OTTAWA, March 22, 2017 /CNW/ - Advocates for affordable child care applaud the federal government's commitment to multi-year funding for early childhood education and child care but say the budgeted increases in the annual allocations are too small in the first years to finance the kind of improvements in access, affordability and quality that could be achieved and that are so urgently needed.
"We are happy to see a federal government make a long-term federal commitment because it has been a long time since we've seen federal leadership in this area but we are disappointed the budget is not more ambitious in its spending especially at the start of the ten year period,," said Morna Ballantyne, Executive Director of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC).
Ballantyne explained that to grow the system to the size required, and to make high quality child care affordable for parents, annual federal funding must increase each year by a significant amount starting in 2018-2019.
The 2017 federal budget increases funding by only $5 million between 2018-2019 and 2020-2021. There is no increase in 2021-2022. Then, funding jumps to $725 million in 2022-2023 and slowly rises each year until the allocation reaches $870 million in 2026-2027.
The national child care advocacy group noted that the promise ofsignificant spending on early learning and child care programs, including those for Indigenous children on and off-reserve, shows the federal government is serious about helping to address the needs of parents and children. However, $7 billion over ten years is far below what is required to develop a fully accessible affordable high quality child care system. The public spending benchmark for a full system--widely used internationally--is at least 1% of GDP.Spending of this magnitude is necessary to put Canada on par with OECD countries with fully developed systems of early childhood education and care.
The CCAAC urged the federal government to work with the provinces, territories and Indigenous leaders and properly consult with the child care sector over the next year to develop a more generous long-term funding plan for early childhood education and care in advance of the next budget.The national advocacy group also urged full consultation with the child care sector in deciding how to create the 40,000 new subsidized child care spacesover the next three years that Budget 2017 promises.
"We know the benefits of getting it right: Canada's youngest citizens will get the best care possible, parents will get the support they need, mothers' participation in the paid labour force will rise and that will contribute to big economic gains for them and the entire Canadian economy," said Ballantyne.
Budget 2017 also signaled a change to the maternity and parental Employment Insurance program that would allow parents to stretch the existing level of benefits over 18 months but the CCAAC says this reform will help a only small number of new parents.
"Our organization along with many others urged the government to focus on making parental EI benefits available to more parents by changing the qualification rules and on raising the benefit level to make it financially feasible for all working parents to take leave," Ballantyne said. "The government missed the opportunity to make real change on this one."
The Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC) is a membership-based organization that advocates for improvement to early childhood education and child care policy across Canada.
SOURCE Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada
For further information: Morna Ballantyne, Executive Director, 613.791.3411, [email protected]