Feds Attempting to “Bullet-Proof” Child Care Funding Agreements



February 10, 2023

Last week, the federal government’s child care bill, Bill C-35, passed second reading in the House of Commons. Since the last federal election, the current government has focused vast amounts of time and money on establishing child care agreements with each Canadian province and territory. Their goal is to reduce the average out-of-pocket cost of child care down to $10 a day per child throughout the country by the end of 2025/26.

According to Karina Gould, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the purpose of Bill C-35 is to enshrine “into law the federal government’s commitment to strengthening and protecting this Canada-wide system.”

One of the flaws in the current child care policy plan is that the federal government (or any provincial or territorial government) could renege on the deal at any time. The government is worried that future (Conservative) governments might scrap these child care funding deals, as Stephen Harper did to Paul Martin’s child care agreements in 2006. One of the goals of this bill is to “bullet-proof” this program against any attacks from future governments.

The current government wants to insulate this program because it thinks that this program is a key to affordability and the well-being of average Canadian families. Speaking in support of this bill, Minister Gould said, “I have yet to speak to a child care centre representative or a family who has not talked about the very real and tangible impact that this reduction in fees is having on their families’ bottom line.”

Well, she obviously has been pretty selective in who she’s been talking to. This “universal” child care program is anything but universal. It only covers licensed public or not-for-profit child care. According to Statistics Canada, only a minority of children – 46.4% – use child care that might be licenced. Forty-eight percent of Canadian children are cared for by their parents and a further 13.5% are cared for by relatives,[1] care that certainly is not licenced and thus is not eligible for the government’s child care program.

The Fundamental Problem With Publicly Funded Licenced Child Care

Unfortunately, the Canadian opposition parties fail to point out the fundamental problems with the government’s approach to funding licenced child care. The NDP, for example, are critical that the current government is not working fast enough to transfer the care of children from families to institutions or to create enough licenced child care spots. The official opposition gets a bit closer to home when it points out that this program benefits only the families that choose to use licenced daycare but leaves parents, extended family members, and for-profit child care providers high and dry. For the most part, however, the Conservative party has no principled opposition to state-funded child care.

Here is the bottom line: the best caregivers for infants, toddlers, and young children are their parents. Its not with early child educators, the next-door neighbour, or even their grandparents. There are often scenarios where these third parties have to step in and shoulder some of these child care duties, but these should be exceptions rather than the norm. The norm should be that parents care for their own children.

It isn’t just that parents know what is best for their children. (Have you ever struggled to calm a friend’s crying child, only for them to stop crying the instant you handed them to their mother?) Parents also have the responsibility to care for their children. Scripture entrusts the care of children to their parents (see Genesis 18:18-19, Exodus 12:26-27, Deut 6:7, Deut 11:19, Joshua 4:7, Proverbs 1:8,10,15; 2:1; 3:1,11,21; 4:10,20; 5:1,7,20; 6:1,3, 20; 7:1,24; 8:32; 19:27; 23:15,19,26; & 24:13,21). Nurses, early childhood educators, guardians, and child teachers are rare throughout Scripture, mentioned only in the stories of Moses (who, through God’s extraordinary intervention, was also cared for by his own mother on the behalf of Pharoah’s daughter), Obed (nursed by his grandmother Naomi), Samuel (raised by Eli the priest), the orphaned Mephibosheth (raised by his nurse), and Joash (cared for by a nurse as well).

The fundamental problem with a state-funded universal child care system is that it systematically encourages the people who know children best and who are given responsibility for children – parents – to pass on this duty to professionals. Parents aren’t rewarded for working at home by this child care policy. They are encouraged to enroll their children in a licensed daycare facility and work a paid job. While many single parents and couples both need to work to make ends meet, the government isn’t making it any easier for parents to care for their children. In fact, it’s adding further benefits to working outside the home.

Currently, 48% of young Canadian children are cared for by their parents. That’s not a state of affairs to be decried but celebrated! The goal of government should be to increase that number, not decrease it.

Take Action!

Take a moment to write to your MP on this issue. Members of Parliament of all political colours – red, blue, orange, and green – need to hear about the fundamental problem with state-funded child care.

[1] Percentages do not add up to 100% due to the double counting of children who use multiple types of child care (e.g. care by a relative two days a week and licenced child care three days a week)

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