needs of Indigenous Families and Communities
The 2021 Federal budget proposed an investment of $2.5 billion over the next 5 years. This is a welcome move in the right direction as this funding is aimed at supporting early learning programs for Indigenous families and communities to ensure a good start to early life.
3. Bringing Partners Together and Maintaining a Canada-Wide Child Care Systems
The Federal leadership to open a collaborative relationship with partners and stakeholders to address the family’s needs. In early learning and childcare infrastructure addition to the 2020 Fall Economic statement, $34.5 million was proposed over the next 5 years to strengthen capacity within the New Federal Secretariat on Early Learning and Childcare.
The report reviewed the background on childcare infrastructure across Canada with a special focus on the 2021 Federal budget. The need for supporting access to childcare spaces, addressing the needs of racialized communities, and a collaborative approach amongst partners across Canada were highlighted. Investing in children and childcare is especially crucial from economic development through their contribution to the economy when they grow up. Rather than the government paying adults who would not have been given a good early start due to poor investment in childcare would increase the burden to the federal fiscal purse. Also, programs like extending the wage subsidy, creating Food Banks, and investments towards the temporary Community Services Recovery programs will go a long way in giving children a heads start a post-COVID-19 pandemic. As advocates, the FBC can lean on the evidence provided in the report and highlight other areas that may need some improvements. These areas include but are not limited to specifically the kinds who were affected by the pandemic in the racialized communities and lobby the government to consider the advancement of more research, collaboration with stakeholders such as non and for-profit organizations towards meeting the children/s medical needs. Also, more steps need to be taken to follow up through stakeholders such as federal and provincial ministries and charitable organizations across Canada on the kids of those parents who were hard hit by the pandemic. These may include parents of those who lost jobs due to COVID-19 and in extreme cases those who lost their parents due to the pandemic.
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4. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-652-x/89-652-x2017001-eng.htm. Accessed June 23, 2021.
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